I’ll be honest, I was really looking forward to Budapest and I’m now leaving feeling a bit disappointed. Not because I didn’t like the city, but I feel a series of unfortunate events has occurred.
As you know, I’ve spent the last three weeks with three of my best friends from school but in Budapest the other three girls in our group were coming to join us for a few days. I think we’ll all admit that we are awful as sorting holidays and I think Interrailing is only really happening because I had so much free time this year. However, it really was too good to be true as thousands of migrants from Syria etc were stuck at Budapest Keleti station on their way to Austria and Germany. All seven of us were worried about what that meant for us and we could find much advice online. One friend decided she wasn’t prepared to risk coming incase the situation worsened so we were 6. Then the inevitable happened; I got ill. Anyone who knows me well knows that I almost definitely do not have an immune system and I’m ill on a very regular basis. Then on our last evening (the day before leaving) we had to completely change our travel plans as we needed a train via Austria to our next city but it’s just impossible because of the current migrant situation.
I feel like all I managed to do before I got ill was try some local food, one night out and a walking tour. All three of which I really enjoyed! It’s given me a little taste of what Budapest has to offer and after doing research about what there is to do and hearing things from my friends about what they did while I was in bed, I know I definitely want to come back!
Ammun, Fiona, Shelly and I arrived around midday (avoiding Keleti station) and after checking into our hostel we went out for lunch, which costed us £3 for a full plate of food and a drink, and then went for a walk down the Danube River. Sometime after 4pm Melissa and Morgane arrived and that’s when the fun times really began! We went for dinner at a small restaurant by the river which was yummy although service was horrendous! We then went to the shop to get some drink and predrank in our hostel room before heading out to a ruin bar.
Ruin bars are basically what you’d imagine. People have found old abandoned buildings, turned them into bars and decorated them with second hand furniture. Sounds a bit shabby but it was actually really cool! They’re all open in the day and night so you can go whenever. We went to the oldest and best one (according to ruinpubs.com) called Szimpla and bumped into so many people we knew! I saw my friend Sarah from work, some of my friends saw people they knew from uni and we all saw a group of girls from our year at school who we also bumped into twice in Berlin! It was a lot of fun and we partied until we were kicked out at 3am! This is me and Ammun around 4am trying to find a McDonalds!
The next day we went for another free walking tour which showed me how much there really is to do in Budapest! The woman also told us about what food and drink to try and a brief 1000 year history of Budapest. One thing I loved the most was how passionately she spoke about her country. Hungary was founded by a travelling tribe in 896 and the Hungarian people use this number a lot and you may not notice without someone telling you. Here are some examples; the national anthem is 96 seconds long, St Stephens Basilica and Parliament are both 96m high (there’s a law that nothing can be built higher) and the metro was built in 1896 to celebrate 1000 years of Hungary making it the oldest underground train system in continental Europe (they say ‘continental’ to exclude the London Underground which is older). Parliament is the very white building behind me.
King Stephen was first king of Hungary. He converted the country to Christianity to fit in with the rest of Europe and built the basilica. He was made a saint 50 years after his death. To fully make him a saint they had to open his tomb but they saw his right arm was somehow mummified! Now, two parts of the arm are in other countries but hand is in the basilica on show. Also, the body of a footballer, (the name I can’t remember) who was considered a hero due to the Hungarian team having such a long winning streak, is buried in the basilica. They say that the basilica has “a holy right hand and a holy left foot”.
She also told us a lot about the baths, which sadly I never got to go to. A couple of decades ago, they discovered the hottest natural water on earth that is underneath 80% of Hungary that measured 78 degrees Celsius! Nowadays, it is between 30 and 40 degrees and is used in the spas. Because this water is so full of minerals it is good for so many things like back and joint pain, the immune system and more – so would be ideal for me!! It’s also good for fertility which was proved when the hippos in the zoo couldn’t breed so they made them bathe in the spa water and then they had so many baby hippos that a lot of them had to be exported to other zoos around the world! Every Saturday they have parties at the main spa called a Sparty but I missed this too. My friends said that it was full of creepy men but was really fun!
Our tour guide took us to Victoria Square (I think it’s called) where there is a big feris wheel called the Budapest Eye (wonder where they got that name…) It was brought over from Plymouth and is in its third summer of being in Budapest to advertise the massive music festival that they host every summer. It’s definitely something that I would like to go to some time in the future as they have some really massive names and it’s not too expensive! The funny thing about the wheel is that after bringing the wheel from Plymouth, they forgot to change the English audio guide! It wasn’t until a man from Plymouth came to Budapest and realised he was being told about his home town!!
She also told us about the drinking in Hungary. Surprisingly, Hungary makes really good wine and because they don’t export it, it’s really cheap (3-5€)! They also have a drink called palinka which can be anything up to 75% alcohol! She advised that the girls have a honey version that make it sweeter but men should man up and have the original version! Drinking in the streets/parks before a night out is illegal but as so many people do it, the police don’t care at all!
We then walked to the Hungarian University of the Sciences where she told us a lot about inventions made by Hungarians. These include; the biro pen, carbonated water, colour tv and helicopter propellers and vitamin C was also discovered (and earned the scientist a Nobel prize). One of my favourite things invented by a Hungarian is the rubix cube – probably because I can do a rubix cube!
She also told us about Hungary’s large impact on Hollywood. Not only are there many actors and actresses from Hungary (Zsa Zsa Gabor, Scarlett Johanssen, Jamie-Lee Curtis and more), it is a Hungarian that founded 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures!!
Then we crossed the river by the chain bridge. It is the oldest bridge connecting Buda and Pest, built in the 1850s. On the other side of the river we climbed up the Castle Mountain. Luckily for us, it was just a hill and not a mountain! This is the most expensive part of Budapest to live in and Mr Rubix still lives here! We strolled around the Royal Part of the mountain where, after you’ve taken in the view of Budapest, you can visit the Presidents office and the old Royal Palace (which is now the National Gallery and National Museum). This is the palace from the bridge.
We then walked along the hill a bit more and saw The Church of our Lady which is a beautiful white, limestone building. It’s cleaned every 15 years and luckily for us it was cleaned recently! Remember in my blog about Vienna when I mentioned the roof of the cathedral being absolutely beautiful? Turns out, Budapest made that roof! The first and original roof of that type is here. It’s thousands of small porcelain disks placed together like a mosaic and I love it!
Another thing she told us about was the Hungarian language. It’s very hard to learn as there are 44 letters and it has a very complex grammatical structure. It is so unlike any other language that it is quite often used in films as alien language and when people are possessed etc.
That evening we went round the corner from our hostel to Bob Restaurant and had some traditional Hungarian food. I had beef strips with Jack Daniels sauce which was like heaven on a plate! I don’t have a photo because I ate it so fast!
That was pretty much the end of the trip for me because the rest was spent in bed. But here are a few recommendations of what you should do if you’re in Budapest and not ill;
– Margret Island (massive park with a zoo and so much more – could easily spend a whole day there)
– Shoes on the river (memorial from the Soviet era)
– Spa baths (go to a Sparty and go in the day too)
– Many museums
And probably more things depending on your personal tastes!
I’ve now just arrived in Ljubljana which was not part of our original plans. I’ll write another blog soon explaining all the troubles we’ve had as we couldn’t go straight to Pula via Austria because of the migrant situation.
- Country: Hungary
- Country Population: 10 million
- Spoken language: Hungarian
- Unit of currency: Hungarian Forint (Huf)
- Time zone: GMT +1
I can’t really rate boys and food like I normally do but I can definitely do tackiest gift: a can of air from Budapest!
I’m feeling a bit better now so I’m looking forward to an afternoon stroll and dinner in Ljubljana!