I’m en route back ‘home’ to Holland after spending the last four days in the beautiful Hungarian capital city, Budapest with my friend B. This city has always fascinated me, it sounds so culturally different, so foreign. The entirety of Eastern Europe has a distinctively different vibe to its Western half. Its almost like you are on a different continent. I had my first taster for Eastern Europe when visiting Prague. It was a short, sharp trip and I only got to witness a mere shimmer of the city’s beauty, but from what I saw I loved.
I expected Budapest to be somewhat similar and in general I was pretty much correct. The architecture of the buildings was alike in their Gothic designs and the metro names were equally as confusing. We flew in around midnight on Wednesday and after a short taxi ride we arrived at out hotel. This was no cheapo hostel at all, we were living the high life in a swanky five star establishment. The Aquincum Hotel was about a ten minute tram ride from the city centre and definitely lived up to its website description. After a solid slumber in the comfiest bed I’ve slept in, we arose for out first day of exploring the city.
I was fortunate enough to have a Hungarian friend who kindly marked out the best places to go/see/eat on a handy map so we used this insider info to our advantage. After a quick brekkie we strolled along the Danube River to the iconic Chain Bridge which was famous for linking the cities of Buda and Pest together. We continued along the Danube on the Buda side and took in the majestic sights such as Castle Hill and the glorious Parliament House. This building is absolutely spectactular, it stands out amongst the more modern hotels and apartments around it and has to be one of the most impressive pieces of architecture I’ve laid eyes on. After pulling our eyes away from the brilliant view we ventured onto what I was most excited about, the Budapest Zoo. Calling me an animal lover is an understatement, I react to animals the way some women might coo over babies or nice shoes. I was most excited about this zoo because I had read that they had sloths! Not only this, you could walk amongst their enclosure and get right up and personal with them!! Normally I’m not fond of using animals for touristy type exploits but the chance to be in the closest vicinity possible to one of my favourite animals ever was too much to resist. We entered the zoo and I made a beeline for the South American area. Poor B had to stand there and wait for me as I lost my head over the gorgeous creatures. We weren’t allowed to touch them but I was able to get some deliriously happy snaps with the cuties. After way too long in their enclosure I reluctantly moved onto the rest of the zoo. It was a well looked after zoo, much better than Phuket, though not as elaborate as our Australian zoo’s. After a couple of hours of me behaving like a child in a candy store and B slyly indicating his need for food we left the zoo and headed off in search of food. We found a delicious burger shop and ate lunch in front of a big lake before wandering through the stunning square where the Museum of Fine Art and the Hero’s Square was situated. It was nearing sundown by this time which created a picturesque backdrop as we wandered around the square. Afterwards we caught the tram back to the Oktagon where we sauntered down the busy main street just taking everything in. I think the stunning city had left us a bit speechless, but we didn’t really need to say much as we let the sights imprint themselves on our retinas. We were both thinking the same thing – Budapest was incredible. We found a street side market where a band was playing and some traditional Hungarian food was cooking. We grabbed a beer, some paprika goulash and of course Hungarian sausages and settled down to listen. This band played all the good classics like ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and I almost felt like I was at home until the singer thanked his listeners in a very deep Hungarian accent. After truly stuffing ourselves with local goodness we headed back to our hotel where we took advantage of their lavish thermal pools and saunas for an hour or so before retreating to bed.
The following morning was a bit of a lazy start, this bed was far too comfy! We got ourselves organised and jumped on the tram in search of a Pancake House which my friend assured was delicious! We found it easily and indeed these pancakes were scrumptious! I had mixed fruits and banana and Nutella and it was heaven! Not so good for the waistline however. In attempt to work off some of the kilojoules we just consumed we headed to Castle Hill to have a squiz. It was a stunning view of the entire city and the huge Castle was somewhat Roman looking and incredibly impressive. I salute my hat to the architects of Budapest! We walked back down Castle Hill and in the direction of the thermal baths which Hungary is so famous for. Not before making a quick stop at the Grand Market to check out the local fare. Situated in a huge old building, the markets offered local produce, delicacies and souvenirs. We grabbed a few things to sample and kept on heading in the direction of the baths. One glance at these baths and I understand their popularity. Several thermal pools of all different temperatures were surrounded by yellow stone Colosseum style buildings, in which there were more thermal baths, saunas, spas and massage rooms. It was decadent and relaxing. I was more than happy to spend the afternoon wallowing in the warm water, letting the thermal powers soothe my walked out feet. It was nearing 7:30pm by the time we hauled our pruny bodies out of the baths and definitely time to refuel. My friend had recommended an all-you-can-eat bistro which after a bit of back-tracking we found. It was nice, the food wasn’t out of this world but it certainly filled the hole. We were quite exhausted from our hard day of lazing about the baths so we walked over the bridge to relish in the beauty of the Parliament House at night before tramming back to our hotel where we promptly conked out.
The following morning was another late start thanks to yours truly, but with no desire to race around the city we took our time getting ready for the day. Todays mission was to see the Lady of Liberty monument, the National Gallery and most importantly for B to watch Australia vs England in the rugby league. We began by visiting the pancake house again and then quickly burning off the delicious treats off by trekking up to the monument which turned out to be quite a climb! However the view was well worth it. We sat at the highest point for awhile just taking the city in and appreciating the city’s glory. By this time, B’s footy radar was starting to buzz so we caught the tram down to the National Theatre for a few quick snaps of the sculpture half submerged in the water and headed off in the direction of the nearest English pub. Thanks to Google we promptly found one and settled in with a cider and beer to cheer on our boys. It turned out to be a rather popular place and halfway through the first half in walked an Aussie/Greek team with the famous Australian player Braith Anasta, not far behind was his wife Jodi Gordon and one of her fellow Home & Away actress friends whom I recognised from one of the few episodes I’ve seen. I’m a typical loser when it comes to celeb spotting, I get far too excited and if it wasn’t for my total lack of being subtle I of would of done a few sneaky paparazzi snaps to show everyone back home. Though I kept my camera in my bag and played it cool as we chatted with some of the team and shared our mutual interest in the sport – turns out B knew people that they knew. Crazy how small the world can be sometimes! After a few ciders and the biggest chicken snitzel of my life – we’re talking almost a whole chook, we left the pub to find somewhere new to drink. I had a mission from my friend to find a message she left in one of the bars so we wandered down the busy streets before finally finding it. It just so happened that this place made delicious cocktails so we settled here for a few drinks. I favoured the Cosmopolitans whereas B preferred the really manly choice of Pina Colada. We continued our journey down this street which seemed to be the area for going out and stopped at another English pub and a seedy looking night club. Around midnight, our eyes started to droop and it was time for home, not before a sneaky gyros first.
Our final morning we spent lazing about until we had to leave for the airport. We were heading in different directions – him in London and myself in Holland, though the airport was quite small so we could stay together until right before we had to board.
Saying goodbye to Budapest and B was a bit sad, though I knew I’d be seeing them both again – just one more sooner than the other. It was a great getaway and a brilliant city which now has a firm place in my heart. I am back to work tomorrow so the daily grind of being an au pair begins again – after a week off it may actually feel like real work tomorrow!
From the girl who nearly cried when she saw a sloth