Our 2.5 hour train ride was in a stuffy and crowded regional train, passing over the Austrian and Hungarian countryside, which had long stretches of windmills as far as the eye could see. Comforting for an environmentalist.
We took the metro from the central station to the stop outside of parliament, just down the street from our hostel. Our hostel had the feel of a closer community compared to some of the chains we had been in. They had free traditional Hungarian goulash kind of stuff every other night, and so we enjoyed that with a couple Aussies named Sam and Kelsey, a couple guys from Hong Kong, and a Denmarkian(?) girl. All except her came back to our hostel common area to hang out and play some drinking games.
This was probably my favorite day in Budapest. We slept in a bit, got some breakfast at an Italian cafe with the coolest host. Then late morning we walked over to one of the more popular hot springs in the north of the city. Budapest is known for having these springs all over, and this is one of the most known. We paid a little extra to get a tour and access to an area with hammocks and unlimited tea and fruit, as well as a tour of the pools so we knew what we were doing. The pools throughout the complex all had different temps. The outdoor ones were like a luke warm hot tub, and inside were the hotter pools, and even an ice cold one that you’re supposed to jump into after being in a hot pool because it’s good for your skin. We made several cycles of these pools, and then up to get fruit and drink tea every so often. We even played chess outside on the edge of one of the pools, a local pastime that I was looking forward to.
We ate at the Italian cafe near our hostel again after coming back, and then invited the Aussies and a Canadian named Chris back to our hostel (kind of an apartment area we had to ourselves) to hang out again. I went to bed at 2. This gathering in the common area didn’t end until at least 5am.
Our second full day we spent walking across the Danube to see the view of the city from a couple iconic landmarks in Budapest. The Budapest history museum was closed. But we did get some gelato which I would argue is better than a museum. We walked from here to the Fisherman’s bastion, a pretty architectural area overlooking the city. We ate some fine Hungarian food in this area, including what is likely my first Hungarian wine, and then went back to the hostel to relax.
Later that night we went out to a couple Ruins bars from the communist era. The first we had a beer at, Instant, had several floors, composed of old residential buildings which gave each room a unique shape and flow to it. Cool and random street art adorned each and every room.
Then we went to another communist era ruin bar, which was nearly hidden in a trap door and down into a dark basement which gave no indication you were walking into a bar.
Lastly we went to a bar known as the “360” bar, for its panoramic view of Budapest from the top. They played great, chill music, and we enjoyed our drinks to the sunset over the Danube and surrounding hills of the city. Our Aussie and Canadian friends joined us here after a while, and we left sometime after midnight, tired from the night before, and needing to wake up for an early train.
Budapest had a great Eastern vibe because of its language and people. Unlike Vienna, an international hub, Budapest felt steeped more in its cultural ways, despite having the unmistakable western lifestyle that has seeped into the city post Cold War. The people were always friendly and felt distinctly Slavic. Their low valued currency made everything we did super cheap. We lived like kings, and it’s definitely a city I could come back to.