May 05, 2008
May 09, 2009
The city itself is quite pretty and there are quite a number of attractive spots to visit. It combines Hungarian medieval houses in Buda, with grand 19th century Neo-Gothic and Belle Epoque buildings in Pest
. All the guides assured us that a visit to one of its baths (which first started popping up here as a result of the Ottoman domination of the 16th century) is a must. So on our last day, with our overnight train to Bucharest leaving in the evening, we entrusted our bags with the hostel and went to the most famous baths in town, the Gellert. Once there, we had to contend with the byzantinely complicated ticketing system, and with attendants yelling at us in Hungarian (not the easiest of languages to understand), when we were trying to put our stuff in lockers. We finally dished out about $40 and what we got in return is access to a series of pools, lounges and saunas. We made the best of it, lost some time getting out due to more bureaucracy, and had to rush back to our hostel to pick up our bags and then walked to the train station. With the train 15 minutes away from leaving, we were going to exchange our remaining Hungarian forints into Romanian lei, when we discovered that the money was missing from our bags. Of course, we didn't have time to alert the authorities and it wasn't a huge amount of money (about $130), but the experience wasn't quite pleasant... Anyway, after a 15 hour train ride shared with some adventurous young French backpackers and a deaf-mute couple, we got to Bucharest.
Budapest is the other capital of the old Austro-Hungarian empire and it feels like a grand city. The city is actually two towns, joined together, Buda and Pest. Buda is more historical and residential while Pest is the larger of the two and is more commercial. Due to a mix-up on the part of the Buda hostel where we first stayed, we ended up staying in both towns, with our stay in Pest being much more pleasant (or so we thought). Amongst our highlights here, we could mention our visit to the charming old town of Buda, the Hungarian National Gallery, strolling along the grand avenues of Pest and past its majestic Parlament, battling Hungarian bureaucracy and crappy service at its famous Gellert baths, and getting robbed by the personnel of the hostel to which we had entrusted our bags on our last day. So, quite a mixed bag...