Hot SpringsAugust 17, 2017 in Hungary
Beautiful inside the baths
Beautiful inside the baths
... then meet another second cousin. Panni needed some time to herself to prepare a number of lectures which she was due to give, and she had already given up a lot of her time to be with us. We were happy to set off and do a bit of exploring on our own.
Budapest has a very impressive public transport system, with trams, buses and underground trains all very clean, comfortable and modern. For us, the trams were especially convenient for crossing the Margaret Bridge, which we did on many occasions. We'd often walked it, but there were times when we hot and tired and when it was easier to jump on a passing tram. Evidently, public transport is free for Hungarian citizens over the age of 70, but we were told that nobody ever checks anyway. It seemed to us that it was literally a free-for-all anyway, with nobody of any age worrying about the fairly inconspicuous ticket reading machines.
We decided head off to Budapest City Park, so first caught the (free) tram to Octagon then walked the couple of kilometres or so up the very elegant boulevard known as Andrassy ut to the park. Again, to quote Wikipedia: "The City Park is a public park close to the centre of Budapest, Hungary. It is a 1,400 by 970 m rectangle, with an area of 1.2 km2 located in District XIV of Budapest. Its main entrance is at Heroes' Square, one of Hungary's World Heritage sites. Most museums and other significant public buildings are closed on Mondays, though that didn't bother us as we were happy to simply wander through the beautiful parkland and admire the buildings from the outside.
One building was open however, and it turned out to be quite a revelation as there were no signs in any language other than Hungarian to indicate what it was. (Sadly, there was a total absence of information plaques, tourist booths or local maps throughout the area, which is a pity). The building in question was large and built in the very ornate neo-baroque style. What we later learnt (thank you, Wikipedia) was that "The Széchenyi Medicinal Bath in Budapest is the largest medicinal bath in Europe. Its water is supplied by two thermal springs, their temperature is 74 °C and 77 °C, respectively." This impressive complex was planned from the 1880s and was opened in 1913. It now contains three outdoor and 15 indoor pools.
We knew none of this at the time, so wandered into the foyer and decided to take sticky-beak out on of the windows. We saw this amazing sight of an ornate and truly beautiful swimming pool complex, filled with many people enjoying the warm Hungarian summer.
Having mastered the Budapest tram system, we decided to try the Metro to get us back from the City Park to the Octagon junction, from where we could catch the tram home. Again, the system, which we were told was the first underground rail system in the whole of Europe, turned out to be very clean, fast and efficient. However, by contrast with the trams, one can't get away without paying on the underground. Not that we're complaining, of course. Our fare was very cheap and we'd already enjoyed enough free rides on the city's public transport system that we were never going to feel hard done by.
After a brief stop-off at our hotel, we then headed out towards Panni's place, from where we going to catch up with Zsuzsi's twin brother Tamas at a nearby coffee shop. Tamas had just got back the previous day from the Edinburgh International Festival, where he had been managing one of his classical music soloists. For two decades Tamas had been the Executive Director of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, and now runs his own agency. He lives in the same city block as Panni, and when Panni, Mary and Brian reached the nearby coffee shop where we were all to meet we realised that Tamas had walked straight past the two of us as we were waiting for Panni on the footpath outside her building. Of course, we'd never met before, so we didn't recognise one another. We then spent the next couple of hours making Tamas's acquaintance and chatting about a huge variety of subjects. The time passed very quickly.
The three of us (Panni, Mary and Brian) then wandered back in the direction of our boat, as Panni wanted to show us Margaret Island. Margaret Island is a 2.5 km long island, 500 metres wide, (0.965 km2) in the middle of the Danube in central Budapest, Hungary. The island is mostly covered by landscape parks, and is a popular recreational area. Its medieval ruins are reminders of its importance in the Middle Ages as a religious centre. The island spans the area between the Margaret Bridge and the Árpád Bridge. Before the 14th century the island was called Insula leporum (Island of Rabbits).
What a place! We were most impressed. It's a very popular recreation area, beautifully maintained, very scenic with plenty of mature trees. Best of all, it is closed to all normal traffic. It was just on dusk, and as we wandered along, we heard the Toreador's Song from Carmen coming from some loudspeakers. We saw that it was coming an area near a really big fountain, and the fountain's water patterns and illumination were changing in time to the music. We stayed there for quite a while listening to various pieces of well-known classical and pop music, and were totally fascinated by the technology. It's a nightly program which is every bit as spectacular as a fireworks display. We've attached a small sample to this blog, though the recorded sound quality is not so good.
We'd seen plenty of restaurants in Budapest, but as Brian kept saying, there seemed to be every nationality represented except Hungarian, which seemed a shame since the best of Hungarian food is really to die for. That night however we discovered a gem, Lecso Hungarian Restaurant, maybe a bit touristy, but offering a huge variety of authentic Hungarian food nevertheless. It was on one of the main streets, only a couple of (free) tram stops from our boat. And let's not forget, Hungary has some really terrific wines as well.Read more
En el Parque de Budapest están unos baños tipo spa, muy famosos, a los que no tuvimos tiempo de ir, pero ya los tenemos localizados para el futuro.
Nos contó una chica húngara que conocimos en el tren desde Croacia que la tradición de los baños (además de por las aguas sulfurosas esas) es de la época turca. Ha sido una penilla no poder probarlos, pero otra vez será!
You might also know this place by the following names: