We left wet and dreary Prague behind us and made our way to Budapest only to be greeted by more rain and the freezing cold! We were still fresh faced despite the shitty weather and even after I lost the instructions to get to our hostel we were still laughing. After getting some new instructions and walking in the rain for an hour with +20kgs on our backs our smiles and laughter were a thing of the past when we were drowned rats that couldn’t feel their own arms anymore. Eventually we found our hostel and decided we needed a well-deserved feed considering we hadn’t eaten in 13hrs and I think we were slightly delirious too. We actually managed to stumble across a nice little place with amazing food (and I mean amazing), fantastic wine, good service and were even entertained with a pianist – I know, farncy right?! After the crappy day we had, this restaurant was able to make us forget it all and fall in love with Budapest (well the food and wine aspect anyway).
The next day we decided to do a walking tour of Budapest and see some of the main sights which made us fall even more in love with Budapest. Some great sights to see would be St. Stephen’s Basilica, Heroes’ Square, the Fisherman’s Bastion, Chain Bridge, Castle Hill, the Danube River and the Shoes on the Danube memorial. The memorial is something I would definitely recommend you seeing as it is a memorial to the Jewish victims that were shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944. The victims were ordered to take off their shoes before being shot at by the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and the memorial represents the shoes that were left behind. I found this to be quite a moving memorial and I think it’s something everyone should see because it really just makes you think of what it would have been like.
Now, during our time in Budapest we wanted to experience these so called “ruin pubs” that everyone was raving about, however we didn’t really know where to start so we decided to do a pub crawl that took us around. You can find these places on your own but we were lazy and sometimes it’s just easier to follow a group! So you are probably sitting there going – what the hell is a ruin pub? Well my darlings, a ruin pub is something out of this world and DEFINITELY something that you need to see for yourselves! These are pretty much pubs that have been opened up in tenement houses and factory buildings that were supposed to be destroyed and have been equipped with rejected furniture of old community centres, cinemas and grandma’s flats which in turn brings out a very retro and funky feel to the place. My favourite would have to be the Sufni G’ART’N which had bicycles and chairs on the walls old toys on the ceilings and to top it off a very fun band playing jazz/dub/electronic music and a black and white comedy playing in the background – seriously very cool!
Anyway – enough about these awesome ruin pubs because the next day we went to the annual Budapest International Wine Festival! This is a festival not to miss because Hungary produces some pretty frickin awesome wines! This festival is held on the Buda side on Castle Hill and is honestly an amazing experience (and worth the stair climb). We got to experience some amazing Hungarian wines, meet some of the wine makers and indulge in some awesome Hungarian food all the while overlooking the amazing city of Budapest. I’m pretty sure we did Australia proud and I think we can now class ourselves as professional wine tasters – I mean we have the sniff, swirl, sniff, taste thing down pat!
As you can imagine after a day of immersing ourselves in the wine culture of Hungary we had a bit of a quiet day the next day. I went for a bit of a wonder and found the House of Terror museum which is something I highly recommend you to see. This museum contains exhibits that relate to the fascist and communist dictatorial regimes in 20th century Hungary and it is also a memorial to the victims of these regimes. When you first walk in you are greeted by a massive wall of pictures of victims which kind of sets the scene for what you are about to experience. This museum is quite interactive and you can get information pages for each section you go into so you know what it’s about which I think is great because you don’t really need an audio guide. Anyway if you ever get a chance, visit this museum as you won’t be disappointed!
So apart from a bunch of history which I know not everyone cares about, Renee also visited the baths while we were here! She decided some severe pampering and relaxation was in order as opposed to viewing the wrath of Hitler’s reign so she ventured to the Szechenyi baths, which are the largest thermal baths in Budapest. Budapest sits on a natural fault line and the naturally heated water, which can reach as high as 60 degrees has led to an abundance of spas. This is an experience that you have to do whilst in Budapest. Budapest is known as a city of spas and thermal baths and they are known for their therapeutic and cleansing properties but also a popular spot just to hang out and chillax. Renee followed the bath routine and had a dip in the outdoor pools, the indoor pools, experienced the different sauna rooms with varying temperatures (and sweated all that wine out from the night before) and then finished off with a dip in their ice cold pools.
This city has such an amazing vibe and the people are extremely helpful! Honestly, if you are after some good food, wine and a good time then Budapest is the place to be!
Look out for our next instalment where the hills came to life with the sound of music in Austria!