Tuesday 20th July to Friday 23rd July
Tuesday 20th July
Decided to head for a bike ride around Tihany, a small peninsula jutting 5km into Lake Balaton. This was nice, but turned out we could only bike along special biking tracks and not into the nature reserve down the footpaths! We found this out by trying to do just that and being stopped and told we couldn’t take bikes down there!
After a drink and some internet research on Budapest and it’s campsites, we decided to just head straight there tonight. After a three-hour drive we managed to negotiate Budapest and found the city campsite, called Hellar camping. The campsite was near the city centre and had a deal that if you stay 4 nights the fourth night is free! We were also happy to find a campsite full of young people, a rare occurrence. As night was already upon us, we decided to leave venturing into Budapest till the morning.
Wednesday 21st July
Headed for the Metro stop and managed to procure ourselves two 3-day passes, the next thing we emerged in the square in central Budapest. It was big and pretty new, apparently most of the older buildings are in the hilly Buda side of the river. Budapest is actually, or was actually, two cities in one. Buda is the hilly side of the river with the castle and Palaces, Pest is the flat side of the river. We decided on walking down the River and over the bridge to the Buda side to have a wander around the old touristy bits. There was a funicular railway to the top, but the price was silly for the short journey.
So instead we walked in the sun up lots of steps, till finally exhausted we got to the top! The views over the city were great, we continued around taking in the sights.
Sight seed out, we decided on finding some arty and Bohemian area’s of the city. The tourist information pointed us out some streets in the Jewish part and off we trotted. The streets were full of big grand but shabby looking residential buildings and a few small shops. We turned down one street though and stumbled across something we didn’t know about, but apparently Budapest is famous for! Ruin Bars! Yes ruin bars, there great! In-between two buildings, where an old building would of stood, there was a bar and lots of old painted garden furniture!
So we sat and had a drink outside in this cool place. Anywhere else this little bit of disused land would have been a small temporary car park! But here it was a garden bar!
After a bite to eat at a nearby place, £6 for two big pizza’s and 2 beers, we continued around the streets to find more of these bars.
Lorna spotted an old Dentist sign and an open door, leading through a passage way and into a courtyard with lots of old garden furniture and a bar! The place was an old disused building, a courtyard completely surround by a three-story building. The very top wasn’t in use, but all the other spaces and rooms had been turned into art studios and rooms for lounging in or doing something creative in! Fantastic idea, take an old disused building and create a bar and space for being creative! We felt right at home and happy to have found the place. Also the drinks were very cheap, so we sat happily taking it all in while drinking! We very much like this city so far.
Thursday 22nd July
Decided to head into Budapest later, as the sun was hot! In the afternoon hopped on the Metro and up to the House of Terror! It is the former headquarters of the Hungarian secret police and now a museum.
It wouldn’t be a happy place to visit, but it would be interesting and good to find out what people had been through. I think the security people and staff working there are either miserable and stern or just playing the part! At the desk they demanded to know where we were from and how old we were!?!?! Anyway tickets bought we entered past a soviet tank surrounded by pictures of many many victims of the regime.
The place was very interesting and thoroughly depressing at the same time. First the Nazi Hungarian party of the Arrow cross ruled and controlled the population through fear and brutality then it was the turn of the Soviets. It was very much George Orwell 1984! People taken away by the secret police, interrogated and tortured in the basement of this very building or sent off to the work camps in Russia. It was a total totalitarian state, calls monitored and no one dared speak out, for fear of their lives! Heading down into the basement was grim, seeing the cells and the torture rooms. It was bizarre coming back out into the light of day, people had to go through so much and it shows how quickly such a state could happen and scary how much control governments can and have!
Anyway, we both agreed it was time for a drink, so headed off to another ruin bar close by.
After this we eagerly went into an Indian restaurant near by to fill our taste buds with the Indian spices from Birmingham we had been missing! After we headed back to the Jewish quarter in search of more Ruin bars and found our favourite and best so far in Tuzrakter. A place full of life, rooms and garden furniture, actually even old plane seats!
This is apparently a centre for alternative arts, is great and is living and breathing. Different floors leading to different rooms full of different things, even open jamming sessions (although there were non going on when we went!). I would love somewhere like this in Birmingham, even in London for that matter. There are similar places, but they are either in the case of Birmingham too smooth and refined. Or in London too clicky and trying to hard to impress. Here it seems to be so laid back, open and welcoming to all. It’s just an old building with a bar and space that people utilize. Not only that, there are no doormen or money having to be paid to enter and enjoy it.
Budapest itself we had noticed was a very relaxed city, walking around or even getting on the underground no one was in a rush or barging past you. Anyway, we enjoyed a few drinks and a few more and watched some live music and checked out some more bars! We both really like it here, I could easily live here for a while!
Arriving back at the campsite we bumped into Zoe, who we had met in Bulgaria on her travels. Also we met another young British couple in their motorhome, Patrick & Hannah, who had been travelling the same amount of time as us. They had been north up and around Scandinavia, so we sat and had a good chat before crashing to sleep!
Friday 23rd July
Sadly our last full day in Budapest, we left in the afternoon again because of the heat and went off for a wonder by the river and to the grand market hall. There we sampled some traditional and fattening Hungarian food.
We then strolled off to find the Memorial on the riverbanks to the people shot and dumped in the river by the secret police.
After it was time again to hit the ruin bars, we were becoming slightly addicted to them!
We hadn’t ourselves, before here, been out in ages so we seemed to be making up for it in Budapest! Plus we just loved these bars come creative spaces. We also planned to meet up with the Australian couple tonight, we’d met before, that had also been staying at the campsite! Also an old school friend called Neil was living in the city, so we arranged to hook up. So another night was spent wandering around the Jewish quarter venturing into these bars then getting the night bus back to the campsite. Also during the course of the evenings I had just about managed to be able to order two white wines and soda water in Hungarian! Although often the bar staff still didn’t understand! There was one bar mind we went to where after a couple of nights they all now recognised me and said hello!