Sunday, 1 May 2011

Budapest, Hungary

Three words summed up Budapest:  baths, butt cracks and boats...

The famous Chain Bridge spans the River Danube between western and eastern Budapest.

Let's start with the baths.  Budapest is known for its thermal baths (aka. heated pools) and a visit to the baths is an essential part of any traveler's itinerary.  My trip to the thermal baths started out on a shitty note when I realized that the $10 bikini I bought in Goa was defective.  One of my "breast plates" was MIA and I didn't think it was appropriate to walk out into the thermal baths with one boob flopping about.

I decided to get reimbursed and come back later, but the unpleasant Hungarian ticket seller informed me that there are no refunds the minute you've entered the locker room.  But no worries, I could rent a swimsuit in the basement for the equivalent of $14 USD...

Five minutes later, I was sporting a hideous, floral, geriatric one-piece that I refuse to show on this blog.  At least there was no one to impress in Hungary.

The lions on the end of the Chain Bridge are small reproductions of the Trafalgar Square lions in London, England.

I spent three hours at the baths.  There were dozens of outdoor and indoor baths of varying warmth, and multiple saunas.  I met a Turkish lawyer who approached me despite the hideous, floral, geriatric one-piece and we spent a couple of hours talking about Islam, Turkish politics, and women's rights. 

The shore of Buda, which is the western half of Budapest.  (Budapest is divided into Buda and Pest by the River Danube.)

The next word is butt cracks.  Some of the most unsavory people I've roomed with on my RTW trip converged in the hostel in Budapest.  To my immediate right in the dorm room was Butt Crack Man.  BCM had the ugliest bum I've ever laid eyes upon and he had no shame in flaunting it morning, noon and night. 

 A blurry image of Butt Crack Man.

Above me was Smelly Snorer.  He was airing all sorts of socks, boxers, pants and other putrid, soiled laundry from the railing of his bunk bed, where it dangled in my face.  Not only that, but at night he emitted sounds that were reminiscent of freight trains and construction sites.  I'm adding that to my Tips page:  people with sleep apnea abound so pack the earplugs!  

Across the room, was Druggie from eastern Europe.  From what I could tell, the only English phrases that Druggie knew were, "OK if I smoke here?" and "You want beer from grocery store?"

 Budapest Parliamentary Building.

 And again.

 And again.  I was obsessed with the way this building looked. 

I was reading a book when Druggie popped the first question ("OK if I smoke here?") and I answered "yes" absentmindedly and, I suppose, out of courtesy.  A couple of minutes later, I inhaled a cloud of smoke.  Only this wasn't a cloud of tobacco smoke, it was a cloud of marijuana smoke.  And it was a cloud so dense and rank that I felt like I belonged at Burning Man or Woodstock.

Seeing that it was 8:21 a.m. and I didn't feel like getting drunk, I answered "no" to Druggie's second question ("You want beer from grocery store?"). 

An interesting square shaped fountain that you could walk inside.

I love men, but all I can say is that there are some truly despicable ones in this world.

The last word is boats.  On May 1st, I took a 90-minute boat ride down the Danube with Franz # 56.  On the boat, I fell in love with Budapest.  What I'd seen of Budapest at that point hadn't particularly WOWed me.  Butt cracks aside, it seemed a rather drab and dismal city (might not have helped that it was pissing rain for the first 48 hours that I was there).  Franz # 53 was right when he likened Budapest to a "dirty version of Vienna," or so I thought.  

 Budapest:  A dirty version of Vienna?

Yeah, well...

...kind of.

But the Danube by night was stunning.

After seeing Budapest by boat, I subsequently discovered hundreds of "jewels" hidden within the city of Budapest.

Like this cool little bridge.  I'm still trying to figure out its significance and what it's called.

You just have to look.

Overnight, Budapest morphed into one of my favorite cities on the trip.  

Next stop:  Bucharest, Romania


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