So you’ve accepted a new job, but it doesn’t start for a month. What to do? Travel, of course!!
OK, maybe not always the best idea financially, but since Kevin was on school break, how could we resist? Off to Budapest!
Here are some of our favorite experiences in Budapest.
Don’t let the old men in speedos put you off – the thermal baths in Budapest are not to be missed. Pick your flavor: the indoor/outdoor, swimsuit required, mixed pools at Széchenyi Baths in City Park; the more upscale and touristy experience at Gellért Baths; or the all in, leave your swimsuit in the locker, single gender baths at Rudas. We opted to keep on suits on and tried out both Széchenyi and Gellért. There is nothing better to soothe tired legs and brains after long days of touristing than a leisurely soak at the baths.
I’ve never been great at history. I can’t remember dates or who’s who, and I get easily bored. But visiting Berlin got me to thinking about what life was like on the other side of that wall they built. Then in book club (nerd alert), we read a novel about a family from Lithuania who was sent to a Soviet labor camp during WWII and didn’t return until years after the war (and even then, they weren’t allowed to speak of anything to do with their absence). Then I started a 600-page book on life in Eastern Europe under communism.
It was awful! (The communist regime, not the book. The book was great.) I’ve realized that there is so much that I know so little about. Knowing the history of a place gives enormous insight into understanding the culture, the food, the attractions.
After the fall of communism, some enterprising young soul gathered up many of the statues and monuments erected by the communist leaders and created a park in the outskirts of Budapest.The heavyhandedness, the lack of art, the absurd poses and ridiculous motivations were front and center as we walked through Memento Park. Rick Steves’ commentary kept us giggling at every stop. We struck silly poses and considered buying the “Communism’s Greatest Hits” CD at the gift shop. We were the only visitors in the park, which made the whole experience even more surreal.
Perfect for: anyone interested in the dark communist past, who doesn’t mind thumbing their nose at the absurdity of it.
Hungarian wines are top notch, but when you’re ready to make friends and get rowdy, the ruin bars are the place to be. Imagine walking down a somewhat questionable alley, which opens up to an eclectic hipster haven. Part crumbling basement, part vine-covered garden, and full of future friends. The Pest side of town, specifically around the Jewish quarter, is covered with just this type of place. The most famous, Szimpla Kert, happened to be next door to our Airbnb. Pro tip: bring a Sharpie.
Perfect for: people who have always wanted to turn a thrift store into a bar.
Nighttime on the Danube
One thing is for sure: Budapest knows how to show off its architecture. Once darkness falls, floodlights give these grand and imposing structures extra drama. There are plenty of river cruises to glide you along the water (but for goodness sake, turn off your flash if you’re taking photos inside the boat), or broad walking paths make for a lovely evening stroll.
Of course there is TONS more in Budapest that I haven’t mentioned here, but these were our favorites.
So next time you’re faced with an empty holiday weekend, get out there and plan a last-minute trip to explore somewhere new! You’ll be glad you did.