End of Day 117, 118, 119, 120, 121 & 122
When planning how to spend our time in Eastern Europe we had absolutely no idea what there was to do in Budapest. Thinking it would be just like any other capital city we decided that three days would be more than enough time to see the sights, check out the nightlife and have a bit of fun. After the first day there, we knew we didn't have enough time. We quickly scrapped going to Slovenia (we also realized it was really far away) and extended our short 3 nights to a decent six. We had an absolutely incredible time, filling our days with so many different things. Budapest definitely held its own against the other big cities such as Paris and Berlin.
One of the reasons we loved the city so much was because of our hostel. Aboriginal Hostel (we may have picked it because of the name) was one of the best places we have stayed in. It didn't necessarily have the fanciest facilities but the vibe in the place was just awesome. Group activities ran every night including inter-hostel dress up parties, pub crawls, all you can eat dinners and movie nights that everyone got into. The chill out room had a tv with an endless amount of movies to watch. At any time of day or night you could sit down with some randoms, watch a movie with them and come out as great friends. Our room was also perfect, we were slightly away from everyone else and could chill there when we wanted some us time. We dominated our room being 5 in a 6 person dorm and pretty much turned it into a private. Our bathroom was also bigger than normal as we weren't in the main area giving us not only a shower but also a bath as well. The staff there were the cherry on top helping us to organize everything we wanted. No matter what time, day or night they were there to help us out. Oh, and they did our laundry for us as well, that was awesome. Not if, but when I got back to Budapest again I will definitely stay there.
Our 6 day long adventure started very differently to most cities as we arrived on Erev Yom Kippur. Whilst we happened to be on a bus from Bratislava during Kol Nidre we didn't get a chance to go to shul, however we did what we could and avoided the food and drink for 25 hours. Whilst we were initially tempted to break it being offered free food on our bus journey, (it had to be Yom Kippur the first time that ever happened) it was overall quite an easy fast. We slept in and kept ourselves busy, making us not get really hungry until the last few hours. Now while most people would take it easy not wanting to tire themselves out while fasting, you guys know we are not most people. Not wanting to waste a second in this awesome town we headed out, first to a museum and then to a spa.
The Museum of Terror was our first stop after our late wake up. Built in the building that both the Hungarian Nazis and Communists used as a jail and their headquarters, it detailed both regimes activites within Hungary. Physically the museum was very well done capturing us from the very first minute with a full size tank in the entrance, to the end with the real jail cells fully preserved in the basement. However the little English and our general lack of energy made it quite uniformative and by the end quite boring. Whilst we did learn a bit about what happened in Hungary during WW2 and the Cold war, a bit more English would have gone a long way.
After struggling a bit in the museum we could tell we were running out of energy. We didn't want to do anything too intensive that will knock us out but still didn't want to waste the day. It was then we heard of the Natural hot baths in the middle of the city park that Budapest is apparently famous for. It was the perfect compromise. We headed straight there expecting to find a massive hot pool in the middle of a park. We were very pleasantly surprised.
This place was a palace. We arrived outside of a massive building and were so taken a back once we stepped inside. Spas, saunas, steam rooms and whirlpools filled the place and we hadn't even stepped out back. After finding out there was an outside to the building we froze our asses off for a little while and bolted to the spa like pools outdoors. With a whirlpool, fountains and an awesome view, we had found the place we were going to spend the rest of the day. We ended up meeting lots of people there and had a great time just splashing around. Unfortunately after a while it did start to rain and we decided it was time to get out. After looking at a watch we realized there was only 30 minutes left of the fast, the time had flown by.
Whilst I do love a good breaking filled with fishballs, bulkas, kichel and a bit of herring, our first meal after the fast was absolutely spectacular. We managed to find a really nice yet surprisingly cheap Italian place in the centre of town. There we had an epic meal with the boys having leg of lamb and pizza and myself devouring the best pasta I have had all trip (we haven't been to Italy yet). I was kind of disappointed that we could only have break fast once.
The majority of the rest our touring of the city came through our bike tour. Sick of the walking tours we upped it a notch and went for something with wheels. Whilst we did have to pay for that privilege we saw so much more of Vienna than we ever could by foot. As always we saw the famous churches, statues and buildings. We trekked it across the river and up the massive mountain creatively named Castle Hill for obvious reasons. From there we got an amazing view of the city and got to see how the better half of Hungary live as it is one of the most expensive districts in town. Down the hill and into the centre of town we went just for a nice ride. Something different to the walking tours we even had a meal included. We ate the best goulash ever and after a couple of weeks in Eastern Europe we know our goulash. The tour finished off with a ride in the park seeing the Heroes square, the soon to be outdoor ice rink and the spa we went to. It was awesome to do a different kind of tour and will certainty look for the bike option next time.
We did do some touring by ourselves over the days including a trip to the markets, a long walk to Margaret Island and a stroll around the Great Synagogue. Market hall was a massive building built when too many market stalls were being set up throughout the city. Inside the hall 100s of vendors set up their stuff from food to souvenirs and try and bargain with you for a sale, very similar to the Jerusalem markets. Whilst it was fun initially, you soon come to realize that every stall has the same stuff as the place before it. After we had bought whatever souvenirs we wanted from Budapest we were out of there and moved on to something else.
Margaret Island is a sizeable piece of land located in the middle of the river dividing Buda and Pest. One afternoon we decided we would take a walk down there to see what it was all about. We grossly underestimated the length d the walk and by the time we had gotten there it was getting cold. Nonetheless we hung there for a bit, walked around the place and even stumbled across yet another magical fountain. Unfortunately the fountain had nothing on the one in Barca and simply played music in time with the water. It was cool but not that cool.
My last little bit of touring came on the last day just before the bus. Disappointed I hadn't seen the massive shul yet, I headed out to see what was so great about the Great Synagogue. A 10 minute walk there was all it took and I was standing outside the biggest Shul in Europe. It was so big, I had to go across the road just to get a picture of the top half. Eager to get in I went up to the ticket office (yes this shul has a ticket office) only to find them closed. Confused as to why, I sadly left and headed home wrapping up my touring on a bit of a sad note. It was only much later I realized that it was Sukkot and the shul was not open on religious holidays.
Whilst touring was fun in Budapest, we were ready to get back to our immature selves and have a holiday like we used to back home. Laser Tag, Bowling, paintball and even caving were options yet once we found out Paintball had closed down and that it was raining the day of Caving we only got to do the first two. Laser Tag was just like it was at home except instead of there being 20 people, there were 4. As we arrived at the place we were expecting to be joining a 10 person group. However we were soon told that they had cancelled and we were playing by ourselves... We had no problem with that. 2 hours of free for all laser tag brought out our tactical sides and made for an awesome afternoon. Bowling was also great as we managed to rack up quite a group from our Hostel. With hilarious names up on the board and crazy scores to follow them, bowling was also a fantastically filled afternoon.
Nightlife in Budapest was something else. With us staying right next to the Jewish Quarter, which for some reason was the Clubbing District we managed to visit quite a few places making for some big nights. One place definitely worth mentioning is Szimplar, a bar we visited almost every night. Conveniently located right next to the tacos and tequila bar (which serves an awesome shot of Patron) this place was giant. Half indoors, half out, it was filled with crazy stuff including bathtub chairs, car tables and a Dj set hovering above us. There was a place to buy pizza, stacks of bars and even a Nag area for when you wanted to just chill out. Whilst most nights there was a sweet vibe, it peaked on the Saturday, filled to capacity, making it hard to find a seat. Every night we went out we started here, it was just the place to be.
We visited many clubs whilst in Budapest but the one that stands out was found on our very last night. Corventitos was hidden away on the top floor of a shopping centre but a 3 minute walk from our place. Led there by some other people on a pub crawl, we lined up outside a building that looked nothing special. After chatting to a homeless friend and learning his dance styles security eventually allowed us inside and sent us up 5 flights of stairs. Climbing up all those stairs we were hoping this place was good. It did not disappoint in the slightest.
Walking in the door, the place was packed and the rooms were shaking from the music. TVs were everywhere playing Kill Bill and it seemed like this was the place to be. As we walked into the next room and heard the music we immediately got straight into it. Dubstep mixed with electro was blasting through the speakers and an MC was hyping the people up even more. It was almost as good as Mykonos. We hung out there for hours, needing to take a break every now and then but always running back when we heard a great song. It was a fantastic way to wrap up A phenomenal City.
One thing I have forgotten to mention in this blog was that half way through our time here we did lose one of our travel compadres to his parents for 10 days. Wazzy for some unexplainable reason left the group for a bit of time meeting his parents in Italy. We will rejoin him in Rome on the 19th.
I would love to keep writing about Budapest but that's all I can really remember. It was a great city none of us expected it to be. We have really learnt our lesson about underestimating cities and will now always check the place out before we go.
To Vienna we go...