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The Tiring Train Ride, Hungary
Rating: (5.0) (20 Votes)

Budapest, Hungary
October 30, 2004

Pros: The pools in Budapest
Cons: None

On day 30, I left Zagreb early to catch the train to Budapest. Since I woke up around 550 am, I was dead tired on the train. After eating breakfast, I just fell asleep in my cabin. I arrived in Hungarian border around 3 hours later when this nice couple came into my cabin. I was so sleepy that I just let them set their bags down and continued sleeping. I waked up about another hour later and started chatting with this couple. Turned out they are from Canada and spoke English !!! Its sometimes rare to meet English speaking travellers. We became fast friends since we shared lots in common. We swapped travel stories and experiences. I found out that they recently psend fair amount of time travelling in Southeast Asia including countries like Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. They gave me some great advice about place to stay and to visit. Just like blink of an eye, we have arrived in Budapest. This couple had no reservation for hostel in the city, but as soon as they step off the train, a man came up to them and offered a private room at a very low price. Without hesitation, they took the room. I then said goodbye to them and started on my way.

My first task in Budapest is to change money. Since the foreign exchange office right at the station charge almost 25 % per dollar, I decided to walk out of the station to find an ATM. This is interesting, after walking for quarter of a mile, no signs of a bank. Eventually I found an ATM machine after searching for an hour.

My next task is to find the hostel. Despite following the instruction, I still got lost. It wasn't until an hour and half later when I finally found my hostel. I think the reason why finding this hostel is so hard is because the hostel has a tiny sign along with street number fully blend in with the background. Anyway, after I unloaded my bag I went for dinner in this nice restaurant recommended by the hostel owner. The grilled goose leg I had is actually fried and there is a separate charge for condiments like rice or fries.

On day 31st, I visited Castle Hill of Buda. This city of Budapest is really 2 cities : Buda and Pest. They didn't become one city until the mid 1800's. Buda has the castle and a lot of historical sites where as Pest is filled with commercial sites and museums. The Castle Hill is one of the most visited site in Budapest because it has been settled since the 9th century. Its height on the hill allowed the settler to watch for any invaders. From reading my guide book, I learned that the first palace was build here around 13th century by King Bela IV, after the original capital up the river was destroyed by the Tartars. The French subsequently expanded the palace so did King Matthias in the 1500's which made Buda one of the most spectacular city in Europe at the time. During the mid 1500's, the Turks invaded the took over the Budapest and destroyed much of the palace, its not until 1686 when the Hapsburg empire fought had to free the city. Buda was then rebuild and to be destroyed once again in WWII. The present day palace is just the recreation of its glorious past in the 1950's after the war. The Palace houses several museums. I ended up visiting the city history museum. The most interesting display has nothing to do with Budapest history and it is describing how the famous Iceman in Austria was found as well as what the anatomical examination showed. The iceman was murdered by an arrow in his left shoulder and he died from massive blood loss. Because he was buried under some thick layers of ice and glacier, his body had been preserved over several thousand years.

I saw 4 museum this day of all I enjoyed the Buda Labryinth the most. Due the underground water, under the Buda hills a maze of caves and tunnels were formed. These caves were settled first back in the caveman era and used later as storage site as well as shelters. Today this cave system has been turned into a labyrinth to amaze tourists. Its very dark and quite scary, good for a little fright on Halloween eve. There are some weird statues inside and this fountain the continuously spitting out wine, ohhh it smells good. After the labyrinth visit, I ran into the nice couple I met on the train and we had dinner together.

On day 32, To my surprise its All Saints Day, one of the most biggest Christian Holiday in Europe. I was quite upset because EVERYTHING was shut down, including museums and supermarkets. I managed to find some croissants at the train station and had them for breakfast. The only sight that didn't shout down is the Statue Park where clever businessman hoarded all the statues from the communist era and put them here out of town for display. Tourists, including myself, was amazed to look at statues of Lenin and faceless workers under the oppressive Communism. I finished the day visiting the nice Hungarian public bath. Hungary the nation sits on a thermal active part of earth's crust. The Turks who invaded the area in the 1500's first build these elaborate baths and now a days Hungarians and tourists are all enjoying them. It is absolutely spectacular to see thousand of Hungarian locals having fun in the pool. The pools are divided by temperature of 34 degrees Celsius (94 F)and 38 degrees Celsius ( 100.4 F). The coldest pool is the center pool is for swimming laps while the two other pools are for fun. People are soaking in the hot water chatting, playing chess or just relaxing. I really enjoyed the one pool that has a ring of marry-go-around in the middle. This is really a ring of water where strong jet stream pushes all the people in a circular fashion. One can't even stop because the current is so strong. I soaked the water for good 2 hours and thoroughly enjoyed it. After the bath, I met up with that same couple for dinner and some strolling on Vaci the pedestrian street.