Some say it takes a week to see Budapest, I think I saw more than more than them
in just one day. At 6:00am I went to Gellert Baths to catch them as they opened.
I was a little unsure of what I was supposed to do, so just followed the locals.
I only paid for the thermal baths since I had no interest in a massage, jet stream
bath, or mud bath. I went in, found myself a changing room, put my swimming suit
on (as is required now, although not followed), locked my stuff away and went downstairs.
The first bath was 38C and I found it too hot, so moved to the 36C bath, which was
surprisingly much better. I sat on the edge and stretched like the others, basically
just relaxing and looking at the building, which contains tiles designed without
taste considered and more than a few naked guys. They say this is more of a Hungarian
bath as opposed to a Turkish bath, but I was in Budapest, so that's what I was
I was the only foreigner in there at 6am, in fact there were very few people there
at all. After 45 minutes I moved over to the 38C bath and again decided I couldn't
take the heat; I began sweating while I sat on the edge and felt like I was suffocating
as sweat dripped down my face. It was mysteriously hotter than the other bath, so
after about 2 minutes I moved back to the first bath until I had cooled down. After
a few more minutes here I left: first I showered then dried and finally dressed.
I was feeling great and relaxed, but as soon as I got outside I faced the hill back
up to my hostel. I decided to stay at a hostel on top of castle hill for the views,
which I realized was a bad idea when I arrived and had to climb the steps and re-realized
(if that's a word) that again today.
After getting my bags and checking out of my hostel, I headed to next door to the
castle. The castle was at first seemed only okay, but soon realized I had not entered
the bulk of the castle, whose complex is that of a fortress. The entrance gate leading
from the walkway to the courtyard was guarded by two extremely impressive lions
in each direction; the two on the entry at peace and strong, whereas the other two,
heading out of the castle were active and fierce.
The entrance to the National Gallery was also impressive, but was overshadowed by
the nearby Matthias Church and Fishermen's Bastion. This small square overlooks
the Danube River and Parliament on the opposite bank. The views from here were perfect
although the air in Pest appears to be more smog than oxygen. Through this smog
the Parliament building reflected in the Danube and the contrast of Pest's flatness
was emphasized on castle hill in Buda. At the far northern part of this fortress
on Castle Hill, I reached the National Archives with a roof similar to that of Matthias
Church in its Art Nouveau tiled roof.
After exiting through neighboring Vienna Gate and on to Moszkva ter, I
caught a subway to Keleti Station and Pest. North-east stands the Geological
Institute just south of Varosliget. The building is a mandatory stop on
my tour of Budapest since I'm writing a report on the architecture that dominates
that building for my art history class. It wears a blue tiled roof adorned with
a globe; I took a couple pictures and left to the next stop on my educational-paper
requirement tour: Varosliget to see Vajdahunyad Palace, then to
nearby Hero's Square. This square was built in 1896 to celebrate the Magyars
1,000th anniversary in the area that is now Hungary and Transylvania. The square
was lively and active, but with little to do other than people watch, which I did
just long enough to catch my breath and move on.
I grabbed the subway to the Museum of Terror, the city's newest museum. The
Museum of Terror was incredibly educational and very well put together. The exhibits
were great and extremely unique. One section was just wax bars placed together like
bricks, not quite knowing where or when it was going to end. Another room had the
floor boards torn up and you could see the layer beneath the wood to the dirt where
a huge cross lies in the ground, as if buried and re-found. Another room was only
metal, the ceiling, floors, and walls, with a circle in the middle of red debris.
I learned more at this museum than I've learned in some classes and most other
museums. The museum was more than the simple "terror" that one thinks
of at Halloween time, but is quite real and very well put together.
After the museum I headed down Andrassy ut and soon found a Burger King,
as if God were watching down on me; I was led to it by a single beam of light breaking
through the clouds showing me my destination. I kept telling myself one would appear
and sure enough it stood there on the corner like an angel, however my wallet had
run dry so I frantically sought an exchange booth and for my efforts was rewarded
with two whoppers with cheese. It was heavenly and I was re-energized to continue
my day (don't blame me for eating Burger King in Hungary; I've been living
abroad for nearly two years, I don't have fast food anymore and the Whopper
is my favorite). By this point it was noon and the 15 minute stop was my first extended
stop of the day; yes, I ate both those Whoppers in 15 minutes.
This tree-lined street is also home to the Budapest Operetta Theater, Opera House,
and St. Stephen's Basilica, which seemed nice, but time was ticking and I had
to get to the Postal Savings Bank for my report. This was a logistical hassle, since
the building is in the middle of a block so nearly impossible to take a good picture
of the roof, which is what my report's on, so the time-consuming journey was
disappointing to say the least.
Parliament looked better from across the river as it reflected in the Danube, but
I had to stop by for an up close look none-the-less and from any vantage point the
building is very impressive. Time's ticking... subway to Ferenc korut
(stopping at Europe's largest synagogue on the way) to see the Museum of Applied
Arts for my report; unfortunately, upon arrival I discovered the museum to be closed.
It only houses temporary exhibits and there was one opening the next week so I turned
out to be 0 for 5 for building interiors for my report.
Next stop: Statue Park just outside of Budapest, west of Buda so back on the subway,
Etele ter and Kelenfold Station, then a bus to the park. There
were a number of other foreigners on the bus and we all got off at the park. Most
of the statue descriptions were vague and there was little to talk extensively about.
Most of it was plaques or poor busts of Hungarian communist heroes few have ever
heard of. There were a lot of Bela Kun and about two of Lenin. There was none of
Stalin, which was my main motivation for going, since I've never seen a full
and complete statue of Stalin. I felt I saw enough in only about 15 minutes, turned
around, and followed my path back.
With three hours left I had to decide between a number of sights; the National Museum
and Burger King won. I spent most of the rest of the day at the museum which was
easy time to fill as I was occupied with Roman ruins and the most incredible complete
mosaic I've ever seen. The entrance to a Roman villa transported me to that
time as it stood about 30 feet tall and about 15 or so wide. After seeing I had
spent over an hour and a half there I quickly ran through the last bits of the last
exhibit and took off to Burger King for a last meal of bliss before returning to
the Burger King-less country of Poland.
Near the train station, I stopped to spend all the Hungarian money I had left: two
Kit-Kats, a Mars bar, a chocolate bar, a liter of water, a litter of juice, and
another local candy bar. By the time I reached the station I sat for about 15 minutes
at which point the platform for the Krakow train appeared and I got on board as
my Whirlwind tour of Budapest had come to an end.