After taking the walking tour on Sunday, I decided to delve deeper into Budapest so I went and explored some places in greater depth.
The walking tour briefly covered St. Stephens Basilica, highlighting it’s history and who the namesake was but the point that stood out for me was the object hidden in the back of the church. At the back of the church, in its own little chapel was the mummified hand of St Stephen himself. Or so they say. It had moved around Europe throughout its time and finally made it’s way back to his home in Hungary. It’s got it’s own little glass casing complete with illuminations underneath. It’s certainly an interesting focal point and something that brings in the tourists, me included.
As the Basilica is quite centrally located, it was really easy for me to walk up to the City Park on the outskirts of Pest. It has, or should have, a moat around the front entrance and then a castle situated near the forefront. But it’s winter so the lake has drained and been replaced with an artificial ice rink. Next to the castle is the most famous thermal bath in Budapest; Szechenyi. I’ll talk about that properly further on in this post.
On my way out of Heroes Square, the entrance to the city park, I decided to take a few detours back to the hostel and walked past the House of Terror. The name enticed me, thinking it was a haunted house, but it’s actually a museum about the Nazi occupation of Hungary and then the life under Soviet rule. Instead of going in, I detoured and walked through the Jewish Quarter. In this area there are lots of venues known as ruin bars. A ruin bar is a derelict building that has been decorated with junk such as old typewriters attached to the wall, an inflatable whale hanging from the ceiling and pushbikes dangling about the place. The whole building itself is a novelty as the seating is usually off-kilter; park benches, bike seats, saddles etc.
On the Tuesday, a few other guests and I went to the most popular tourist attraction in Budapest. We went to the Szechenyi Thermal Bath. Having got changed into my swimming wear I descended into the 30° water and started to relax. It was a really peculiar feeling as it was exceptionally warm on my body but with my head out of the water I kept getting blasts of cold air. I spend about an hour in this first pool before transferring to the other outdoor bath which actually had a lazy river in, so that obviously kept me occupied longer than it should. At around 6pm, the fans were turned off so I ventured inside the building and used the sauna and steam room before leaving. I tried to go into the Beer Spa but this was already closed before I could get in. Ultimately, I spent about 4 hours in the water. A day well spent.
On my final day, I thought it would be nice to get out of the main centre, so I hiked up to the top of Gellert Park. It’s on the west of the city and there’s lots of little paths leading up to the top of the hill. At the very top was a Citadel which, unfortunately, was closed. There was also a statue of Lady Liberty. The story goes that the Soviets placed her up there pointing at Russia, to look over them, but after the Soviets were kicked out, a sheet was placed over the statue and three days later a new (read: exactly the same) statue was erected. This time facing down the Danube. After clambering around the park for a good few hours, it started to get a bit chilly so I walked back into the city.