Going to Budapest never really crossed my mind until a couple months of go when I was planning my winter trip with Krissy. We had originally set our sights on Turkey, but when the date to book flights came closer, we inexplicably opted for a trip through several key cities in central Europe. In short, that’s how we ended up in Budapest two weeks ago after a two hour train ride from Vienna. For the curious, the train ticket from Prague to Vienna cost approximately 40€, and the one from Vienna to Budapest was 26€.
With no couchsurfing host for this leg of the trip, we hopped off the train and headed straight to the hostel to unload our bags. Now, the hostel that we would be staying at (Lavender Circus Hostel) has quite a peculiar atmosphere with its wacky decor (think aquariums in bathrooms), and friendly staff offering wine and pálinka to start off our visit to Budapest. On a side note, you can have as much of the alcohol, which is made by one of the staff’s grandfather, as you would like; in addition, the staff enjoy cooking up a weekly dinner for their guests. Anyway, after settling the bill (which totaled to only 20€ per night for a shared bathroom/private room for two persons) we grabbed our bathing suits and headed for the Szechenyi baths. It is definitely something to experience at least one; being outside in the frigid weather, yet, warmed by the thermal baths maintaining a temperature of 34˚C.
If you’re looking just at the map rather quickly, as Krissy did, you might not realize that Gellert hill and the hill on which Buda Castle stands are different. So when we set out for our adventure of the day, I certainly didn’t realize the amount of walking that we would end up doing. With that said, though, I was amazed when walking up the many snow-covered steps and quickly glancing over from time to time at the rest of city below. Getting down both hills, however, wasn’t exactly the most thrilling; because, you see, the only pair of shoes that I brought on this two-week journey of mine happened to have no grip whatsoever on its soles. So as a result, I shuffled my feet along the pathways and side stepped down the slopes.
The following morning, before I had to head to the airport, I opted to slot in a visit to the Hungarian National Museum. It’s quite interesting to note that only the contextual information is translated into English, along with the more important artifacts. Everything else only has Hungarian descriptions. But somehow, that doesn’t quite matter; it is just as fascinating to see the artifacts and belongings without having the necessary descriptions of what you are looking at. On the topic of museums, here are two other suggestions of mine, as well as a recommendation of a place to eat at:
Semmelweis Museum: For what probably only amounts to 2€ (add another 2€ if you would like to see the temporary exhibition about Artúr Görgei), you can gain access to a comprehensive history of the development of western medicine from the prehistoric age to the early 20th century with a focus on the Hungarian medical system, and the work of Semmelweis. The museum itself was once the residence of Semmelweis, who is best known for his contributions to hygiene, and presents a wide array of items with descriptions in English for each one.
Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archives of the History of Medicine
1013 – Budapest
Apród utca 1-3.
Telephone: +36 (1) 201-1577
House of Hungarian Wines (Magyar Borok Háza): This is perhaps the highlight of my stay in Budapest. For a mere 7€, you can have a wine tasting of four Hungarian wines, but if you fancy dessert wines or spirits, there are packages for those too. Our wine expert Steven guided us through our tasting, explaining each wine, its region, and any other tidbits of information worth sharing. In addition to the wines, we also tasted Hungarian cheeses, which ranged in flavors and textures; some being harder than others, and some having more of a nutty taste. Of the four that I had tasted, I was most impressed by the Patricius Pincészet Furmint 2006 (Tokaji), which had notes of apples and peaches, and purchased a bottle for my return to Paris.
Magyar Borok Háza – Budai Vár
1014 Budapest, Szentháromság tér 6.
Telephone: +36 1 201 4062
Pink Cadillac: When people travel, there are times when they want to try the “really authentic” food, but of course, there are always other options. If you have a hankering for pizza, I suggest that you check out this restaurant, which is near the Hungarian National Museum, and open late. The pizza made on the spot and is in fact quite filling; a small one can fill your stomach for only 4€ or 5€.
1092 Budapest, Ráday utca 22
Image of wines courtesy of kuruc.info; all other photos were taken by me