I thought I would pop down my favourite things about Budapest with the hope that if you ever find yourself there, you will have a bit of inspiration on how to love the city as much as I do.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
I was once chatting with a friend from Maine, and like anyone with friends scattered like confetti around the world, she was trying to convince me to visit. “You MUST come in October. It’s prime leaf” she said, like I knew what “prime leaf” was. I didn’t end up visiting and therefore was left to wonder what this glorious “prime leaf” was, and why it was so deserving of such excitement.
On one of the first afternoons in Budapest, my travel mate suggest a walk up Gellert Hill on the Buda side of Budapest. I was initially like “eh” because that is my naturally response to the words “hill and climbing.” But a glance down at my tummy, blossoming from living around the corner from a store called “Butter Brothers” that sold delicious pastries, made me agree to the walk.
It was there that I discovered the meaning of “prime leaf.” The leaves rustled this perfect orange, rust, and red, all in their most vibrant shades. It was Autumn at it’s finest. So beautiful were the colours, I ran around screaming “prime leaf” at unsuspecting tourists, and at one point rolled around in the leaves like a pig in mud.
Go for a walk up Gellert Hill- It’s a must.
Just Fekete about it
Seasons of coffee and free wifi; Budapest has so many cafes with free wi-fi that you will spend all day in an uncaffeinated, indecisive stupor just trying to pick one. Because I had a month in the City, I managed to try a few of them and came away with a firm favourite.
Situated close to the “Astoria” metro stop, Fekete (which in Magyar means ‘black’) is tucked down a little laneway. Picture long wooden tables, baked goods, and alternative brews. There was always a slight nod from a surly barista to make me feel right at home.
Also, do yourself a favour and eat a croissant from the aforementioned Butter Brothers. The pastry tastes like a sculptor chipped away buttery flakes from God himself- I ate so many of them, I’m practically one of the brothers.
If you’re not stewing in a pool with half-naked old men, you’re doing it wrong.
Drooping bosoms scooped into bathing suits, old men reading soggy newspapers, and steam that rolls off people’s bodies, if nothing else draws you, the people watching at Budapest’s many thermal baths is prime.
I’ve stripped off in a steamy sauna in Finland and been scrubbed down like a plucked chicken in Jordan- The human goulash that is Budapest’s baths was always going to happen.
I would recommend the Gellert baths over the Szechenyi baths because they’re quite pretty, more central and little less crowded. Also, the baths inside at Szechenyi have a faint odour that makes you want to go running for the hills- If I was to describe it, it would be the pee of someone that has just drunk a pot of chamomile tea. Gross.
The $10 opera ticket
Have ten dollars in your wallet in Australia? You might be able to afford a cheap Tuesday ticket to the movies- no popcorn, slightly sticky floor. Ten dollars (or more accurately 2000 huf) swimming around in your wallet in Budapest? Tickets to see a world-class operetta with plushy velvet seats! And some spare change for a bootleg snack snuck in during intermission.
Granted, if you don’t speak German or Hungarian you won’t understand a word, but as Barney the Dinosaur says “It’s fun to use your imagination”.
So while “The Gypsy princess” might actually be about a burlesque dancer and her on-and-off again relationship to a man of high societal standing, and subsequently his family’s disapproval. But in my head, it was about a gypsy woman wrestling with the fact her flamboyantly-dressed husband was in fact, gay.
Ten dollars. Just go.
It’s a city you live, not “do”
Here’s something I hate: When people say they are going to “do” a place.
“Oh, I just can’t wait to do Asia!”
“Golly gosh, I’m taking a month to do Budapest”
What does it mean? Please stop.
Travelling is not just a checklist of sites and experiences. Open up your borders and discover that travel is this- Life, somewhere else.
Countries are not something that you do.
Budapest really drive this point home. And my trip to Budapest was drinking wine along the Danube, watching the city turn a calm blue in the evening, the gruff nods from Hungarians, misunderstood operettas, skeazy ruin bars and roasted paprikas carefully selected from the market hall.
I didn’t do Budapest. I lived it.
I also ate a lot of croissants. Shout out to you my butter bro’s.