Arriving into Budapest on a sweltering Sunday afternoon we headed directly to the 19th century Szechenyi Baths. We enjoyed taking part in this ancient tradition soaking in the thermal baths as well as cooling off in the lap pool.
At the Baths we randomly bumped into two friends from home, Carly and Stacey, who are also travelling around this small world. Making the most we met later that evening for drinks in a funky wee bar located amongst war ruins, a unique use of space for a bar that worked really well. We then sought out a highly recommended restaurant in the back streets of the city. With quality food for extremely reasonable prices it was well worth the mission- a lovely evening.
We felt Hungary was the ‘real deal’ in terms of an eastern European destination compared to what we had seen so far. As travellers we found it relatively cheap for both food and transport, but there was definitely a greater level of poverty evident on the streets of the city and it was the first time we felt we needed to be very security conscious. Reflective of a country that has experienced hardship in the past as it struggled toward full democracy and then was hit hard by the global financial crisis.
Budapest is divided into ‘Buda’ and ‘Pest’ by the Danube River. Buda to the West of the river is a hilly area dominated by the castle district and residential homes, while flat Pest on the East is primarily the commercial and government area. An 8 hour day of walking the streets on both sides of the river provided for a great close-up inspection of this architecturally diverse city. Our favourite building was definitely Parliament (see photo) located in Pest, making our Beehive seem like even more of a joke!
We also visited the large indoor food markets, which provided an interesting experience for the senses, but well worth the visit. The cuts of meat were budget-what we would describe as offal, but perhaps reflective of the lower living standards in this area.
We have a full day and night on the train ahead of us in order to get to our next stop Croatia. But all worth it as we are very excited about swimming in the ocean!