Poof! A blink of an eye and it was already the first of May – exactly one month before the scholarship period officially ends 😦 Nooooo. Of course I had to make a trip to Budapest, the lovely capital of Hungary while I’m still around!
Labour Day fell on a Thursday. I heard that when Thursday is a holiday, lots of people take Friday the “Fenstertag” off to make it a long weekend, so the train was full. I didn’t know that I had to make a seat reservation – the person at ÖBB hadn’t said anything – so I had to cram myself in the corridor with three other passengers who also didn’t know they had to make a reservation. Luckily it was only a two hour journey from Vienna…
Upon arriving at Budapest Keleti I immediately made a reservation for €3 for the return journey, and luckily I did so because the train was quite full too! Luckily this was a lot less last-minute than the trip to Prague!
Upon arrival, I made my way to Home Plus Hostel, the best hostel I’ve ever stayed at. It’s located very near (6min by foot) the majestic Hungarian Parliament Building (shown above), and a few steps away from trams no. 2, 4 and 6. To be honest, what really convinced me to choose this over the other equally-attractive and centrally-located hostels was… sheepish grin… the free Hungarian dinner (on Tues, Thurs, Sat) and free breakfast! A budget traveller’s dream, no? For dinner we had túrós csusza (pasta with cottage cheese and bacon), mmmmm 🙂
Margit Island was very nearby too; it’s like a huge green lung in the city 🙂
Day 2: The hunt for “swimwear that is not a bikini”
Because everyone tells me how awesome the baths in Budapest are. Unfortunately I hadn’t packed any swimwear, because who would expect to need swimwear in spring in Vienna?! Spent the morning at the nearest mall searching for swimwear that is not a bikini, because I’m not comfortable wearing a bikini when I return to Malaysia. It wasn’t easy to find a one-piece I liked within budget, though! Finally I found one I really liked at H&M (yayy) so I bought a ticket for Gellert Bath from my hostel.
Again, thanks to my abysmal sense of direction, I took a Free Budapest Walking Tour where we passed by Vorosmarty Square, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Chain Bridge, Castle District, Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion…. and then it started raining 😦
The tour ended in good time, but it started drizzling towards the end 😦 It wasn’t fun finding the bus stop to Clark Adam Square in the rain… it was a short way down by bus but traffic was slow due to slippery roads… started to be anxious because the ticket counter at Gellert Bath closes at 6pm, though the bath is open until 8pm.
Reached the tram stop at 17:38, 22 minutes before 18:00. But I missed the bloody tram by just. one. second!!!! What do I do to reach Gellert Bath in time?!
The mad dash to Gellert Bath
So I made a split-second decision to walk/run to Gellert Bath from there – I’d paid too much Forint to give this up – besides, two tram stops is roughly equivalent to 10-15min by walking, I think?! The next tram came in 10min+ or so and I just couldn’t risk it being late for a minute.
Thanks to my regular training g, I did make it in time. Phewwww… reached the ticket counter at 17:59. That was close!!
Do bring a towel, swimwear, flip flops, and if possible a bathrobe. (NB: Towels are available for rent)
Alas, it was raining outside so couldn’t use the outdoor pools 😦 I heard that this is how one should enjoy the pools: thermal bath first (niiice after a long day) >> normal freezing swimming pool >> thermal bath (niiiiice!) >> freeeeezing cold pool and had to get out before even reaching waist level >> thermal bath again (niiiiiiiice!!!). I have to say, the experience as well worth madness from today’s adventures 😀
Budapest at night – around 8pm, on my way back to the hostel after the bath was closed.
Lastly, as a fitting end to my last night in Budapest, I had a plate of hearty chicken goulash with dumplings at Lecsó – a restaurant on Jászai Mari tér stop. It’s a minute’s walk from trams no. 4 and 6 – hearty portions, reasonable prices, lots of variety, delicious food!! (PS. thanks again James and Jamie for recommending this place, if you ever stumble upon this blog…)
Forgot to mention taking tram no.2 for a good view of the Danube from the Pest side of the city.
Like Prague, Budapest is also very easy to get around with public transport. Having learned from the chaos of the previous trip, I booked my train tickets well in advance. Thanks to the VORTEILSCARD Jugend I got the tickets 50% off, i.e. at ~EUR24,- one way, flexible train times unless you make a reservation.
A few regrets: not having visited the ruin bars and Central Market. Next time then!! See you again, Budapest 😀
Lastly, here’s a map by Travelabulous of the places mentioned above!