Hungary has a bloody history and it hasn't been long since democracy has existed in the country- 22 years to be exact.
I stayed at an awesome hostel called Homemade hostel, so as soon as I got to Budapest it felt like home. It's such a great city. Many beautiful buildings- a mix of old and new. The fact is that much of it was bombed. In fact only 2 bridges survived and there is a plaque by the river commemorating that fact.
So where do I start. My first day I went to castle hill, on the Buda side, where the Royal Palace and Matthias Church are. (West side of the Danube river is Buda, east side is Pest. Hence, Budapest!) It's a cool area because they built a decorative castle wall with towers called Fisherman's Bastion, truly making it a castle hill. Matthias church is one of the most photographed sights in the city, with a beautiful multi-coloured roof. The Royal Palace is huge and houses several museums and the national library. It's a beautiful building with statues, gardens and fountains. There were a bunch of officers lined up nearby the day I was there, so something was going on. Underneath castle hill are extensive labyrinths created naturally by thermal springs. I went through them and although there was lights every few feet, it was creepy! They played music- like drum beats, which made it even more creepy lol. There were also cave paintings and carvings throughout. It was really cool. Apparently thousands of people can for in there. In the past, it's been used as a bunker and for the safe keeping of valuables.
After castle hill, I went to Saint Stephen's Basilica, which is huge and quite beautiful. The big draw, though, is St Stephen's mummified right hand. It is in a fist and if you look closely, you can see his fingers. Crazy. If you pay 200 FUT they will light it up lol.
That night was a free hostel dinner of tiny gnocchi- type dough with a chicken cream sauce. Afterwards was a pub crawl where we went to like 5 places, including 2 ruin pubs. Ruin pubs are popular in Budapest. They are old communist buildings(some in pretty bad shape) turned into pubs! I imagined plastic cups but nope they had glass. One place was fancier than the other with a really nice open-air patio. The other was more run down but then again it is a ruin bar lol. Still they could have chosen something other than half-filled balloons to decorate the place lol. They did have ping pong though, so that was fun.
The next day was a little rough lol so I took it easy by going to Hero's Square and a Turkish bath! Hero's square is a huge square with statues and long columned porticos. They make it into an ice rink in the winter! Behind the square is a beautiful park where there is a lake, castle/museum, zoo, circus, amusement park and the baths. Lots to see!! I stuck with the castle and the baths. The Szechenyi baths consist of a swimming pool, a heated pool about 36 degrees and a thermal hot bath at 39 degrees. They also use jets well... For a massage or in a round pool to push you round and round! So much fun. You literally don't have to swim, the jets push you. It was very popular with kids ... and me lol. The thermal springs are natural and feel wonderful- especially for me because my legs were still hurting after running with my pack in Romania. It was a fun afternoon. After I went to the Terror House, a museum in Andrassy Street where the Nazis and the Communists both had headquarters and offices. At one time they even had the whole block. It was such a unique and interesting museum with fabulous installations- Some of it was very artistic. They also displayed offices and prison cells in their original set-up. It was creepy. They also had the saddest videos and interviews of people who lived it. The last room is full of the murdered people's lit-up names with the title "murdered 1945-1967"
The next day I visited Momento Park. You see, instead of completely destroying all communist statues put up over the years, Budapest officials decided to put them in a park museum 25 minutes outside of town. It was cool. There was a replica of a gate featuring Lenin and Marx statues, as well as about 20 statutes ranging from busts to gigantic carved stone. The park also has all that remains of an 8 foot Stalin statue- his boots.
I also visited parliament. Such a gorgeous building on the outside!! The inside is quite nice as well- especially the dome room where the crown jewels are kept, along with statues of Hungary's many kings. The crown jewels are protected by 2 very serious-looking guards with swords. Every once and a while they move- it's interesting to watch the sort of march they have to do around the jewels. We also saw where parliament meets. She said the parliament is so big because Hungary used to be a bigger country, but has since lost a few states.
Later that day I walked through the Grand Market, a huge building full of vendors selling meat, fruit and vegetables. Lastly I visited the national museum. It had some interesting jewelry, paintings, furniture and medieval artifacts.
That night we went to as club on a boat. The boat is docked on the Danube and has a couple bands and a DJ. It was pretty fun. Dancing and drinks.
My last day I went to Margaret Island which is in the middle of the river. It's a great spot to sunbathe, play sports or go swimming at the pool & waterslides. There are even ruins of the monastery where the island's namesake lived. I decided to take a short day trip to szentendre. It's only a 30 minute ride on the train and the town is so cute, with cobblestone streets, shops, churches and a marzipan museum. The museum was awesome- a huge marzipan Michael Jackson and Disney scenes: everything from 101 Dalmatians to Pinocchio. Oh and the Flintstones! Tasty and nice to look at! Back in Budapest I went to see the citadell, a fortress on Gellert hill. The liberty statue is also on the hill. The statue's meaning has changed over time. It was once a communist statue but now it represents liberty from the Communists lol.
I was ready to relax so I went to Hotel Gellert and the Gellert baths. This one had a large indoor pool and thermal bath with statues and mosaic tiles. Outside was a sweeeet wave pool!! Just massive waves- tons of fun. That night there was such a beautiful sunset- at one point the sky was pink. I walked by the Danube river to find the shoes. Bronze shoes put along the river in remembrance of the Jews who were lined up, told to take off their shoes, then shot and disposed of in the Danube. It's a somber memorial.
I really enjoyed my time in Hungary. I read about some sweet castle tours and canoeing trips at the hostel so I'd love to come back to the country one day.