The train journey from Ljubljana to Budapest (Sunday 18th August) is about 10 hours long, despite it only taking around five hours to drive there. Although it was a direct train, as in we didn’t have to get off and change, the journey began by heading south into Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, before going back up north to Budapest. We always knew it was going to be long, but it was delayed for a further 70 minutes. The train was hot and stuffy with temperamental air conditioning. Needless to say the cabin fever had seriously set in. The man I mentioned in my previous post made a few more appearances, emerald green speedos aglow.
We hopped onto the metro (we were not foolish enough to test the public transport system for a free ride) which is now becoming second nature. The walk from the metro station to the hostel really wasn’t far, but Budapest smells a bit funky and there are a lot of homeless people. One man was obviously on something (we’ll call him ‘Ponytail’ for the sake of the story) and walked towards us and followed us once we had passed him. However, we felt less threatened when he was distracted by a squirrel or something and turned to follow that instead.
Like in the Hunger Games, Budapest (Buda is the surrounding hills, Pest is the city) is split into 23 districts and our hostel was situated in the Bohemian district, District VIII. Hostel Minoo House is easily the best hostel we have stayed in. It’s a converted house set back in a square, owned by four travellers who have drawn on their own experiences to create a place to stay that caters to every traveller’s needs. Instead of boring bunk beds, the rooms were made up of single and double beds set in the wooden beams. The showers were lovely and the toilets clean. The highlight of Minoo House was the kitchen. It contains everything with a hearty, chunky wooden table in the centre of the room. It was our cheapest hostel yet.
We dumped our bags and headed out to find a supermarket to buy supplies for dinner. Em made a fantastic take on bacon and vegetable risotto. The quality home cooked meal tasted like a slice of heaven. We then got ready, bought some drink and socialised with the other travellers. We really wanted to have a night out, go for a bit of a boogie but we were also shattered. We went for a drink with some other travellers: two Swedes, an Argentinian, a Brazilian, two English girls from London and an English boy from Birmingham called John.
We were drunk on the alcohol and tiredness but it was such a laugh. As we didn’t leave the hostel to go to the bar until just before 1am we had to keep drinking to stay awake. We went to a bar which was half inside and half outside with a voodoo-esque theme. The alcohol is cheap and we whipped out the cocktail that was recommended to us called Happy People, which was sweet with a tequila kick. At about three am, they moved to a club, but as it was a Sunday night it was a little quiet. The girls (Em, Rebec, Clo and myself) were drunk and cream crackered and decided to walk back. It was a hilarious walk home involving Emily walking face first into a pole whilst trying to read a map. We crawled into bed about four in the morning and we did not rise until about 11 the following day.
On Monday after our late start, the girls headed out to the Széchenyi Roman Baths. I found this a bizarre experience. The temperature outside was about 36 degrees Celsius and I was desperate to cool down. I set down my towel and jumped into the closet outside pool. I rapidly clambered out. The water temperature was 38 degrees Celsius – hotter than it was outside. I managed to find another that was 20 dc which did cool me down. Outside are three pools at various temperatures and inside there are about 10 baths all at different temperatures. After testing them all, I concluded that 34 dc was my optimum temperature. Having successfully made the transition from human to prune, I sunbathed to dry off. We chilled there until about 6 o’clock when our stomachs dictated we must find food.
We walked back via Tesco (I don’t think you understand how excited we were to find a Tesco) and bought ingredients for dinner. Because we had spent the day at the baths, we wanted to see a few sights before the night was up. We went back out again at 10 o’clock, usually pyjama time at home.
In Budapest, the metro runs at certain times, such as every 10 minutes and stops fairly early on at around half past 11. We didn’t realise this until we left, but we were keen to see things before we left on a morning train the following day. We hopped off the metro at Kossuth ter which opens out on to Parliament. From the river bank we saw The Castle and Mathais Church, or as we donned it, Hogwarts. However, the main reason we came here was to see the ‘Shoes on the Danube’. It is a holocaust memorial made up of fifty pairs of iron shoes. The shoes belonged to 50 Jews who were in hiding. When they were caught by the Nazi’s, they were lined up along the Danube (river running through Budapest), asked to remove their shoes and then they were shot. The memorial is harrowing. 100 iron shoes line the river side in a way that look as if they have been hurriedly kicked off and abandoned. The attention to detail on each pair of shoes is so realistic. Like Forest Gump says, you can always tell a person by their shoes. There were cared for shoes, worker boots and shoes that had quite clearly been passed down from child to child, each belonging to a man, woman or a child. We wondered back to the metro station contemplative.
With three minutes to spare to get the last metro home, we were throwing money at the machine to get our tickets. I have never laughed so much whilst running down a steep escalator. Needless to say we missed it. It wasn’t too bad though as we got to see what we came to see and the walk back was only about half an hour. We were more concerned with the fact that we’d wasted a grand and a half in four metro tickets we couldn’t use (around 350 Hungarian Forints is the equivalent to an English pound. So really we only spent about £5 but we were still ‘maring out. (At one point Kieran referred to the currency as ‘magic beans’ because we were seriously finding it hard to grasp an understanding of the money.))
I wish I could have stayed in Budapest another night. I feel like there was more to see but alas we have only 22 days of travelling time. On to the next city!