Wednesday 13 August 2014

Dolly In ... Budapest

So, let me get this out of the way before I start, just so we all know where we stand, I freaking love Budapest! I spent four days there, and can say I got a true feel for the city. With that said, I'm going to name the five things I like most about Budapest. If you're interested, read on ....

1. Culture

Everywhere you turn there's something great to look at, whether it's the architecturally fantastic opera house or the stunning St Peters Basilica, or just the big, black wooden doors that line the streets, hiding beautiful indoor courtyards (and my two hostels).  I took a walking tour that lasted about 3 hours, and was shown the best of the Pest side, including the Basilica and the Jewish Quarter, as well as the castle on the Buda side from which you get incredible views of the city. Not forgetting the famous Chain Bridge that crosses the great dividing Danube river. At the other end of the number one metro line, deeper into Pest, is the main park, where the biggest baths are. There's some fantastic sculptures here in Heroes Square.

2. Everyone is/speaks English

Ok, so I know this is not a positive for everyone (in fact its probably some people's nightmare), but when you're spending most of your days and nights alone, it can be great to not have to worry about not being able to book your ticket, order a meal or pay for your hostel due to the language barrier. It also makes me feel a little bit safer and more comfortable if I'm walking around a new city and hear some English people talking. It makes me feel a bit less far from home. 

3. The public transport

Really?! Public transport? LAAAAAAME. No, no, no. Give me a second to explain myself. The Hungarian language is very different to English (I swear one of the tube stops was called Uzo Aduba), and yet I still managed to navigate it with my usual level of grace (which consists of me both talking to myself and dancing at any and all moments I'm expected to stand still) and ease.

There are four metro lines in Budapest, and they are four different colours, yellow, red, blue and green. Simple. Unlike your varying shades of blue and red, your teals, and your burgundies of the London Underground. (Don't confuse this for complaining. I love the tube, but I also happen to speak the same language as it.) There are stops at every and all major landmarks, making it easy for the flying visitor.
The lines are also pretty different when you get on them, making it easy to identify if you've confused your metro 1 for your 4 etc. The 1, as its name suggests was the first metro line in Budapest (and the second in Europe - thank you free walking tour), so the cars are pretty old and rickety. They remind me of a Disney ride. The stations are all just below ground so they're very light, allowing you to admire the wood paneling and tiled walls. The 2 and 3 get steadily more high tech until you reach the 4. It's the Hungarian version of the jubilee line (wow I sound like a nerd), and goes between the two main train stations of Budapest.

The busses and trams are also pretty great, and if you're not of a nervous disposition (read: me), you'd probably be able to go a whole holiday not paying for transport. You don't buy your tickets on board, and no one seems to come on a check (but if you do get fined, don't blame me!).

4. Baths. Baths. Baths.

The baths were definitely my favourite part of the trip so far (yep, I said it), as I mentioned in my previous post. In ascending order, my three favourite things are swimming, swimming outdoors, and swimming outdoors in a wave pool (ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but they're all definitely up there). We went to the second biggest baths in Budapest, for reasons I explained in my last post, but they were still pretty large. There were 2 heated indoor pools, one heated outdoor pool, and one outdoor, cool wave pool. For access to all of this, as well as a locker and restaurant, I paid about 5000f, the equivalent of about £13. I would absolutely recommend the baths to anyone going to Budapest, as for that money you can stay there all day.

5. Everything's so cheap!

Waiting for our train to Ljubljana I realised I still had about 2000 forints (about £6/7) left, so thought I'd spend it on snacks for the train. Boy did I underestimate how hard this would be. In the end I ended up with a 2 litre bottle of water,  a cherry coke, a massive bag of crisps, 3 croissant things and 2 packets of savoury biscuits, and this only came to 1000f! £3 for all that! Yeah, and that's just the start of it, you can get excellent food for about £5, and less excellent, but still decent food for around £3. Altogether a win on the money front!

I loved Budapest, and will definitely be going back, if only to go to the main baths and have a night out in the ruin bars on more than a few hours sleep!

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