Being in Vienna for a few months, wondering where to head to in the weekend, I looked at the Europe map and the Flixbus schedule and decided on Budapest. Being 3 hours bus ride away from Vienna I thought this would be quite a doable getaway for the weekend. One of my colleagues who were in Budapest earlier for a couple of months had given some pointers on the must-sees in Budapest. After some research into the hotels in Budapest around my budget I booked into Medosz hotel. It offered double bed room at 79 Euros per night that I and my colleague decided to share. We caught the 5:00AM Flixbus from the Vienna international bus terminal. After about 3 hours we reached the Nepliget bus terminal at Budapest.
Prior to this I had done some research on the nearest subway to the hotel. On reading advice on the internet to avoid the taxis we decided to use the subway and “manage” to reach the hotel. According to the maps it looks like Arany Janos station is the closest metro to Medosz hotel. However when we got off at Arany Janos it seemed like a long walk to the hotel. We were told we got off at the wrong station and there was one near to the hotels doorstep. Anyway we did enjoy our long walk through the hip Andrassey road lined with high end fashionista stores and was in awe at the grandeur of the Opera house. We did reach the hotel which is near the Oktogon and there was a costumed music troop performing in front of the hotel. Not sure if they were playing Hungarian music, but there were flutes trumpets etc. and it sounded classical. Like any other tourists who want to capture the moments, we quickly made several clicks on different angles.
Hungary is one country in Europe where its currency is of low value than the Indian rupee. 1 INR = 4 Hungarian Forents. I was thrilled on hearing this. I remembered what my colleague had told me that here you can earn in millions. However the inflation is so high that the cost of living is higher than in India. So eventually you pay more though your pay package has extra zeros. In the hotel we were thinking on how could we go about our sight-seeing when we came across the redbus sightseeing tour pamphlet at the reception. We took the 24 hour ticket which costed 6000 HGF each. There is an ATM just outside the hotel so in case you run out of money you can fetch it from there. The red bus stop was a short walk from the hotel. The same stop is used by buses from different tour operators. Ours was the one with the Giraffe. This red bus has red line, yellow line and blue line which is basically the boat tour on the Danube and a night bus. The red line and yellow line is more or less similar with the yellow line having bit more stops than the red line and one can switch to different lines at designated stops. We boarded the red hop on hop off bus. The buses have audio system in each seat and we could get to choose the narration in 20+ different languages. The bus went round through the city and we had the audio guide that explains the various sites as the bus plies through them. We thought first to get an overview of the city and then decide the spots we would like to see more of to get off at.
My colleague was so keen on going for the boat ride on Danube river that we got off near the boat jetty. The boat ride has a stop at the Margeraten island where we got off for a walk. Margaraten island is like a big park. As soon as we got off we saw a large group of people making lots of noises enjoying themselves. Very curious to know what was the occasion we went to take a closer look and found that it was some bachelors party in progress and we scooted off to more quieter places in the park. The park had lots of varieties of cycles for rent. We walked around here for a while and then waited at the boat stop.
We saw a boat approaching and we hurriedly got in only to find out that it was the wrong boat. We had to eventually pay 700 Forents per person extra and we got off at the parlament and walked to the next red bus stop.
This time we got off at Heros square. This square is a famous landmark in Budapest and the monument is dedicated to unknown soldiers. This square is near a park that houses the Vadjahunyad palace and the famed Szechenyi baths. This thermal baths were highly recommended by our colleague.
We were so hungry that we thought we would have some food and we went into the only obvious restaurant which was overlooking the Vadjahunyad castle. The ambiance was good in the restaurant and there is a river between the restaurant and the castle which gave it an appearance as we were floating on the river. The restaurant had large glass windows where we got a good view of the castle. I had chicken paprikash and my colleague had a vegetarian dish made out of cottage cheese. I don’t remember the cost, but the price was so ridiculously expensive with very average food and the service was pathetic with several waiters coming in to take orders and we had to repeat our order to every one of them.
After food we went to the bath and as we did not have swim suit we have to rent them for 4000 Forents in which 2000 would be refunded. If we don’t have our own towels we can rent them as well for 2000 Forents in which 1000 Forents will be refunded. To store our belongings and changing we either have to rent a cabin or a locker. The cabin is 6000 Forents while the locker is slightly cheaper. When you pay for either the locker or cabin, you get a wrist band that has sensor which locks or unlocks the locker or cabin. My colleague was very conservative and asked the lady at the counter the type of swimsuits available for rent. When my colleague heard that the swimsuits will not cover the thigh and arms she opted out. I noted in there was a visitors ticket in the advertisement and urged my colleague to atleast enter into the place with the visitors ticket. When she agreed we were told that there was no visitors ticket available anymore. So in I went alone and my colleague left back to the hotel.
I got the cabin, rented a swimsuit and a towel. They do not have a good collection of swimsuits so I recommend it is better to get your own swimsuit and better to get your own towel as well to save costs. As I was squeezing myself into the swimwear I felt it was better she did not come, because she would never have been able to get into this teeny thing in which I was struggling myself into. The place around the cabins are understandably wet, and was uncomfortable for me to walk through. The Szechenyi baths has a thermal bath, swimming pool, and spas as well. I went to the thermal bath where it is supposed to have hot springs emanating from below the ground. The baths are supposed to be centuries old and is said to be full of minerals and hence have medicinal properties that are helpful with bone related ailments. The water was at about 38-40 degrees which was very comforting considering the single digit weather condition out of water. But the pool was very crowded. So I just sat at the corner of the pool in the steps and did people watching most of the time. Spent about an hour there and decided to head back to the hotel. On the way had to cross the Vadjahunyad castle that was both beautiful and eerie looking at night. The lights around it and the river beside it gives the castle an even more haunted appearance. Heros square was lighted up and sported a more festive look at night than at daytime. Now I understood why the red bus company has a night tour as well. Budapest buildings looks splendid in the night and it’s a different experience to visit these old architecture at the call of dusk. The Heros square has a huge sign for Budapest , made out of wood, in which flocks of visitors throng to take pictures. I amused myself for a while watching people climbing up the letters and striking different poses for their cameras as memories to take home. As I made my way to the hotel, I saw the Haveli Indian restaurant and remembered my vegetarian colleague having a hard time here finding some food that she liked. So I took away a vegetarian biriyani for her and I had a shahi saffron lassi while waiting for the biryani to be ready. The lassi was yummy and my colleague later said that the biriyani was good too. I don’t remember the cost but it was very pricy, but that is expected from Indian restaurants abroad.
The next day we headed to the red bus stop again and this time we decided to get off at the foot of the castle hill. There is a funicular that goes up the hill to Buda castle. We met a group of 3 Canadian friends who were at Budapest to attend the world ice skating championships. We chatted for a few minutes we were in the funicular, and then went our separate ways at the top. As we reached the top there was a change of guard and then we walked through the road lined up with cherry blossoms. The Matthias church up the castle hill was very large and impressive. The Fishermans bastion was a kind of fort in front of Matthias church where you can climb up and have an impressive view of the city and river Danube. It costs 800 Forents to go up the fort . It is said that the river Danube is at its prettiest best in Budapest and it was indeed a sight to behold..
We decided to have some lunch at the outdoor cafés near the Mathias church. I had pigs knuckles with potatoes. I usually love pork and potatoes, but I did not like this and it only looked good.
Then we headed to the shopping street to look for souvenirs. There were lovely embroidered table cloths, dresses. There was one shop that sold fur caps and rugs and gloves made from reindeer. I felt for 50 euros the rugs made from fox, deer and sheep was quite cheap, but I was not sure if I could pass the Indian customs with these things and chose not to buy it. All the craft shops here are so damn expensive and mostly like tourist traps.
Then we walked down the castle hill and waited for the red bus. We got off at Gellert hill this time and made our way to the fort which was built to fortify the city against the ottomans. There is a large statue of a lady holding an olive branch which is very visible from wherever you are in the old city. This hill has nothing much of an architecture like Castle hill, except a good view of Budapest from the hill and the fort. But the makeshift shops here are very unique selling special chocolates, accessories made from glass and there is an old woman who sells embroidered table cloths in the pavement for 10 euros which to us seemed like a steal deal compared to the embroidery shops on castle hill that sold a tiny table cloths for say 200 euros.
We just had couple of more hours to leave for our bus in Nepliget station. We got on the red bus back to the hotel to retrieve the bags. The hotel had a subway station within couple of minutes walk and we rushed to it boarded the metro to Nepliget bus station where we have to board the Flixbus back to Vienna.