Vacation Part Two: Budapest!

Two days in Budapest were definitely too short. I arrived Friday late in the afternoon, and we flew out Monday morning, so we really only had Saturday and Sunday to check out the city. Due to an assortment of circumstances, that time was also cut a bit shorter than I would have liked. But we saw enough to equal a long post, so click away!


As I mentioned previously, we stayed in a hostel on this trip. When my train arrived in Budapest, I decided that I’d stretch my legs a bit and take the 30-minute walk to the hostel. Two friends of mine from the U.S. (Alicia and Cassie who both pop up here) had flown in earlier that morning, and we decided the best course of action would be for me to just meet them there. As it happened, Cassie had missed her connecting flight in Paris, so they got to the hostel not too long before I did. Alicia and I have stayed in hostels quite a few times before, but this was a first for Cassie. When she visited me in Prague a few years ago, we went to Vienna for a weekend, but I opted for us to stay in a cheaper hotel instead of a hostel. This was definitely an interesting first hostel stay for her. Because let’s face it, there are a lot of pros and cons when it comes to hostels. And this one was pretty interesting….

Pros:

  • Cheap. Cheap cheap cheapy. For a 10-bed dorm, we paid $15 per night. Can’t beat that.
  • Lots of new people.
  • Pre-arranged activities, e.g. pub crawls or tours.
  • Relaxed and knowledgeable staff.
  • In-house bars, which usually have food as well as drinks, and are pretty cheap.

Cons:

  • The 7 other people in your room might have SARS, and spend half the night coughing/snorting up their lungs. You may develop a SARS cough of your very own after this. And by ‘may’ I mean ‘will.’
  • Because this is a very relaxed environment, people may not wear clothes as much as you might want them to.
  • You might end up sitting at the in-house bar drinking for several hours instead of seeing the city.
  • Normal waking hours are kind of fluid, which means that you might not sleep when you would like to.
  • A 10 person room means that you may have to wait for 10 other people to shower or use the bathroom when you would like to. And again, by ‘may,’ I mean ‘will.’

This was also a newer hostel, so you might say it was a work in progress. They’re definitely catering to a certain demographic, namely, people who like to party. Additionally if you are a girl, this might not be a place for you, as there were almost no outlets in the rooms (so hair drying/straightening becomes difficult), and there were no mirrors in our room whatsoever. Not even in the bathroom. The communal bathroom had some mirrors, so my friends had to go down there to get ready a few times. Lucky for me, I don’t need outlets in my morning routine, but I think I’m in the minority of ladies on that one. 

Communal bathrooms can also lead to some interesting experiences. I didn’t shower down there at all, but my friends did. One morning, Alicia was enjoying her shower when she heard a knock on the door, and someone asking if she was okay as she’d been in there a while. She thought this was odd, but said that she was fine. A few minutes later, it happened a second time. Again, she said she was fine. Then came the third knock, but this time the person asked if she’d like some company. WHAT? So ladies, please take note… if you want to shave your legs in a communal shower, someone might take that as a signal that you want to be propositioned. Good morning!

Chalkboard art in the hostel.

Wait, where are we?

Our first night we tried to find a restaurant close to the hostel that got some good reviews on Trip Advisor. But we didn’t look closely enough at the map before we left the hostel WiFi zone, and so we weren’t able to find it. Instead we hit a nearby pizzeria, went back to the hostel for a drink, and ended up turning in early when the hostel bar closed at 11. The girls were a bit tired from their trips over, so we thought it was better to get some sleep, and get an early start on Saturday. 

Also known as famous last words.

Saturday was not a whole lot more successful. As I said above, when you’re staying in a room with that many people, it can take a while to get going in the morning. This makes me crazy, as I’m very much the kind of person who gets up, showers, gets ready, and leaves. I’m not big on farting around and easing into the day. So when I wake up, I want to get in the shower and go. That’s why I much prefer smaller hostel rooms, because if I wake up and have to wait for 5+ other people to shower, I start to go a little crazy. But, that’s what we were dealing with. 

In addition to that, Cassie had brought along some school work that needed to be done that weekend, so we planned for her to get some work done, and we’d go check out the city when she was ready. As is often the case with schoolwork, that took longer than she had originally anticipated, so Alicia and I ended up sitting at the hostel bar drinking a few more Kozels than we probably should have on an empty stomach. When Cassie was ready to go, we were ready for dinner, so we went out in search of food. I remember that there was curry on the menu, but I don’t remember what I ate so I guess it wasn’t the most exciting meal in the world. I remember the restaurant being pretty cute, but that’s all I remember. Riveting, I know. 

Normally our hostel did a pub crawl on the weekends, but because of a big music festival happening in Budapest, things were kind of out of whack. One guy who worked at the hostel said that he was taking some people out in the evening, but we didn’t find him again after dinner. Alicia was pretty much done after that, as is often the problem with day beers, and opted to turn in early. So Cassie and I ventured out to see what we could see.


We stopped for a drink at this nice outdoor place, which I think was near or in the Erzsebet Ter park. But I’m not sure if that’s quite right… so please correct me if you know!

Then we walked down to the river, to get some iPhone-tastic photos of Budapest’s famous Chain Bridge by night. I don’t know why I didn’t grab my normal camera buuuut I didn’t. Night shots!

Boats! And a big building… the Buda Castle I think?

Very fuzzy Parliament building.
Kickin’ it Hungary-style.

We weren’t able to see much else, but these were lit up well enough to take at least a few photos.

By Sunday we managed to find our motivation. We got up and left the hostel pretty early, and headed for the famous Hotel Gellert Baths. On the way, here is what we saw….

I love a good statue.
Wait, the Moulin Rouge is here?

Art Nouveau!
Chain Bridge by day…

Danube and Parliament
I also love a tram.

Budapest has a ton of different thermal baths to choose from, but the Hotel Gellert ones are probably the most famous. Plus it was on the list of recommendations I got from my cousin, who studied abroad in Budapest back in the day, so that’s where we went. The baths are in a gorgeous Art Nouveau hotel, which I’m sure would be way out of our $15/night price range to stay in. But lucky for us, a day pass to the baths was only about $15, so that we could handle. 

These windows were lovely.

And the entire floor was in gorgeous mosiacs.

Men’s and women’s changing rooms were obviously separated, but that didn’t necessarily mean that we didn’t see men in the women’s room. Maybe it was due to the labyrinth-like route to the changing area, or tourists who couldn’t read the signs properly, but yeah… we saw some guys in there. There were some private cabins that you could use, but I didn’t see those until after the fact. So be warned if you go there and don’t want some random dude to see your bum. 

This place was a major maze, so we did quite a bit of walking around and going up and down stairs before we found the 35°rees; spa pool we were looking for. It was one of the indoor pools, and it was really lovely. Again, the signs directed us to a “women only” spa, but guys were there and walking through. So maybe those signs were a bit dated, but it didn’t really matter. 

After a bit we decided to go check out the outdoor pools. This was the downfall, as we found a very comfortable corner spot in one of them, and Alicia and I ended up sitting there for the rest of the afternoon. Cassie did a bit more exploring, and said that they also had a wave pool that was a lot of fun. I wasn’t big on checking out the other pools, as it was a cooler day and for me that was too cold to go into a cold pool. So we stayed put in the 30°rees; pool, despite the showers right next to us kicking in every 15 minutes and getting sprayed a lot. 

I did pop out for a few  minutes at one point to use the restroom, and Alicia had yet another dude proposition her. On the bright side, at least this time she could see what he looked like. On the not-so-bright side, it was a middle-aged guy who’d been creeping on us for some time, who barely spoke any English. He spoke enough to tell her to “relax” but that didn’t really do anything for her. Can’t imagine why not. 

But finally we reached the appropriate level of pruney, and decided to head back to the hostel. Before we did, I ran around and took a few pictures of the spa itself…

On the way back to the hostel, we decided to walk further down the Danube so we could get some pictures of Parliament from the front…

Budapest has some great bridges….
…made even better with some dramatic light and Instagram.

Sunday evening we picked up a spare guy from our hostel room, and we all went to a tiny Hungarian restaurant that the hostel recommended to us. The food was absolutely fantastic, but I have no idea what the name of the place was again. It’s across from a hummus place, and I did take a picture of the outside/the menu, so if anyone can identify the place, please help!

I had the chicken paprika with gnocchi. Nomnomnom.

Since it was our last night in town, we decided we were going to see one of this famous “ruin bars,” come hell or high water. So we left the hostel and set off in search of Szimpla Kert, one of the best-known ones. And for once, we were successful! I’m guessing it was a bit quieter than usual on a Sunday, but it was still plenty full without being horridly overcrowded. Also known as, perfect. I’m a big fan of any place where you don’t have to fight your way to the bar, or wait. So Sunday night was probably the best night for us to be there. 

Now I’m not going to go into details about what the ruin bars are like, because other people have done it much better already, but picture drinking heavily in an abandoned building while surrounded by hipsters and the interiors of several thrift store. Now set your iPod to “bizarre random music” list, put on your ironic glasses, and dance like a weirdo. Congratulations, you would now fit in perfectly in a ruin bar. The DJ did get points from me though, because he played “Paint it Black,” by The Rolling Stones. That’s a good night right there. 

Honestly though, it was a lot of fun. And the beer was reasonably priced, so that’s always good news. I said before that our hostel normally took its guests on pub crawls, and they do one of the ruin bars. Buuuut, not the weekend we were there. Boo. 

We did a bit of wandering around, checking out the different rooms, the garden outside, and testing out assorted furniture that was in Hungarian living rooms 20+ years ago. There was a very good vibe, we found lots of colorful characters to chat to, and at least a few shots showed up magically at the table. Can’t argue with that. 

Sadly though, all good things must come to an end. So eventually we made our way back to the hostel without major incident, and collapsed into bed. Where we were woken up a few more times in the evening by other people who had been out enjoying Budapest’s nightlife and weren’t ready to pack in the towel yet. But dude, when you can’t find your wallet and  you can’t wake up your friend, it’s time to go to bed. 

Up next…. Santorini!

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4 thoughts on “Vacation Part Two: Budapest!

  1. A wonderfully hit and miss visit. That's how I like them. 🙂

    I only visited Budapest for 1 day, back in 2000. We saw a market and the bridges, lost a friend and found a friend, and then left. Typical, right?

    – RZ

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