Before venturing on our central European adventure, we were trying to determine our whereabouts for that Summer and – since our budget was limited at the time, we were looking for low priced destinations. Budapest came up as an ideal stop in our itinerary and eventually we ended up building our whole trip around this magnificent city. Although it was our first choice, it was deemed to be our last stop on a great and wonderful voyage around central Europe.
View the previous part of this trip here
So, we left Vienna on a bus and after a few hours we were crossing the Danube to arrive at Népliget bus station. Then we changed some Euros to Forints and crossed the Danube once more to get to our hostel. As it is widely known, Budapest consists of two cities merged in one. Hilly Buda, where our residence for the following days laid, on the west side of the river and flat Pest on the east. After settling in we got up on our favorite vehicle, feet and started walking eastwards to visit Pest, where most of the fun is to be found.
Before crossing the river once more, we made a quick but necessary stop for refreshments on a cafe and we enjoyed the view of the opposite shore, where the massive parliament overshadowed every other building.
After this short stop, we crossed the famous chain bridge, a marvelous construction indeed and stepped foot on Pest. We passed the Gresham palace (now four seasons hotel) and came across a funny statue of a mailman (?) or an elf student (?).
Anyway the guy seemed to be in a hurry, but that was not the only funny statue we encountered as we came face to face with a rather thick fellow, the round bellied policeman who is a crowd favorite and legend has it that if you rub his belly, you are lucky in love (we were lucky anyway so we didn’t, except if one of us rubbed the guy’s belly without the other knowing it).
Near this charming police officer you can find St Stephen’s cathedral, but we postponed our visit for the next day, restricting ourselves to outside views of the building. We wanted to visit a ruin pub and had a good idea which one to check for a drink and on our way there we caught a glimpse of the Budapest eye and unexpectedly found the Michael Jackson memorial tree. We didn’t know what we were facing at the time, but now we know that MJ stayed at a hotel nearby when in Budapest and fans would gather at the spot to catch a glimpse of the pop star. So, when he died, they dedicated this tree to his memory, covering it with tokens of their love.
Finally we reached our destination. We believe Szimpla Kert to be the best ruin pub in Budapest and as we discovered on the following days it is situated in a great neighborhood. The place was crowded but not overly so. Ruin pubs are built – as the name suggests, on ruins of abandoned buildings and if you look at them from the outside they do not seem much, they look like normal homes. Once inside there’s a courtyard filled with art and colors. No furniture matches, it may seem as if you are enjoying your drink on a dump, but your eyes will never get bored. You can grab a bite, enjoy coffee or drink and relish the laid back atmosphere. It took us some time to stop expressing our fondness for the place and shut our mouths which were still wide open in awe, before we were able to sit on a stool and enjoy our beers.
This place was to become our hangout while in Hungary and even to this day we recall the fun we had. After a few hours we headed back to our hostel, but we had to make one last stop before calling it a day since we were getting a bit hungry. And obviously, you can’t stay in Hungary and not try the delicious ghulash. I have to admit that this was a stop mainly addressed towards myself, since Catherine doesn’t like spicy food, but I have no regrets when it comes to burning hot lava. We found a small restaurant, mostly occupied by locals and enjoyed my first Hungarian ghulash. We were now ready to rest, in order to further explore the city on the following day…