We woke up early on Monday (again, I don’t know what’s gotten into us) to see a few more things before we left. Sid an Hunter went to see St. Stephen’s Basilica, which they had not been there for on Saturday, while Nikhil and I walked around.
We joined up and went down to Great Market Hall, which is the largest indoor market in Budapest (I’m not sure how much of an accomplishment that is, but it is a big place). There we spent some time shopping for gifts, souvenirs, and food. Like everywhere in Budapest, the prices are pretty good, and even better if you haggle down. We all got breakfast/lunch - an apple tart and a bowl of goulash for me. We spent about an hour and half there and left at noon. They had a 1pm train to catch and Nikhil and I were being picked up to go to the airport at the same time. We made it back to the hostel to get picked up with plenty of time, and from there it was just a hop, a skip, and a jump back to Metz. (Actually it was a van, a plane, two buses, and a cab over the course of 10 hours, but you get the idea.)
So that’s it for Budapest and my last weekend of travel around Europe. As of writing, only 9 days and 2 exams stand between me and America. I’m sure it will go by as fast as the rest of this summer did.
We got up early the next day (uhh) and set out to do the free walking tour (not really free, you’re expected to tip at the end, but still cheap). It was about 3 hours long and took us through a pretty sizable piece of the city. Our tour guide was great, and she told us lots of stuff we never would have known otherwise. Fun fact: Budapest (pronounced “Budapesht”) is actually two cities put together. “Buda” is west of the Danube river, and “Pest” is east. We heard lots of bits of information like that, and I had a good time even thought it meant I didn’t get to eat anything that morning.
After the tour, we went back to the hostel to pick up our bathing suits and then headed back out. We ate lunch (first meal of the day!) at about 2:45. On the reccomendation of our tour guide, we got “Communist pizza”, which is fried dough covered in meat, cheese, and other pizza topping.
After that, we went to the “House of Terror”, which is a museum in what used the be the headquarters for both the Nazi and Communist parties during their respective times in the city. The exhibitions are about the terrors perpetrated on the Hungarian people from that very building over the 20th century. It’s not a traditional museum with a bunch of artifacts, letters, and items with plaques explaining everything, it’s more of an experience. You walk through rooms with various themes and objects that take up much of the room. They try to make it an experience that you feel, more than think about.
After we left the museum, we headed for Szechenyi thermal bath in the city park, the part of the day I was most looking forward to. After going in and paying, we went downstairs to the lockers, changed, and went outside. The courtyard area is three large pools: two hot springs-fed ones and one cold water lap pool. They’re full of people. Inside the building behind the courtyard are a lot of smaller hot pools (full of people) and the best part: saunas. Really hot ones. Elena and Melanie met us a the bathhouse, and while they, Sid, and Nikhil lounged outside in the hot pools, Hunter and I spent almost and hour in and out of the saunas. We would go in for 10 minutes, then go right out and get in the ice bath. Then do it again. The one next to the ice bath was about 70°C (158°F), which is pretty hot. We also found another sauna that was supposed to be 80°C (176°F) but the thermometer inside the room said 90°C (194°F). We were 18°F away from boiling temperature. It was awesome.
After sweating out our organs, Hunter and I joined the rest of the group outside. The big pools are filled with naturally heated water and they’re really nice, especially right after an ice bath. We stayed out there for a while (well, Hunter and I went to the sauna one more time) and left about 7:30 to go back to the hostel.
We got back to the hostel, changed, and picked a place for dinner. We told Elena and Melanie where to meet us and set out about 9. However, on our way to the restaurant Melanie and Elena found us and told us that the place we wanted to go was closing in 10 minutes (even though there were supposed to be open until midnight). Ok, change of plans. The girls led us to a restaurant they had seen earlier that was luckily not closing at 10pm like everywhere else, so we went on in. It turned out to be a great call. They had a huge menu and the outdoor courtyard where we sat was really nice. At the urging of Sid and Nikhil, I got a plate of tandoori chicken (they had a tandoori oven, which I found surprising) and it was fantastic. The Hungarian wine was good also (did you know that Hungary is a wine-growing country, and a big one? I did, after the tour). They made us leave a little before midnight because they were closing. We thought about going out again, but we were all wiped and wanted to get up early, so we called it a night.