Egészségedre! Days 2 and 3: Budapest

2014-11-15 16.20.16After our lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, Budapest, we bolted to our hotel so we could start our night. We packed up our bags and headed straight to the Gellert Turkish Bath that was in the Buda neighborhood. We walked across the long bridge and made it inside. This place was much more like a real ancient bath than the spa we went to in Bath, UK. There was an outdoor pool that we decided wholly against because of the cold air, an indoor swimming pool that required swim caps, and five heated pools.

We hopped around to each one ranging from 36 degrees Celsius to 40 degrees. The space was really beautiful with the mosaic tiles all on the walls, but because of these intricate designs, the sound bounced around like a ping pong. There may have been a couple dozen people in a room at each time, but if you close your eyes, you’d think an army of bathers was in there. 

This particular bath also looked quite dated. There were a couple of lanterns that were up to provide light, but because the sun sets at 4:30pm, the rooms got quite dark. A couple of more lanterns around would have helped lift the mood.2014-11-15 20.10.27

We stayed for a little over an hour before dehydration set in and we headed back to the Pest city center. We found the main shopping thoroughfare and ducked into a few stores for browsing. At the hotel, they had an incredible chili paste with paprika, and I was trying to find some to bring home. It’s not quite like Sriracha sauce with the level of spice, but it is very similar. It’s like it has more garlic and zest to it. I was a little disappointed when we got home and what I bought in the souvenir shop was not what I had in the hotel. So, now the hunt begins to find what delicious delicacy we had.

We continued along the path and was handed a flyer outside St. Michael’s Church. They were playing Mozart’s A Little Night Music, Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. 

It was a beautiful concert by some extremely talented musicians of the Duna String Orchestra and soloist Gabora Gyula.

2014-11-15 21.02.57After the concert, we headed for an incredible meal at Duna Corso right on the Blue Danube. This place came with a recommendation from Jeff’s colleague, and we weren’t disappointed. I really wanted to try Hungarian Goulash, but being gluten-free, I realized it wasn’t a wise decision with flour as an ingredient. As I was asking the waiter about this, another waiter came by and chimed in saying they could leave the flour out of mine if I wanted to order it. I was thrilled! And the soup was incredibly tasty along with the rest of our meal. But we also had some very lively musical accompaniment.

It wasn’t a night for only classical masterpieces.

2014-11-16 08.58.44

 

2014-11-16 09.34.04The next day was our last in Budapest, and we had so much we wanted to see before we left.  We woke up early and immediately walked across the Chain Bridge to the Buda side to walk around the Buda Castle. Unfortunately, it was closed that early, but it is now the National Gallery of Budapest. If we had more time, that would have been a beautiful building to see the inside of. But we got some really incredible views of the city from the height and vantage point.

We continued along the narrow streets toward Fisherman’s Bastion which housed a gorgeous church: Matthias Church. We 2014-11-16 10.33.24couldn’t go inside because it was service time, but the building was beautiful and massive. We just toured around this area on foot until we found our way back to Pest and the Terror House.

This is a large building that has turned into a museum for a time when the Hungarian Nazis were in power during the second World War, and then communists in the 1950s. The building itself was their headquarters during the time periods with a prison and torture chamber in the basement. No pictures were allowed inside, but I managed to get a couple.

There are three floors of exhibition that begins with several videos of the Nazis in power. I thought it was rather strange to have some rock music over the intercom on a loop. I understand the idea behind it, but it was definitely disarming since we’re so used to 2014-11-16 11.54.39classical and somber tones. The building was set up as an almost maze as we went from room to room learning more and more about the atrocities that happened within the walls.

One room had a wall image of the river with sporadic sound effects of splashing. This was incredible unsettling as I slowly realized the splashing was symbolizing the bodies plunging into the Danube leaving their shoes behind which we had seen two days before. We weaved through the rest of the building and then were escorted into an elevator that slowly brought us down into the basement to see the prison and torture chambers. There was a standing cell, a wet cell, and rooms that were equipped with absolutely nothing. The last room was a shrine to the fallen victims with metal crosses and lights. The picture didn’t come through very well, but the haunting feeling is unmistakable.

One of the victim’s names was Laszlo Lukacs. Here is his story:

In 1957, Lukacs took on the assignment of gathering data for the five-member Special Committee of the United Nations about the reprisals in Hungary as well as the domestic political situation. He managed to send information to the West of several occasions until January 1958 to report on the internal political situation and the workers’ mood of the arrests and convictions. He informed Special Committee that the revolutionary mood is nearly extinct. He stole and managed to send abroad a book with the structure of Csepel Works. He was arrested on March 17, 1958. He was sentenced to death on charges of treason. He was executed on January 1, 1959 at the age of 36.

We left the Terror Haza and headed to our Escape Game! In Amsterdam, we went to the Room of Riddles where they told us that Budapest was the birthplace of these games. We couldn’t not do one. We tried out Claustrophilia. This was definitely not as nice of an office park as the one in Amsterdam. The apartment building added to the atmosphere. But without giving any spoilers, this place was much more complex than Amsterdam with multiple rooms and obstacles. We did not finish on time. We had figured out the last clue, but we flat ran out of time. Jeff and I brooded over this the rest of the day, but we were glad we hadn’t left a clue un-found.

2014-11-16 14.29.402014-11-16 14.33.22With just an hour to spare until we had to leave, we made it to St. Stephen’s Basilica. We had just seen the outside, but we wanted to see the interior. It was enormous! It looked much more modern than the other churches we are used to, but it was still incredibly ornate and massive. In the very back of the building was a small chapel that housed the mummified hand of St. Stephen. It is nearly 1,000 years old sitting in a box in Budapest. It traveled around during the war, but finally was returned in 1945.

We headed back to our hotel and met up with our group to head back to London. It was a wonderful trip to Budapest. We would have liked to have had one ore day to explore the museums, but it was certainly was a city of experiences. And if anyone has a decent recipe for ErOs Laci, please send it my way!

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