Budapest is, as Lauren almost managed to say, the Budabest – we finished on an absolute high!
Our journey to Budapest was the longest – six hours from Zagreb. The train was pretty busy, but the scenery was beautiful. The train terminated a station earlier than we expected, but considering the stories we heard of cancellations and replacement buses, we weren’t too bothered. We took the metro to our hostel, checked in, revelled in having a room to ourselves (we luxury bitched it and got a twin room and it was lovely), and went out again, to pick up our Budapest cards and to find some dinner (paprika chicken and buttered noodles, which were sort of dumpling-like, and delicious).
On Sunday, we planned our day over breakfast, checking what we could do for free and what we could do with our Budapest cards. We started off at the Hungarian National Museum – it was so interesting, and we both learnt a lot. I knew absolutely nothing about Hungarian history, and I really need to get a book about it because a lot has happened there! We also sat in the room that contains Liszt’s piano, partly because we could sit down, partly because we could listen to music, but mostly because it had air conditioning. Next, we went to the New Budapest Gallery, which has some weird and cool art. We then took the metro and a bus out to Momento Park, which is even weirder and more fascinating than I expected: it’s where they took all the Soviet statues after the fall of communism in Hungary. The ticket booth was playing Soviet music which was very rousing, and contributed a lot to the weirdness of the whole place. We then took ourselves off to St Lukacs baths, which we got into for free with the Budapest card. We got a bit lost, but once we settled in, it was nice to float about and be warm. We went in search of dinner, and found a hummus bar, where we had pickles, and I had shakshuka and hummus (eggs! how I have missed eggs!), then we went off to Margaret Island. One of the girls at our hostel in Zagreb told us about the musical fountain display, but neither of us expected it to be that good – it went on for about an hour, timed and lit to all sorts of music, and it was wonderful. We finished our day with a lovely romantic ride along tram 2 (which goes along the river and gives wonderful views).
Monday was our last full day of holiday, and it was a bit of a pain to discover, when we had already climbed up all the stairs to Castle Hill, that Budapest is essentially closed on Mondays. Luckily, the temporary exhibitions in the Hungarian National Gallery are still open (though the permanent collection is closed), so we went to the Picasso exhibition, which was wonderful! As well as getting to see a wider range of his work than I ever knew existed, it was great to learn more about him. After lunch, we went to see the Shoes On The Danube Bank memorial, a simple (but very detailed) bronze sculpture which commemorates the Jewish people who were shot on the riverbank during WW2. It is incredibly moving and effective, and has plaques in Hungarian, Hebrew and English. After spending some time there, we visited St Stephen’s Basilica, which is enormous and beautiful, and also has an excellent relic – St Stephen’s right hand, in a fancy glass case. We popped back to the hostel to get our swimsuits, and headed off to Gellert baths which are, as one review said, like getting wet in a cathedral, they’re spectacular. We both preferred it, including the slightly hotter water, the nicer views, and the variety of cooler and warmer pools. Lauren also had her first sauna experience, followed by a plunge pool (we then enjoyed watching other people doing the same thing, with varying levels of success). It was lovely. We planned to go to a ruin bar that evening but were both completely exhausted – that (along with lots of other things) will have to wait until next time.
Our last day wasn’t much of a day at all – by the time we had checked out and found some cherry strudel for breakfast, it was more or less time to head to the airport. Our flight ended up being delayed by over an hour, but it wasn’t awful, and my mum picked us up. Now I have to get all of my washing done and do some life admin, as well as go and see Ghostbusters and go to my brother’s graduation tomorrow, before heading off to very northern Scotland on Friday! It’s all go go go!
It was an amazing trip, and I’m so glad we’ve finally managed to do it. We went to so many new and surprising places, saw so much, met some very kind and lovely people, learned a lot, and ate some weird and wonderful things. We carried our lives in really quite small bags, and coped. We shared rooms with strangers, and only had a couple of bad experiences. All in all, it has been an overwhelmingly positive and excellent experience and I’m so glad to have shared it with Lauren!
Read all my interrailing posts here