Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Budapest - Thursday to Friday

We arrived in Budapest around 3 PM, back at the west train station. The next trick was to find the Metro. It turns out that they are rebuilding the metro station at this train station and the entrance was hidden outside around the corner. In general, the Metro stations are not well marked anyway. It can sometimes be challenging finding them. The new metros were tunneled recently and are deep under the city. Long steep escalators take you down a couple of hundred feet underground. For the most part the metros are clean and easy to use. They all connect in one spot in the city so transfers are usually easy. From the train station it was an easy ride underneath the river and a short walk to our hotel. The hotel that Kathy picked out was right on the Danube, just below the big castle on the Buda side. All of the rooms had great views of Pest, the Parliament building, and the river.
First order of Business was coffee and food. This consisted of a little Coffee house near the Metro station.
We then hoped on the Metro and headed down Vacta Utca. The is the very touristy heart of Budapest. It is lined with over priced eateries and all manner of stores selling to the tourist. It is a very long street. From there we headed over to the river and watched the boats zip about. That night for dinner, we ate at a little French restaurant near the hotel followed by a beer at the Belgium pub next to the hotel.
We wake to a nice warmish sunny day.
The hotel had a pretty good Breakfast, so we loaded up our packs and headed out towards Budapest's version of central park. Along the way we wandered around Andressy Utca to check out the opera house and all of the art nueveau buildings along the way. At the end of this long boulevard stands heroes square. A huge outdoor plaza serving as the entrance to the park. It is surrounded by huge romanesqe/nueveau buildings and has a dozen huge statues of the Heroes of Hungary. Holy smokes. The space just blows the mind away. Kathy and I head to the Gelarty baths for another needed soak. The Gelarty baths are more for the locals, while the fancy ones by the river are more touristy. This bath had a greater variety of soaking options than the one in Eger. The entry procedure was truly confusing even with the instructions in the guidebook. I guess they have changed a bit since it was published last year. From a menu of a dozen different choices you pick what treatments you want. The treatments are typical European spa items: hot pools, massages, nasal douches (uhh, yuck), that type of thing. After you pay, they give you a plastic card with a bar code on it. You walk through a door and hand the card to an attendant. He then gives you a hanger with a bag attached to it (don't loose it). Next, he scans the card and shoves you through a turn style. You turn the corner and there are a row of wooden doors on the left side of the long narrow corridor. Each door has a little red or green symbol about knee high next to it. Someone tells us that the symbols tell you if the baths are empty. But don't forget to knock, because they might not be empty. When you enter the changing room, you have to flip a lever on the bench. This locks the doors and changes the symbol from red to green. When you are done changing, you flip the lever, and exit out a door opposite to the door you came in. In the next room, there are stacks of lockers. You put your stuff in a locker, insert the plastic key card in the door, remove the little key from the front of the door and away we go. Oops, except we needed to rent a towel. The towel lady was around the corner in yet another room. For about $4 they rent you the smallest towel in the world. Oh, and don't forget the towel deposit (requires me to go back to my locker for more cash). Now that we have the micro towel, I have to go back to the locker again to store the towel receipt. If I was going to do this again, I would head down the hall past the changing rooms and snag a towel or better yet buy a towel from one of the vendors in the park. Now it is time for some serious soaking. There are several pools of different temperatures ranging from a bone chilling 20 degrees to a sizzling 40 with some of the pools outside and some inside. The outside pools have a variety of jets and bubbles that you can use. The sun was out, we were relaxing and life was good. In one corner of the pool there were a bunch of old Hungarian guys playing chess. They hang out there all day, eating, drinking a little beer and playing chess. The final hurdle when you leave is your refund. If you stay less than three hours you get some money back. When you exit an attendant takes your bar code card swipes it. You then walk through a turn style and a change machine dumps some coins in a bucket. Whew. A lot of work for some relaxation.
Our friends from Dresden flew down for the weekend and had just arrived when we got out of the pool. We decided to meet at a little cafe for a late lunch. It was a nice balmy day in a quiet little plaza in a cafe that would have been at home in the 1900s. Since the weather was so nice we decided to do a boat trip on the Danube. We were able to sit outside in the sun on the upper deck. The commentary consisted of an explanation about how many rooms each of the fancy hotels on the river had. Okay, we did not spring for the better tour. But that boat did not have outdoor seating. Pretty funny really. As an added bonus there was a large group of Germans doing the stereotypical German thing which consisted of drinking. They made fun of our stereotypical photo taking behavior. Again, pretty funny. Towards the end of the tour, the audio got out of sync with the sites around us. Always nice to be on the water.
For dinner, we went to the very trendy Linze square, where we were able to eat outside and do some serious people watching. Of course we had to finish the evening at the local Irish pub.

No comments: