From my first post you’d have got the impression that Budapest is all about grand architecture and manly statues. Which it is. But it also has a deserved reputation for leisure activities and partying – truly, it is competing with Tallinn to be the city that launched 1000 British bucks parties.
Firstly, the overwhelming impression of faded grandeur and ruin has an upside – conversion of old abandoned buildings into ‘ruin pubs’. We checked out quite a few – Szimpla, Kuplung, Fogas Ház and Antik. Each one has its own unique charms. Notable drinks to try include:
- Palinka – a ‘traditional fruit brandy’ that comes in many flavours like pear and sour cherry (we recommended the Schizzler…)
- Limonade – finally, a country that is as obsessed with lemonade in all its glorious permutations as I am
- Unicum – tastes better than the name implies, kind of like Jagermeister.
Even the presence of said bucks parties can’t undermine the good experience that is going out in Budapest’s ruin pubs (that said, a sub-par Green Day covers band almost did). With the exception of the Flodge, I can’t think of anywhere in Sydney that comes close. If I ever have a bucks party I know where I am going to go!
Budapest’s other great asset is that once you wake up after a big night in the ruin pub, you can go and recuperate at a thermal bath. We should probably just make it a rule never to travel to destinations without some kind of thermal bath.
We started our trip at the Gellert baths, which are in a supremely grand building. Fittingly, the facade was the model for the Grand Budapest Hotel (or the Grand Hotel Budapest if you’re Ant). I voted this best baths of the trip because of its over the top tiled interiors and excellent range of water temps – 11.3ºC, 36ºC and 40ºC. You can feel properly like a Roman when you’re lounging around in there.
We also went to the Szechenyi Spa Baths on our last day, to prepare for our journey back to Copenhagen on low cost airlines. It was also so much fun, although the chloriney smell and blue tile colour kept giving me flashbacks to Lambton Pool which made for a strange cross-cultural sensation. The setting makes it worth braving the ten degree air temps outside…
Finally, as I am exploiting the broad remit of the ‘leisure’ theme, we also went to the opera. So classy! I’m not uncultured, I’ve clearly just been waiting for my first opera experience to be in the right venue and I think we found it:
Being Easter, we ended up having to see Johann Sebastian Bach’s Saint John’s Passion. According to the website, it ‘depicts the suffering and death of Jesus based on the words of the Apostle John the Evangelist’. Heavy. In reality, it depicted Jesus as being really unhelpful and uncooperative to Pilate, and made ‘the Jews’ seem really unhinged. No-one came out of this looking good, except the opera house itself and the blonde opera singer who really nailed her parts.
Although it probably will lose its title as ‘my favourite opera’ as soon as I see any other actual opera, it did make me more open to the genre… if anyone wants to invite me to the opera again please do!