Trip Start Jan 07, 2004
11Trip End Jan 27, 2004
Budapest…an undiscovered Prague. I liked walking around this city. One reason - my chemically imbalanced travel partner got sick. So…I made good time on foot.
Part of the beauty of Budapest for me was the abundant art displayed in public. Sculptures are common along sidewalks and on buildings. I was taking a picture of one piece along the Danube River when an older couple walked by. They stopped, stared at me and shook their heads. I think tourism and commercialism are still new to some people here.
The Hungarian State Opera House was featuring the ballet Hommage A Dohnanyi
Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I’m intrigued by the churches here. I was blocks away, yet could see one of Budapest’s largest buildings. St. Stephen’s Basilica! The domes were hovering over everything nearby. You don’t need a guidebook to find the sites. Walking inside I was amazed at the sheer size. How does such a large structure remain supported by so few columns?
Budapest was named after two smaller cities. Buda on the hill and Pest in the flat lands eventually grew together. They were separated geographically by the very blue Danube River. The view from Buda hill is spectacular. And worth the hike up.
I think the previous inhabitants liked walking Budapest too. The Romans are believed to have introduced thermal baths here. The Turks later popularized them. Today their medicinal value is religiously sought. So I treated myself to a spa at the Art Nouveau Hotel Gellert
A local showed me the ritual in the mens' section. First you alternate between the mineral pools of 36 and 38 degrees Celsius. The water is pumped up from 300 yards below ground. It flows out through ornate fountains lining the walls. Many guys relax underneath the mini-waterfalls. One thing that amazed me was how unpretentious it was. Even though the men were from different generations, levels of affluence, fitness and orientation, it was all about the spa. After the mineral pools, it's a trip to a pool of near-freezing water. For me, it's a real quick dunk! I'm one of those that's hopping out before they get in. That's followed by steam baths at 40, 50 and 60 degrees. That's up to 140 Fahrenheit - hot...but survivable. Now I understand why the spas have become an important part of Hungarian culture. Highly recommended!