A Travellerspoint blog

Hungary

Bathing our Blisters in Budapest

sunny 37 °C
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“Rest and peace should not be left until you're deceased. They are two vital life ingredients everybody needs and seeks.” - Rasheed Ogunlaru

Foodie moment

Over the course of our trip, we have been using TripAdvisor to find the best restaurants that have been recommended by people who have actually been there. To say that there are a lot to choose from in Budapest would be an understatement. We had our eye on Hungarikum Bisztro which was in the top 5, yet still in the 'cheap' category, but it was on the other side of town. However today we were in the neighbourhood so we decided to give it a go. Lucky for us, even though it was fully booked out with reservations, we were allowed a table because we got there early, before any of the reservations turned up. The restaurant was really nice and friendly, it had a man playing some kind of string / xylophone instrument. We ordered the Grandma's Recipe Onion Gnocchi and the Stuffed Pork Lion with Dumplings. We were also treated some some very tasty home made cheese bread. The food was fantastic and the staff really lovely.

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Cultural moment

Without trying to spoil our wow moment before we get to it, today while at the thermal pools we noticed an interesting thing. There are quiet a few saunas and steam rooms around in the pool complex that we visited today. While trying each one out, we began to notice a strange occurrence where the locals will stand in the absolute hottest part of the saunas, right next to the heaters, standing up on chairs or anything to get the hottest experience possible. In most of the rooms, standing next to the heaters was just bearable, but in the 100 degree celsius room, it was insanity! Just sitting in that room was unbearable, but standing in front of the heater was crazy, I'm surprised they didn't get 3rd degree burns!

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Wow moment

So today Lisa thought it would be a good idea to go to one of the local thermal bath complexes for some R&R, especially considering we had been on the road for about 7 weeks straight we could use some medicinal hydro therapy for our tired muscles. After some convincing, I agreed to go, and I am so glad I did. The Szechenyi Baths and Pools complex is more of a swimming pool adventure park than a bath centre, the main feature being 2 huge outdoor pools that are naturally heated, one being 38 degrees celcius. It was a little strange jumping into a 38 degree pool on a 37 degree day, but you get used to it quickly. There were numerous waterspouts that you could stand under and use as a back/head massager. The other pool was a little cooler, and had an awesome feature in the middle which was kind of a human powered whirlpool where everybody spins around with the current. We had a great time in the pools and relaxed with a couple of drinks afterwards by the edge of the water.

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Inside is a more traditional thermal bath complex with many pools and spas each at different temperatures and with different types of medicinal water. Lisa's favourite pool was the 38 degree spa which was filled with medicinal mineral water which was a green colour, and had healing properties for sore muscle and joints. There were also saunas, steam rooms and aroma therapy rooms, all of which we tried, the craziest being the 100 degree Celcius sauna mentioned above. My favourite was the steam room, and I even joined some of the crazies, standing on my chair for a bit! We spent the majority of the day there and were well and truly water logged, but totally relaxed and rejuvenated when we finished.

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What we learnt today

A pretty simple lesson learnt today, and that is that hot water feels awesome on sore muscles after backpacking. It was a really awesome way to finish off the major backpacking leg of our European holiday. If anybody is ever in Budapest, I highly recommend the Szechenyi Baths and Pools.

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Another fact, which is quite amusing, is that to reduce costs in heating the zoo started pumping the natural water into their hippo enclosure. This worked well, perhaps too well, as the water was very high in salt and minerals which led to the hippos increasing their pregnancy rates! Now, Hungary are one of the main breeders of hippos in the world!

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Posted by travellinglise 11:27 Archived in Hungary Tagged budpest szechenyi_baths Comments (0)

The Ghosts of Budapest Past

overcast 28 °C
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"Wars teach us not to love our enemies, but to hate our allies." - W. L. George

Foodie moment

After our epic walking tour, our guide recommended a local restaurant where we could get an authentic Hungarian lunch set menu. For 10 Euro we got to try traditional Goulash Soup, Paprika Chicken with dumplings and local beer. It was all really nice, and the strange tiny dumplings are starting to grow on me!

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Cultural moment

Apparently drinking in public places in illegal in Budapest, but this doesn't seem to be upheld at all. As seen on a Thursday night in the central square of the city, every spare bench and square of grass has a group of young people sitting on it with bottles of vodka or wine and plastic cups. This seems like a completely normal thing to do on each warm weekend night.

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Wow moment

Today we visited the Opera House of Budapest. Apparently the architect was told they were not allowed to make it as impressive and grand looking as the famous opera house in Vienna (part of the same kingdom at the time), so he begrudgingly did this on the outside but considering he was given no restrictions on how the inside should look he made it considerably more opulent and beautiful than its Viennese counterpart.

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We also hiked up the hill in Buda to visit the castle/palace. This is in fact a former palace, and is not showing any of its former glory. This is because during WW2 it was completely destroyed, after WW2 Budapest was under Soviet rule so it was rebuilt it in typical soviet style...boring!

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The chain bridge was the first bridge to cross the Danube between Buda and Pest. Before it was built the only way to cross between the two sides of the city was by boat, or by foot when the river was frozen, but don't get stuck on the wrong side when it melted or you could get stuck for a long time!

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When I spotted a flyer for a ghost tour, I jumped at an opportunity to make up to Mark for the failings of Dracula's castle. We knew we were in for an experience when we first spotted our guide, a man dressed in a black hooded cloak with his face painted white standing frozen staring creepily at passers by. What followed was a walking tour filled with very entertaining stories, with some occasional jumpy moments. Did he use cheap tricks to make us scream (like speaking in a whisper then shouting at the climax of the story)? Yes, he did. Were his stories true? Most likely not entirely honest. Was it a fun way to spend a night? Sure was. Mark got some special treatment during one of the stories were about the curse the witches put on anyone who built on the hill of Buda ("Don't build on the hill! We will crush you, We will crush you!!!!). No Hungarian's ever have built there, but the Austrian empire did, and the soviets did too, and as our guide said "Where are they now?".

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What we learnt today

Firstly, one of the most interesting facts was that all tourist attractions and monuments in Budapest are rebuilt replicas of the original monuments, this is because Budapest was basically flattened by Allied bombing during WW2.

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Budapest is split through the middle by the famous river Danube. On one side of the river is the hilly Buda side, which was often seen as the more wealthy side. The flat side of the river is called Pest, and was generally the place for trading, and therefore more working class. Not sure if these divisions are still true, but people certainly do make a big deal of being from Buda rather than Pest.

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Hungary has had a pretty bad run of it as a country, and most of their problems have been due to aligning themselves with the wrong people/countries. In WW1 they were part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, therefore aligning themselves with the Germans. Later in their history, they accepted the offer of help from the leader of Germany, otherwise known as Adolf Hitler, to help get back some of their power and lost territories. This was all good, until the favour was called back in and they were once again aligned with Germany in a World War.

Posted by travellinglise 10:30 Archived in Hungary Tagged budapest Comments (0)

Boiling in Budapest

sunny 35 °C
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"I love travelling in a sleeper on a night train. You just go to bed, and wake up and you're in another country! Only way to travel!!" - Lisa

Foodie moment

On a recommendation from Trip Advisor, we went to a cafe called Suelto Cafe and Grill.. We ordered some not very traditional Hungarian but delicious, comfort food; a bacon cheese burger and chicken quesadilla.

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Then for dinner we went to a local pub and had some actual traditional Hungarian food. We ordered beef stew with dumplings and garlic chicken. Traditional Hungarian dumplings are not the type of dumplings we normally think of, they are more like a grated pasta thing, delicious never the less.

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Cultural moment

There is an island in the middle of the Danube river known as Margaret Island and on it is a pretty spectacular musical fountain. Around it, the locals sit with their feet in the water and wait for the show to start. We were lucky enough to nab a couple of the remaining chairs to watch the show. There were two pieces of music, one modern and the other classical that were played over loud speakers while the fountain put on an aquatic show with jets, bubbles and mists of water that shot out in time with the music. It was really awesome to watch and refreshing getting sprays of water because of the intensely hot weather.

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Wow moment

Budapest, being quite a big city, has a lot of amazing sites to visit. The first one we saw today was the Great Market Hall. It has multiple levels which include meats, vegetables, clothing, souvenirs and traditionally cooked foods.

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The next site we visited was the Dohany Street Synagogue, which displays some very impressive architecture. We didn't go in however as there was an entrance fee.

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Finally, we hiked through the previously mentioned Margaret Island. Other than the fountain, it is filled with gardens, old ruins, swimming pools and touristy things like being able to rent pedal cars, which we actually did. Due to our strict budget, we opted for the cheapest car and therefore the hardest to pedal car. It was a little retro car, and had the worst suspension ever! We had a time limit of 30 minutes and got to the far end of the island in 20. So we had our work cut out for us on the trip back, but with a lot of hard work and sweat, we made it back right on time!

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What we learnt today

What we learnt today is actually from the experiences of the night before. We had a long trip over to Budapest from Brasov and the best way to get there was via train. The trip is around 14 hours, so we opted once more for a night sleeper. Learning from our experiences in Spain, we splashed out a bit extra for our own private cabin and we are glad we did! It was an amazing experience to have a glass of wine while watching the Transylvanian countryside wizz by illuminated by the glow of a full moon. We even had our private en-suite with an (unfortunately) non functioning shower!

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Posted by travellinglise 09:24 Archived in Hungary Tagged budapest Comments (0)

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