Budapest is famous for natural hot spring bath houses where you can sit in these large pools and give your body the rest it needs. While I was still contemplating whether to go in or not, I was also curious about this concept and therefore accompanied the group to see what the fuss is about.
When we got to the Szechenyi bath house, we could not see anything but a set of rules, must do’s and a series of must haves and if you do not have must hire kinda boards. It was seriously a money making, tourist friendly trap, but like all tourist, I fell into it.
Once we paid for the entry, we all got an entry pass to be worn around our wrists and this entry pass also gives us access to to the lockers provided to keep your things before you hit the pool. Only one word of advice, do not… I mean really… do not remove that damn thing from your wrist. The lockers are not very reliable and not all of them works well with those key passes. It took us some time to check about opening and closing those lockers and in many cases needed more than one try to lock it.
Somewhere between the time I changed and locked my locker, I had managed to give my key pass to help Sherin see if her locker would work with my pass and between her, me and the Scheziny associate, we managed to put my key pass in her locker, while she got an alternate key pass and I got a dummy key pass strapped on my wrist.
We figured all this out only after I got out of the pool earlier than the rest, had a shower only to end up waiting with a towel wrapped around me as various staff members tried to open my locker unsuccessfully with my key pass, and said they cannot help me until my entire group gathers together and they try everyone’s key pass. They knew it was mixed up; while I was adamant that it was not.
For my bad luck both the girls we were waiting for, took off to explore the various offerings of the bath house and was not traceable for more than half hour.
Finally, we were reunited, my locker opened with the key pass in Sherine’s locker and I could get out of that place with all my belongings intact.
All in all, though we sat around the pool, had a few laughs, took some selfies given a chance to decide again, I will not waste my money to sit in a large heated pool filled with chlorine and rambunctious crowd. Even the hygiene level is questionable.
Inspired by my Vienna’s night walks, I also wanted to explore Budapest by night, so Caro and me ambled off towards the parliament and to find the sculpture “shoes on the Danube” which I was drawn to when I first read about it.
Budapest was a haven for the Jews around the world. When Hitler and Germany went on a massacre, a lot of Jews came to Budapest as Germany had no hold on Hungary. Before the World War II, 200,000 Jews lived in Budapest and by the time the Soviets captured the city to free them from Hitler, less than 100,000 survived. Apart from taking them to the concentration camp, the soldiers used to gather Jews at night, take them to the shore make them remove their shoes and shoot them and push them in the river. Like a game, like some hunters these insane soldiers took it upon themselves to try and fulfill Hitler’s mad idea. I dread to think what would have happened if he had won the war?
What else can I say about my favorite place, other than go visit. I had no expectations from Budapest as I assumed as a communist country, it will have not much to showcase. Man, was I wrong! Budapest offered us so much history, handicrafts, amazing sights and fun things to do in the city.
This place offered me the first experience of the free walking tours. These are run by a passionate set of people who show you around the famous sights, talk about the history and tell you about the city. If you like them, you can book for self into a more detailed walk based on what they have to offer, else tip them what you can for services rendered.
Caro and I decided to go this walk on the first day – it’s the perfect way to view all the famous spots understand its importance – and then decide which ones you want to return to based on time and interest.
Though Budapest greeted us with rains, the walk continued as scheduled and the guide took us around the Pest part of the city, crossed the chain bridge and the Danube to enter Buda.
Not only is this place steeped with history, it also offers the oldest zoo, hot spring bath houses, ruin bars with fantastic house wines and Palinka – alcohol made with fermented fruits and fantastic, spicy food that caters to Indian palate… Remember goulash???
Our first Hungarian goulash was tried in this large market hall called Grand Market which apart from a small food court and restaurants, housed a large number of grocers, meat sellers, vegetable vendors and people selling beautiful handmade handicrafts like crochet, ribbon work and ceramics.
This large airy market hall was a treat to explore and you could spot art students sitting around sketching and practicing their skills.
Since Caro and I braved the rains and had explored Fisherman’s Bastion and the Mathais church on the first day itself, we had some time to explore Gellert hill where the polish monks resided and houses the Liberty statue a symbol of the Soviets victory from the World War II.
I had taken a days pass for the local transport, so I could hop on to any of the tram, bus or metro that was going in the direction without having to stress my legs. Let me tell you, Budapest had the best public transport service when compared to all the places I visited this trip.
My last day in Budapest I planned to do nothing but savor this place. Breathe in Budapest before I leave it forever. While majority of the group went to the zoo, I hung around in coffee shops watched locals and tourist go by, sauntered into Grand market to do some craft shopping only to be told 10 minutes later they were closing as it was the weekend I went back and sat in another coffee shop just watching people enjoying their early weekend and get rested before I hit Prague.