Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Budapest: Part II

Sunday started with an early morning run on the Millenium Underground, which happened to be the first subway line built in continental Europe, sorry Paris. Cheap enough tickets at only 320 HUF (about a quid) and we travelled down under Andrássy Avenue until we reached Heroes Square, Hősök tere, the biggest square in Budapest. Rather than the usual layout of cafes surrounding European squares, this one was purely dedicated to the thousandth anniversary of Hungary in 1896.

Beyond the square is Budapest's largest park named City Park, Városliget, home to Vajdahunyad Castle, the City Park Ice Rink, Városligeti Műjégpálya, Budapest Zoo and the famous Széchenyi Baths.

The castle with its mishmash of acrchitectural styles: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque, is immediately visible beyond the tree line surrounded by the man-made lake which is currently in use for the ice rink. During the summer months it is used for boating and I imagine it is a beautiful place to come down to have a picnic in the sunshine.

Before heading in that direction though, we made our way to the Széchenyi Baths, probably the most well-known ones in Budapest and one of the biggest in Europe. The grand main entrance leads into the main foyer where you attempt to figure out just what you are paying for, in the end it is a simple choice of a cabin or locker with your entrance fee. Seeing as how they were out of lockers the decision was basically made for us.

Once inside, all you have to do is change into your togs, shower up and hit the baths. There are three outside and a swimming pool (which you need a shower cap for) and a further fifteen inside. We started off outside in the 38 degree heat which was gorgeous compared to the short walk from the outside door to the water in the cold. After a while, we headed in and you have your choice of hot or cold pools, saunas and a massage if you wish. It was all very relaxing and brought back memories of the jimjilbangs from my days in South Korea, only differences being the fact we weren't naked and there were no monkey bars to play on.

A quick shower later saw us enter the castle and as luck would have it, there was a wine and cheese tasting event on, so for about 6 quid a head, you got to gorge on cheese and mix your wines, great stuff. Tasted a couple cracking reds, only 3 quid a bottle, yes please.

Castle with the ice rink in the foreground

Approaching the castle entrance
Outside at the Széchenyi Baths

Swimming pool at the baths

With time against us we decided to forgo the walk along Andrássy Avenue and took the subway to the Danube and made it in time for a boat ride just before it got too dark. It lasted around an hour and we were afforded great views of the banks of Budapest, getting nice angles for shots of places we hadn't had time to visit, the impressive Parliament Building for one.

Parliament Building
After quickly freshening up at the apartment, the evening's entertainment started with a concert in St. Stephen's Basilica, the largest church in Budapest and the third tallest building in Hungary. Nice to know that not all countries have gone mad with a bucket and spade.

The show was about one hour long and as well as being privy to excellent music, violin solos and singing, we were blessed with a lovely atmosphere within the church to appreciate it.

St. Stephen's Basilica

Getting ready for the show
Performing on the alter

Dinner at Nobu's Michelin star restaurant beckoned for us after this to round our evening off, co-owned by Bobby DeNiro no less. Delicious starters and mains came our way and I for one was pleasantly surprised at the portion size, could get used to that kind of quality for sure.

Chicken...yum yum.
By this time it was knocking on midnight and with a hefty chunk of Buda to explore in the morning, we called it a night and headed to the apartment to relax after our meal and polish off some cheese and wine purchased at the market earlier. Part III to follow, a quick round up of Castle Hill on the Buda side of the Danube before our flight home.

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