Escaping the train station and having to carry our bikes down yet more steps, we enjoyed a short ride along the banks of the Danube towards our hostel. It was immediately obvious that Budapest is a beautiful and imposing city, with amazing views and awesome buildings everywhere.
It was nice and easy navigating the city with its abundance of bike friendly lanes and we arrived at Ginkgo hostel nice and relaxed after several hours cooped up on the train. The hostel was on the ground floor of an apartment building with a courtyard in the middle, which fit nicely with the feel of the hostel.
Normally, if we’ve had a long day of cycling we like to stay in and relax but considering we‘d cycled a grand total of 4 miles all day, we showered, put on our nice new (and clean) tshirts and headed out to a nice restaurant recommended by the staff at the hostel.
They served traditional Hungarian food and even though it appeared to be quite posh, it was very cheap. Our entire meal including a nice bottle of Hungarian wine, came to just over 10,000 forints which is about 35 euros. We like Hungary.
With the night still young and our bellies full, we headed out to another place recommended by the hostel staff. We’d never heard of a ‘ruin bar’ before, but turns out that’s where we went. Szimpla, one of three ruin bars in Budapest, is inside and out of several old buildings in the middle of an unassuming street. Inside ranges from tat to antique and from rubbish to insane.
At one point whilst we were sat enjoying a tasty beverage in the back seat of a Mini, a girl came around with a bowl of massive carrots, offering them out as if it were the most normal thing in the world. Nice touch.
Heading over to another bar, we walked past what appeared to be a woman in a dress made of balloons taking part in a photoshoot. I think we were in the cool kids part of town.
The next bar we chose was much less ruinous but just as fun. Drinking our beers, we were joined by the barman who came to sit with us, teaching us the virtues of Pálinka.
Pálinka, it turns out, is a fruit brandy and a Hungarian speciality but, despite our teacher, it was still pretty harsh.
We ended the night at another tat-filled bar that was more like a junk shop than a pub. We were the only ones in there and were given free-reign of music.
The next morning we awoke (mostly) hangover free and set about exploring Budapest. Our journey took us up through the main thoroughfare, past loads of old buildings and pretty sights. Our first stop was the ‘House of Terror’ museum.
The ‘House of Terror’ covers (in a hugely graphic and sobering way) the reign of the Arrow Cross party (Hungary’s Nazi party) until 1945 then the Soviet regime afterwards until 1990.
There were no photos allowed in the museum but if you ever find yourself in Budapest, I’d recommend visiting the House of Terror.
With thoughts and images of genocide and torture fresh in our minds, our next activity was to be much less harrowing. Jumping on the yellow line tube for one stop (the tiled, quaint looking underground was like something out of a cartoon), we arrived at Hungary’s largest thermal baths!
There were hot baths, cold baths, baths that were swimming pools, hot saunas, cold saunas, steam rooms and even a bath that spun you round and round. Any remnants of hangover were well and truly cured.
Neola even took part in an aqua aerobics class by accident.
When all our extremities were nicely pruned, we left the baths and got back on the tube to visit the grand market in the heart of the Jewish quarter of the city.
Our plan was go and have a look around to see if we could find a Hungary sticker for our 2 wheeled steeds but, unsurprisingly, we both got side tracked by cake. Mmmmm, sticky Jewish cake.
There was a lot of tat in the upper section of the market where we managed to find stickers, but the best bit of tat was definitely the Russian dolls painted with dictators of the world. Among the faces were Cornel Gadhafi, Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush.
As Neola mentioned in her previous post, on the train from Zagreb to Budapest we met a man called Andrew, who was interailling around Europe for a few weeks. We met up with him again and enjoyed lots of tasty food and some good beer before stopping off for ice cream on the way to the ruin bar of the previous night.
This place had the strangest flavours: Neola had camembert, I had apple pie and… actually I can’t remember what Andrew had, but I also tried Gorgonzola flavour which tasted exactly like blue cheese. Freaky.
The rest of the night was spent with good beer and good conversation. Despite the fact he’s a tax inspector, Andrew was a really interesting and genuinely nice guy, someone both me and Neola are glad to have met.
Originally, we’d only intended to spend 2 nights in Budapest but after our day in the city we’d not even had chance to explore the ‘Buda’ side of the city that housed the palace and some of the older historic buildings, so we decided to stay another day and do just that. Not without a hearty hangover breakfast of eggs, orange juice, coffee and a croissant though!
On the way to the tube station we passed a shop that sold ‘Bubble tea’. Not being sure what bubble tea is and being a tea lover myself, we stopped in for a cup.
It turns out it’s a sweet iced tea type drink with tapioca and fruit juice balls in. Sounds strange and it was, but we both enjoyed our bubble tea experience.
The Buda side of the city definitely had a different vibe and after getting a bit lost we walked down the banks of the Danube which gave us a good view of the Hungarian parliament, which is the second biggest in Europe behind the houses of Parliament in London.
Next stop was the palace, which sits atop a big hill overlooking the city. We took the opportunity to ride the funicular railway thing up to the top because, this being Hungary, it was nice and cheap.
The palace was equally as beautiful as the rest of the buildings in Budapest and with an awesome view of the rest of the city.
Palace investigated, we headed back over the river to our hostel via the now incredibly packed Jewish market for a kebab before getting an early night, ready for another day in the saddle towards Slovakia the next day.