Budapest Part 2# 2 September 2012
Reading time: 5 minutes
A lot of people had told us about the famous Budapest spa houses so we felt we just had to go and try one out. We opted for Széchenyi, which was a 15 minute metro ride away and offered about six indoor and outdoor pools. There was a hot (38C) outdoor pool where we managed to play a game of chess after the old men miraculously left one of the boards unclaimed. More excitingly however, there was a slightly cooler pool which had a sort of whirlpool enclosed by walls in the middle. Periodically it got going and was soon crammed with humans of all sizes. There was a delightful lack of health and safety with seemingly only one lifeguard for all three outdoor pools. He was texting when I walked past. We both managed to get horrendous sunburn, I keep telling myself I should rethink my cavalier attitude towards UV radiation.
Afterwards we decided to get a Hungarian snack, Lángos, which is a sort of deep fried bread. It was alright, but tasted so greasy that I could practically feel the acne breaking out as I ate it. Having also had some dreadful fast food for lunch, we were looking forward to a free Hungarian cooked meal in the hostel. Anticipation turned to slight dismay when the free meal turned out to be Lángos. The situation was salvaged by eating half an orange each for health considerations. We met people around the table and decided to go on a bar crawl together. The first bar we went to was a bit nondescript but enhanced greatly by free alcohol.
Next however, we went to Szimpla, which was pretty damn cool. It is a ‘ruin bar’, which means it is in an old Soviet-era building complete with rickety furniture and crumbling concrete walls. There was also bizarrely a woman selling raw carrots which they say help to soak up the alcohol. After, we went to what could be described as a ‘ruin club’ set at the top of an old department store building. It had a rooftop bar where you could stay to watch the sunrise. At about 4:15 we got too tired and went home though, wusses.
Bright but not very early the next day, we endeavoured to go to the Terror Museum, which showcases the brutality of the World War II Nazi-collaborating regime and the communist government afterwards. It was pretty gruelling in places, with detailed video descriptions of hanging for example, but very interesting and educational. We got back to the hostel and fell asleep on the couch where I believe we got photographed. Our time in ‘Njoy Budapest’ had run out, but we decided to move to ‘Hostel Goodmo’ instead of going to Croatia, since the trip would have taken too damn long (18 hours). Luckily we arrived in time for their weekly free meal, some sort of stew of onions, potatoes and sausages brewed in a big cauldron. It was very hearty and just what we needed. We went back to Szimpla but didn’t go any further this time, as next day we were going caving!
In the morning though we went to the Palatinus __water park, it was a great start to the day and had a potentially whiplash-inducing slide at about a 70° incline, with no surly lifeguards at the top of course like in British water parks. We lounged about for a bit but then had to rush off to get to the meeting point for the caving trip. After quite a long bus ride, we got to the Duna-Ipoly National Park. We got on some overalls and helmets with torches, and went down to an entrance to the Pál-völgyi cave system with ten other people and our guide. Neither of us had ever done caving before, but it turned out to be a great experience. We spent 2.5 hours at depths of up to 50m and variously had to crawl, slide on our backs, shift along on our stomachs and climb slippery clay covered rocks. Along the way we got to see some fossilised seashells and learn that caving is a lot more physically intensive than it sounds. The guide from the company we did it with spoke excellent English and was obviously very experienced in dealing with people getting stuck etc. – the tour was actually designed for people who had never done caving before.
The evening held some very well deserved seafood paella (yes I’m back to talking about food already), which had at least five different species in it, very tasty. We went up to the rooftop bar of Hostel Goodmo and had a few farewell drinks with our new friends, we were leaving in the afternoon of the next day. In the morning I suggested we go to the central market, but ten minutes later remembered I hate shopping, so after making some avocado and speck sandwiches it was off to the station.