Sunday, 22 December 2013

Budapest {Snowstorms and swimming}

In November 2010 Hamish and I made a last minute trip to the land of Goulash and Paprika...aka Budapest, Hungary. Prior to this weekend break I honestly had no idea that Buda and Pest were actually two separate places separated by a river (even though they were unified as one single city in 1973)!

I really had no idea what to expect from Budapest, I didn't know of anyone who had been there before so it was all down to tripadvisor to know what to see and where to go. We stayed in the Pest side of the city at a great little hotel called the K+K  Opera Hotel Budapest, which was in the perfect location right near a Metro station and really central.  Since we landed pretty late on the Friday night we only had time for a quick dinner and not much else. It should be said however, that while we were eating our dinner, the classic Eurotrash song Papa Americano  {the theme song from our weekend in Bruges} came over the radio and even though we were eating at Subway, I knew we were in Europe. 

Winter Wonderland 
Saturday morning we awoke to a white winter wonderland. Overnight it had started to snow and the whole city was covered in the prettiest white dusting of powder. I love snow- like little kid on Christmas love! Had we had this weather back in London the whole city would have come to a stand still, but the Hungarians were well equipped and everything ran as normal with absolutely nothing disrupted or delayed. I was very impressed.  

Me in the Snow!

Hamish in the Snow!
After taking some mandatory silly snow pics, we made our way down to the river to book a river cruise along the Danube.   Now as much as I would love to say this was a magical, wonderful  boat ride - it was not. It was possibly one of the worst tours ever. The boat was freezing, and the commentary was recorded by a woman who sounded like a robot. It was so monotonous that if it weren't for the freezing temperature I probably would have fallen asleep. Added to that was the fact that due to the coldness of the air coupled with the heat of everyone in the boat, the windows steamed up something crazy and we could barely see out of them. Quite frankly, I was delighted when the whole thing was over.

With near-frostbitten toes and hands, we walked across the beautiful Széchenyi Chain Bridge to the Buda side of the city. Here we took the funicular to the top of Castle Hill where Buda Castle is situated. The gardens were beautiful, especially covered in snow. There was a little market on at the top and with the snow and the grey sky it felt like we were living in the olden days.  We wandered around the castle grounds and through some of the castle buildings, enjoying all the lovely sculptures and statues and old school charm.  I really enjoyed the castle, and would love to go back and see it and its magnificent views on a clear and sunny day.

Chain Bridge (image via)
Saturday night was the absolute highlight of the trip for me, and possibly one of my best travel memories ever.  We walked through the city covered in snow and went to the famous Szechenyi baths. It was only early evening when we arrived, but it was already fully dark and it was still snowing. After changing out of warm and cosy winter snow gear and into my bikini, I made my way outside to meet Hamish at the pool. This was done barefoot and through the snow. It was a tad chilly, but climbing into the deliciously warm spa pool straight from the snow was the best feeling. I can't really describe how perfect the setting was. Snow, steam from the hot water, old fashioned spa pools and romantic lighting - literally magical. Needless to say we stayed in the pools for as long as we could. There were massive outdoor pools and a labyrinth of indoor ones too, with  different temperatures, different mineral compositions and different colours - you could literally get lost for hours in there. It was such a perfect night. When we were finally kicked out at closing time I was more than a little sad to go. 

Outdoor Pools at night via

On Sunday, our final day in Budapest, we spent the day walking around the city and just taking in the lovely old buildings, city centre and even went to a few museums. On our way back to the hotel to get ready to leave to the airport we stumbled across a little Christmas market. This was the first Christmas market I experienced and mixed in with the snow and wintery weather it was amazing. There is definitely something to be said about Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere, it is so festive and magical. I love it.  At the market we sampled some of the local Hungarian food, such as the most delicious {but ridiculously sweet and filling} Pastry type delicacies called Kürtőskalács. Our eyes were definitely bigger than our stomachs and Hamish and I ordered one each which resulted in us both feeling slightly ill afterwards {and we didn't even finish them!} - I would definitely recommend sharing one! 

Christmas Market fun!
Kürtőskalács cooking

Overall, Budapest was the perfect way to get into the spirit and flow of Christmas and a beautiful city with so much history. I would love to go back one day soon and see a bit more of Hungary.

Fun Facts about Budapest/Hungary: 

  • Budapest is home to the third largest Parliament building in the world. 
  • Budapest has the oldest subway line in mainland Europe, it was opened in 1896 and is still in use as Subway M1. 
  • The word 'coach' derives from the name of the Hungarian town Kocs, where multi-passenger wheeled vehicles first appeared around 1500.
  • The title character "Wally" in the Where's Wally books is known as Vili in Hungary.
Pint of Beer Price {as of December 2013} = £1.00 

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