Hungary for…Ket Rotzsa!

Hungary for…Ket Rotzsa!

Wow. This is the one word we have to describe Budapest. Not at all what we expected and I’m not too sure what that even was. I think that after Vienna we presumed that it would be more of the same. I.e. the river Danube, some nice buildings and not much else, but we were very pleasantly surprised!

The main thing that we noticed about Budapest was its vibe – it seemed to be buzzing with the enthusiasm of a city reaping the benefits of its EU membership and riding the crest of an upward economical wave. As part of the former Soviet Union, Hungary (and Budapest in particular) had a great energy and seemed to be moving away from its Soviet past towards a distinctly cosmopolitan ‘continental European’ feel.

About an hour after we arrived in Budapest and just as it got dark we drove up (in the Oz Bus!) to the Citadel which provided us with the most amazing view of the city, the Danube and all its bridges. All we could say when we got up there was wow.

All the buildings, cathedrals, parliament building, the Elizabeth Bridge and Chain bridge were all lit up and it’s strange to think that just lighting up buildings can have such an effect but it really was spectacular. What made it even better was that there was a firework display happening in the city that night so we had the best seat in the city to watch them from! Photographs again couldn’t do this place justice, and our camera certainly couldn’t so here is a pic from Hundarian photographer Bergadder:

budapest-at-night

That night we asked the girl in reception to recommend a place for us to sample some real Hungarian food. She sent us to a place a couple of blocks away from the hostel – Ket Rotzsa – and this just upped our opinion of Budapest even further! We got a three course menu with a local beer (absolutely lush by the way, it’s called Soproni and is extremely drinkable!) for the equivalent of just £19 for the both of us! We had goulash soup followed by salad, ‘Hungarian flavoured’ pork with bacon and potato wedges, followed by the most awesome walnut flavoured desert – sponge, cream chocolate soaked in lots of rum! I could feel the rum going to my head with every mouthful and couldn’t finish mine – but it really was a great end to the meal! We were the only people in this restaurant but would definitely recommend it!

After we had eaten we went back to the girl at reception to thank her for the tip and asked her about the nightlife in Budapest and what bars she would recommend. She asked us if we liked ‘alternative’ bars to which we just shrugged and nodded, not really knowing what she meant, then she wrote down the name Szimpla on a piece of paper and pointed to a street on the map. Not knowing what to really expect we left the camera behind in case we walked into a really dodgy backstreet bar, but I so wish we had taken it with us! When we first spotted it we nearly turned around again – there were about four big Hungarian blokes stood outside some big metal fire doors covered in graffiti. More than slightly apprehensive we wandered inside anyway and our jaws instantly dropped.

I can only describe Szimpla as ‘f**ked up’. Never seen a bar like it before. It was in an old derelict building with ivy crawling up the walls and into the roof (or what was left of the roof). The feel of the place was kind of ‘Tim Burton meets Lady Gaga horror’. Wrought-iron bars and gates all over the place with candles stuck into the cracks of the walls and tiny tv screens showing psychedelic pictures and patterns. Half the seats were actually old bath tubs sawn in half and the music was a real mix of funky dance, reggae and other European tunes that we don’t really get in the UK. We even heard a reggae mix of Tom Jones’ ‘What’s new pussycat’! That was weird, but strangely good!

The next day was spent walking around the rest of Budapest – mainly down by the Danube and Margaret’s Island (in the middle of the river). Margaret’s Island was ‘interesting’ to say the least. The first thing we saw was a giant fountain which sprayed water in time to music by Pavarotti. People were actually swimming in the fountain and just by the side of it was a group of ‘older ladies’ taking part in what I can only describe as Laughter Yoga. They were all stood in a circle stretching, pointing at each other and laughing hysterically! We sat and had our lunch for a good 45 mins and they were going at it the whole way. Very bizarre.

laughing yoga budapest hungary
We went in search of a waterfall that I had heard was on the island. We had walked miles by this point and were getting quite fed up and irritable but just HAD to look for this blasted waterfall. After about two hours we finally found someone who understood what we were looking for and told us that it was over the other side of the island in the Chinese garden! So we got on a bus (no idea how the bus was on the island) which turned out to be free (we think!) and this took us over to the other side. After asking someone else on that side who told us that it was in the Japanese garden we finally found it! And it was tiny! Not quite the fantastic flowing waterfall we had imagined but just a wee trickle down a rock next to a pond. Worth the 15 thousand mile-round walk – not! But hey, we did what we set out to do and did in fact find ‘a waterfall’.

waterfall, margaret island

That night was of course the World Cup final (Go Spain!) so Leighton had arranged for us to go to a bar round the corner from the hostel to watch it. We only stayed for the first half (of what was a pretty boring first half to be fair!) then wandered back to the hostel via the backstreet and stumbled across what we thought was another random bar showing the match. Upon further inspection we discovered that it was in fact another hostel called Grandio. It was packed full of Aussies and Americans along with a mix of foreign youngsters all watching the game. Had such a great atmosphere that we decided to stay – esp as they had a mini bbq going on. Managed to get a bowl of chips and two beers with the Hungarian money we had left, then some American guy just gave us 500 florint – no idea why, he just insisted we have it! So we promptly left the Grandio and went and bought some chocolate!

In summary, Budapest is by far the best city we’ve been to so far. It had the best mix of old and new, soviet and continental, with really friendly people! Everyone seemed so open – we even came across a group of people salsa dancing in the park – just because they could!

salsa-dancing-in-the-park-budapestWould definitely recommend going back there for a longer visit. It really is a beautiful city too – completely reconstructed since the war so the buildings are all very grand (there is even a mini Vienna Opera House there since the Habsburgs apparently had a hand in Budapest’s creation too!).

Next day, on to Serbia – another interesting experience!
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