Our “mini hotel Nightingale” in a central suburb in the “Pest” side of Budapest was more like a backpackers place with a communal area and kitchen in an old appartment building full of character with large rooms and with a wide marble staircase and old lift.  It was like something out of an old Spy movie.  A couple of the doors in the building had bars on them – they were like fort knox.

Breakfast wasn’t included so we went across the road to the large supermarket and bought a small bucket of nectarines, a punnet of blueberries, some good rye bread and cheese, water, half a dozen yoghurts, milk, water and three substantial sandwiches all for $15. 

It is interesting to see the differences around the world in hotels and restaurant prices.  We had a four star hotel in Yichang China with staff falling all over us for $75 a night and the basic room in the “mini” hotel in Budapest was the same price.

They had students in rotating shifts running the place who were very friendly and helpful who gave us all sorts of tips about the city.  The building was very well located with the metro tram  and bus outside the door and banks/supermarket/chemist/cafes/currency exchange all nearby.

We caught a tram and metro to the millennium memorial which was very ornate with pillars and many statues. From there we walked over to the Museum of Hungarian Agricultural which is known for it’s different types of architecture in several castle like buidings.  It was set in a lovely park on a lake. We then went across the road to the Szechenyi Thermal Medicinal Spa and Bath. It was built in 1913 in neo-baroque style. It has 15 indoor pools, saunas and steambaths and 3 large outdoor pools. The indoor thermal spas have a sulphur odour but not very strong.

We spent a few hours here relaxing and in the water. They have a round section which is a whirlpool and you get swept along by the water around and around which was fun as well as jets that come up from the bottom of the pool and you can stand over them as they bubble around you. It was Saturday and it was crowded but it was a great place to people watch. There were people of all shapes, sizes and ages and as Maurice suggested there were many there that probably didn’t have mirrors at home!

We had dinner at a lovely restaurant which had a live jazz band and a wonderful singer.  It might have been a small cinema in it’s hey day as there was a stage at the end of the long room. We had a traditional Hungarian meal – goulash of course, paprika chicken and dumplings and some nice Hungarian merlot.

The main courses in Budapest unless you have a large steak or fish are extremely reasonable between $10-$12 dollars. The same applied the next day when we ate outside at a lovely restaurant overlooking the Danube. We really enjoyed the Hungarian wine – nice merlots and a lovely chardonnay and also very reasonably priced.  The waiters in the main are very professional and even in a small cafe with table service a coffee was served on a little tray with a glass of water for about $2. 

The next day we went for a walk around the “Pest” area near the Danube. When we were many blocks away I realized that we walked off from having coffee without paying. We found our way back and the waitress was amazed that we had come back. She was very grateful as she said that a lot of people that sit outside just leave without paying. I hoped it didn’t come out of her wages.

Since leaving Perth on the 1st April we have not worn anything other than short sleeves but Budapest was the first place we had to put on a jacket but that was only for part of the day! 

A few Hungarians told us that we were having extremely unusual weather for this time of year with the days alternating betweeen sunshine, cloudy skies,a bit of rain and strong wind. It was quite warm when the sun was out but cool when the clouds rolled in.

We passed a church where we saw advertised a string orchestra concert in the large St Stefan’s Basilica so booked to go to that in the evening. We walked over the “Chain bridge” and had lovely views up and down the Danube.

That evening the seven piece Sting Orchestra was excellent. They played a variety of pieces from a range of composers.

Apart from the very touristy areas there was a lot of graffiti around and many homeless people with their goods and sleeping bags in various parts of the city. We often heard the police and ambulance sirens. There was also a strong security presence eveywhere especially on the streets and in the parks and at every metro station there are people checking all tickets.

Budapest is the only place we have found so far that if you want to use the toilet in Starbucks or McDonalds you have to buy something and show your receipt or pay to use the facilities. Public toilets are almost non existent.

You can buy a 1,2 or 5day pass for very little and this can be used on all public transport which is very handy. We caught the metro the next day near to the chain bridge and then walked over to “Buda” castle and took the funicular up to the top. The old town and the castle are beautiful and the views over the river to the “Pest” side were spectacular. The castle now houses the National Gallery, the National Museum, the National Library and History Museum.

We walked back over the chain bridge and caught a tram along the river to Margaret Island.  We saw a cute little electric car which went about 5kms an hour so we hired that and went around the island where a lot of people were picknicking, swiming at the pool or cycling about. It was a very tranquil leafy place to spend the afternoon.

We left there and went back and found a traditional bar/restaurant which was run by a large women who looked as though she ate the whole menu every day. We did ask her if it would be too much to have an entree and a main course to which she replied ” You are in Hungary – EAT!” So we did and enjoyed every mouthful. We then went to another lovely concert by the same string orchestra at St Michael’s church and they played Vivaldi’s “Four seasons, some Mozard, Lizst and to finish “Hungarian Rhapsody No.2” but maybe we shouldn’t have had the bottle of wine in the afternoon as Maurice was nodding off during the performance. I must say it was a bit close and warm in the church. The concert was a nice way to end our stay in Budapest.

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