City of Spas

Trip Start Oct 06, 2005
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Trip End Oct 25, 2005


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Flag of Hungary  ,
Monday, October 10, 2005

I took a night train from Prague on the night of the 9th and arrived at 8 am.  The couchette was comfortable and it was nice to sleep a bit on the way.  I had the room to myself until about 3:30 when another guy got on.  Budapest has about 4 train stations and I was sure I was going to the main one, but forgot to ask.  It ended up that I was dropped off at a smaller one 7 miles from where I thought I was.  There were no money change offices or bankomats (ATMs) so I felt kinda screwed.  I had no forints and couldn't take a tram into town.  So  I walked and walked and asked people for a bankomat and finally someone understood me and I  got $200 worth of Forints.  Then I had to walk back a mile or so to find the tram into town.  Not a great introduction to a great city.

As I came to the Danube river on the tram, I realized I was in Buda, on the west, and not in Pest, on the east.  No wonder the neighborhood didn't make sense!  The city is an amazing collection of different architectural styles.  Most of the ornate buildings were built at the end of the 1800's thanks to the Hapsburgs.

I bought a 3 day city card which gives me unlimited access to museums and transportation and have been to about 5 museums already.  I love the metro and tram system.  It's easy to get around and very efficient.  People are fairly friendly for such a large city (2 million) and it's very safe.  I'm actually amazed at how safe it seems.  I see women jogging in dark parks late at night and people walking in dark streets with no worries.

Over the last 2 days I've walked, trammed, bussed, and metro'd my way across the city several times.  I love it.  Prague (1 million people more or less) has a much smaller central district.  Budapest is huge and around every corner is a beautiful building.

I went to the Syecheni public baths yesterday.  For about $7 you can soak up the hot springs in various temperature pools, go to the dry sauna or a steam room.  The building is incredibly ornate, or as a Mexican guy said yesterday "You Americans always say stuff like this is 'breathtaking."  Indeed, a lot of the city is.

My hostel is called the Red Bus and I'm happy to say I'm not the oldest one here.  I've been hanging out with a 45+ year old couple from New Zealand who's traveling around the world (good on ya, mate).  And the other stragglers in and out are from all over the world.  It's fun swapping stories over the included breakfast or in the main room.

Perhaps the most beautiful area of the city is the castle district.  High above the Danube on the Buda side of the river sits a rocky hill.  On top is perched the castle and the former government buildings and palaces that now house museums.  Breathtaking!  Especially the views of the main city below.

Today I'm going to the Gellert hotel and spa, which has the most beautiful (reportedly) baths.  They say it's like taking a bath in a cathedral.  If you ever see a travel advertisement in a magazine for Hungary, they always show a picture of these baths.
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