Stuck in Budapest
I arrived in Budapest, late Thursday lunchtime and headed to the hostel in the city centre, on the busy Pest side of the river. Budapest was originally two cities on either side of the Danube, Buda and Pest, and now most the flatter Pest side is where the businesses ahops etc are located, while the hilly green Buda side is more residential. I checked in and found my room, which was full of sleeping people despite the time. So I tiptoed around, then headed out to have a look around. The journey from the airport had taken me through suburban houses, and huge communist style blocks of flats, into the city centre with its grand buildings. I was staying just off the main shopping street, Vaci Utca, which is full of expensive shops, tourist restaurants, and teenagers busking with cellos and flutes, which seemed a bit more sophisticated than the usual guitars and tin whistles at home.
After finding the Danube and walking in circles, I headed back to the dorm and met the people in my room, went out for some food and later had a few drinks at the hostel with some others.
Despite the heat, the next day I ventured out walked what seemed like miles. I stumbled by chance upon the vast, beautiful St Stephens Basilica, but since I hadn't counted on going I wasn't really dressed for churches. I have since read that the mummified right hand of St Stephen himself is inside, damn I missed it. Then I crossed the river to the Buda side to have a nosey at the Palace. Budapest is bigger than I realised, and the heat and sun were making for slow progress, and so I decided climbing Gellert Hill was out of the question and walked all the way back. Back at the Hostel that afternoon, the Canadian lads in my dorm had just woken and were going to the thermal baths, so I went along too. I'd been looking forward to Szechenji furdo. Budapest is famous for its thermal baths which are housed in grand historic buildings. What could be better for soothing aching legs after all that walking? We took the Metro, and after a slight altercation with some corrupt ticket inspectors, we finally got there. Word of warning, when you buy a ticket you have to validate it by punching it in the machines as you enter the station. It isn't obvious though, and we saw loads of foreigners get stung.
The outside baths at Szechenyi Furdo and its yellow painted walls are pictured in almost all the guidebooks. Although it was busy, I was not dissapointed. Outside there is a large open air pool that you need an old lady style swimmming cap to enter, and there is another warm pool with massaging jets of water. But the highlight is indide the main building where there is a labyrinth of rooms with a variety of baths ranging from boiling to freezing, and Sauna and Steam rooms. If you're tough enough to go from the Sauna straight into the coldest pool it takes your breath away. I noticed that there are absolutely no health and safety warnings on any of the baths, despite the feeling that your heart might stop when you plunge into the coldest pool.
When we finally were wrinkled enough to leave we went out for food and then started the evening with beers in the room. Mellow Moods Hostel is definatly not for shrinking violets or anyone wanting peace and quiet,and before long there was a huge group of us from various countries. One of the islands on the Danube has a park
which during the summer holds huge free parties. We set off after midnight, and after walking for at least 45 minutes we arrived. The place was much better than I expected, and although the group had dwindled a little by this time, before we knew it the sun had come up and a few of us watched the sun come up over the Pest side of the city.
Saturday was therefore a bit uneventful, but on Sunday I climbed Gellert Hill with an Australian guy, Steven. More leg work. This trip is going to be more exercise than I've done in ages. On top of the hill there are some huge statues and excellent views ovewr the city all around. By this point I'd already stayed longer than Ićd intended in Budapest, but was undecided where to go next. I'd thought og going to Lake Balaton, a 77km long lake which serves as a beach resort throughout the summer. finally, however, I decided I wanted to go straight to Slovenia.
On my last day we went to Varosliget, a large city park at the same place as the Szechenyi Baths, which has several museums, a little castle thing, a boating lake, ducks, drunks, everything you'd expect in a big city park. After fooling about in rowing boats the first drops of rain landed, and so we headed out into Hosok Ter (Heroes Square) for more touristy photo opportunities. In one corner we saw several police cars and some tape surrounding person shaped body bag, which was a bit grim. Then we realised we were in a wide open space in a thunderstorm, great idea. When the heavens opened we ran to the nearest metro station, only to find we'd entered the wrong side. The rain ran in rivers down the stairs and into the station. Since it was too rainy to cross to the other side, we rode to the last stop, which for some reason is called Mexico, where after climbing along rainings to avoid floods, we sat in Burger King to wait for the rain to subside, watching shop owners mop water from their shops.
Finally, after several practical complications over the availability of rooms in Ljubljana and the train times, I finally left Budapest early Wednesday morning, three days later than I'd planned.