27.07.2014 - 29.07.2014
Note that the s in Budapest is actually a sh.
I got to Budapest past noon on Sunday, and then after failing to secure a place on the eurolines bus to zagreb for Tuesday (full), I went off to the baths.
Specifically, I went to széchenyi fürdő, which is the biggest, with something like 18 different thermal pools or something. It's also one of the older ones, if not the oldest, and is a big yellow baroque building. It has a big courtyard in the middle, which serves as the outdoor pools. And then in the 4 wings of the building are all the other pools and saunas and locker rooms and showers.
I had vaguely tried to find out the best order in which to do everything but that guide hadn't been very specific. So I sort of bumbled my way through and hoped to get the best effect of the 'healing waters' or whatever haha.
Started with the outdoor pools, at 36 and 38 degrees. Just relaxed there, watching people, and watching the clock. Then inside, the smaller pools of similar temperature, and then 30 degrees where the water was pumped to go anticlockwise. A 38 degrees one again, and then a 28. Then I found a pool of 36 that was really cloudy. I'd like to think that it was full of minerals. Please don't convince me otherwise. But I liked that pool. Haha.
Rinse off in the shower, and then 7min in a 40-50 sauna, 3min in 50-60. Sweating. Like. Mad. Rinse off again, back in the cloudy pool, rinse off, and sauna again, this time split half half. Towards the end I really couldn't take the heat! (haha) it was crazy how hot it was.
Rinse off, and then I found a 20 pool! Probably the best pool there. Slowly got in, was freezing for the first few minutes, then my skin started to go numb. A short while later, if I didn't move, I actually felt warm because all my hair was standing haha. But I tried to swish water around to stay sort of cold. I was there for about 7 minutes I guess. Then I got out, and felt amazing. Words fail. Just felt so good.
But then I soaked in the cloudy pool a while, and then 38, and decided I was done. Showered, changed, whatever.
I can't say that I see a difference in my skin though lol. Oh well, that was my mid travel break, giving my feet a sorely needed rest.
The next day I set out from hilly buda to flat pest, with my new ozzie friend. She's an au pair in Germany haha. Did the free tour, our tour guide was rather embarrassingly enthusiastic, but in a sort of ineffective way. You know, with the very expressive tones but it just doesn't really work out. I did have a lot of fun though, learnt some stuff.
For example, every country in the world calls the Hungarians Hungarians, or something similar. But they call themselves magyars! The huns had raided Europe a few centuries before the magyars arrived, and they shared a nomadic lifestyle. The surrounding peoples thought they were huns, and the rest is history.
The Hungarians also produced many many smart people and inventions. I never knew. A lot of them didn't invent those things in Hungary though, mostly because the country was too poor to support scientific research, and thus I guess a lot was not attributed to Hungary. There was a really a long list, but I can't remember haha. It was a very duhh thing, like a lot basic things that we've been using and taken for granted. Google it, you won't be disappointed. Also, drew barrymore is (part) Hungarian!! How cool is that?
Had lunch at a cafeteria the guides recommended, they translated everything for us, so nice. I had a chicken stew (paprikas) with 'dumplings', kind of just small roundish pasta bits. But it was really good, and not very expensive, and she scooped out a lot haha. Yay
Then we went to the Hospital in the rock, paid 1800 for it (student half price) but it was really worth it! Budapest basically sits on soft limestone, and the hot thermal water has carved a natural cave system below. Sometime back, humans had begun to use it for storage and things. Before the first world war, the government planned to develop the part below st Michaels cathedral into a sort of first aid station, but then WW1 began and they quickly turned it into a proper hospital. Out of the 10km long passage (they'd connected all the individual small rooms) the hospital only occupied about 1km.
The hospital was one of the most state of the art hospitals of the time! They had the best equipment, and incorporated some of the best procedures and techniques and stuff. However, they were soon overcrowded, as they took in anyone that was injured, even the enemy I think.
After that was ww2, and the Nazis occupied Hungary. It was a terrible time for Hungary, because they were officially allied to the Germans, but then Germany invaded them and imposed Nazi rule. And the allies still considered them enemies. I guess that happened to most Habsburg territories! Oops, wrong choice, guys.
The Germans were determined to keep Budapest, because it was strategically very important. So they fought to their last breaths, holding out against the Russian siege for 3 months until the castle district was completely surrounded by Russians. This was the 3rd longest siege in all of ww2. Meantime, water and bandage supply had been cut off from the hospital. The nurses (many of whom were noblewomen volunteers, hats off to them) were forced to cut bandages from dead people for the still living. Infection was rampant though, and many lives were lost.
To this day there are still people returning to the hospital, saying that they'd been born there (a few boys and one girl) or their lives had been saved there. It's amazing. Oh, and I got to operate a mobile air raid siren! So cool haha. Just turn the handle though lol.
Found WiFi at the tourist center, hid out from the rain that had been plaguing us for most of the day, and after that walked to the west train station to buy our respective train tickets. That done, we walked back accross to Pest to the Jewish District for dinner. Ate at Hummus bar, which served a lot of vegetarian dishes, ozzie girl is pescatarian haha. It was really yummy.
Then to Szimpla were we met up with a Hungarian girl for Fröcst (froo-zh-t) which is just wine and soda, in whatever proportion you specify. Ruin bars are popular in Budapest, and Szimpla is the oldest. So called because old abandoned buildings were converted into bars, but retained some of the abandoned feel with eclectic junk decoration. Eg bicycles hanging on the ceiling, a bathtub converted into a chair. It was a great atmosphere, and good conversation.
Took the tram back accross to buda. The danube with the buildings lighted up are absolutely breathtaking at night. Oh my, it's really really gorgeous.
Bought turi rubi, a local snack. Quark cheese encased in chocolate. Yumz. Unfortunately I can't bring any back because they don't last long. :/
Slept at 1, woke up at 5 oh mannnn.