Six things I did with my six hours in Budapest

1. I window-shopped shamelessly.

My hotel was located quite close to Andrássy út, one of the most famous streets in Budapest. Andrassy is about a mile and a half in length, and at its end is a cluster of sites: the Heroes’ Square, the Szechenyi thermal baths, a real castle, and several other interesting bits of historical and cultural importance.

It’s also littered with high-fashion, unbelievably high-price boutiques. Everything was closed, since it was Monday and I set out from my hotel at about 8 PM (having landed in Budapest at 6ish). But as I chugged along through the freezing cold in my ski hat and Solomon boots, I stopped occasionally to bask in the glow of the glitzy necklaces, quintessential European boots, and whatever oddities are apparently the latest fashion. When I wasn’t gawking at who would possibly pay thousands for something I couldn’t identify as either a top or a skirt, I imagined myself as some kind of Very Very Fancy Lady who would absolutely stop and go inside to throw down mass amounts of cash, but keeps moving just because–puh-leese, dahlink–everything in the window is so passé.

The end of Andrassy, all lit up for Christmastime!

2. I tried without success to make heads or tails of the Hungarian language.

Looking at words written in Hungarian (Magyar) put Greek into perspective for me. It can be frustrating at times to live in Greece as an English speaker because, though many of our words have Greek roots, many Greek words aren’t even close to their English counterparts.

But Hungarian? Looking at a word in Hungarian, I not only had no idea what it might mean, but I didn’t even know how it was supposed to sound; and it’s written with the Roman alphabet! Hungarian is without a doubt the strangest-looking language I have ever seen. Don’t believe me? Here’s that sentence again in Hungarian (from an online translator): Magyar van nélkül egy kétség a a legfurcsább – látszó nyelv Nekem van valaha látott.

Yeah. That’s what I thought.

Luckily for me, everyone I encountered spoke English. And to my delight, I found a couple instances of my favorite kind of English: that which is used by non-native speakers for the sole purpose of seeming exotic!

Case in point.

3. I took a bath in a building that looks like a castle!

Trekking those miles across Budapest in the freezing cold, in a mad dash to get to the Szechenyi thermal baths before it closed, is undoubtedly one of my very favorite travel memories ever. The baths close at 10, and they don’t admit anyone after 9. I set out at about 8, and I had no idea how long Andrassy was; I only knew that the baths were at the end of it.

When I finally got to the baths at around 8:45, this is what I saw.

The outside of the Szechenyi baths. Note how high the steam rises, visible above the tree on the left side of the photo.

I finally found the back entrance (after a short panic over the locked front doors), and was rewarded with one of the most simply lovely and relaxing experiences I’ve had in a long, long time. The Szechenyi bathhouse is a must for anyone traveling to Budapest. It’s one of those elusive affordable luxuries, and it was hands-down the highlight of my night.

All around the outside, the bathhouse looks similar to the picture above. Inside the walls, in the center of the building, is a massive open-air set of pools and baths. The walls are yellow, and especially at night, the combination of the blue water, the yellow walls, and the steam rising from the baths is beautiful! The water ranges from cool to warm to hot, there are old men playing chess in the pools, and the whole experience feels oh-so luxurious and fancy because of the setting.

The pool, where Serious Swimmers can swim laps.

This is the part where you make a mad, freezing dash to the next bath if you're like me and find yourself without a towel or sandals.

Gorgeous statues (at least some of which are from mythology; I recognized Leda and the swan) adorn the edges of the pools.

The steam gets really thick in some places. This is one of my favorite shots from the whole evening.

I’m not a girl who thinks about this sort of thing often, but as I sat soaking in a blissful daze in the hottest pool, I found myself thinking that I’d like to come here with my future husband one day, whoever he may be. The whole experience had such an air of romance, whether that was between couples or, in my case, with myself, basking in the glow of my self-date on my solo adventure in Budapest.

4. I froze my euphemisms off.

After three and a half months in Greece, the freezing cold of Budapest in late December was quite a shock! It was a welcome shock until I got out of the baths. I had been so cozy in that warm water, and as it was about 10 when I got out, it had gotten quite cold by the time I left. But it was good practice for Christmastime in Montana, and I definitely had fun walking in the snow!!

5. I failed once again at the whole trying-to-take-a-picture-of-self thing.

If I were a superhero, I would have two weaknesses: trying to get the attention of a waiter or waitress, and having pictures I attempt to take of myself be a perpetual FAIL. Some people seem to be inherently good at it. You can’t even see the telltale arm half on the side of the photo. I am not one of those people.

But I wanted some photographic evidence that I was, indeed, in Budapest. So I attempted. And then I attempted again. And again. And then my mittenless hand was chilled to the bone, so I gave up.

The best of the self-portrait endeavors. Yep--there were many worse than this.

Self-portrait fail aside, the Heroes’ Square was really neat. I’m no history buff, but it’s a monument that is impressive even to those of us who have at best a cursory understanding of European history.

Did I mention there was a full moon throughout all of this?

Hungary is the 10th country my Vans have visited!

Photo of the whole monument, taken at about 10:30 PM.

6. I washed down an entire pizza with a Hungarian beer.

I tried my darnedest to find a Hungarian restaurant that was still open and even moderately affordable, but no such luck. So I resorted to looking for places that had signs for Dreher, the predominant Hungarian beer, outside. I found an Italian place with said sign, and ducked inside.

I know this will be a shocker, but I was STARVING by the time I ate. I had prioritized getting to the baths before they closed, so it was 10:30 by the time I sat down in the restaurant.

That’s when I ate an entire pizza by myself.

Rocket, prosciutto, tomato and mascarpone cheese pizza. BAM.

You know that last picture? That was a picture of someone else's pizza. All I got was this lousy dirty plate...

The beer was good! I’m not a huge lager fan, but it was just what I would expect for a classic, good lager. It also went down great with the pizza.

By the time I got back to my hotel, it was 12:30, and I had to get up at four to go to the airport. At that time, I had no idea what a total and complete catastrophe my five flights home would be. But it was all worth it in order to have this lovely little Budapest adventure. I definitely recommend the city to anyone with an interest in eastern Europe, and plan to go back someday and get to know the city a little bit better!

Cheers,

K8

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About wrap me in phyllo dough

travel addict. greece-obsessed. grad student. bottomless pit.
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4 Responses to Six things I did with my six hours in Budapest

  1. Kira says:

    Kate,

    Thanks for sharing your adventures! Found your blog thanks to the Fulbright posting on facebook. As a recent applicant to the ETA program (find out finalist status in 3 weeks!), and someone who studied abroad in London in college–though that seems so long ago now– it’s inspiring to read over your adventures. I’ve been saving, studying and planning for my move to Italy (Fulbright or not) for the last year and a half and it can be a bit discouraging to feel that the next great adventure is still quite a distance away. So thanks for reminding me, again, of what I have to look forward to. I’ll be in Italy by October, with Fulbright or on my own. Just a little longer to wait… Especially loved this story on Budapest as I’m dying to explore more of Eastern Europe this time around.

    Ciao!

    • k8peterson says:

      Kira,
      Good for you! It’s great that you had the guts to go for the Fulbright, and the gumption to prepare to do it on your own in case the Fulbright doesn’t happen. I hate to say it, but the waiting process only gets more excruciating as the weeks drag on… and I didn’t find out I had it until May! But it sounds like you have all the passion and drive Fulbright is looking for, so I wish you the very best of luck. Greece will be only a short flight or ferry ride away when you get to Italy, and I highly recommend a visit, as the people, culture, food and sights here are some of my very favorites I’ve encountered all around the globe. If you have any questions about travel in Greece (or Italy, as it were–I traveled all around southern Italy for a month in college), or the rest of the Fulbright process, don’t hesitate to send them my way! Thanks for your interest and good luck with all of your future endeavors–whether they’re Fulbright-related or not, I’m sure you’ll create some good ones. 😉
      Best,
      Kate

  2. khollin says:

    You did some interesting things in such a short time! I love that last photo of the Heroes’ Square – I didn’t get the chance to make it over there during my visit. Maybe next time 😉

    So cool that you’re living in Greece, too! I visited there in 2009 and loooved it. Keep up the great adventures 🙂

  3. Pingback: The Wrap Me in Phyllo Dough 100th Post Spectacular! | wrap me in phyllo dough

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