Hungary like a wolfe

It's raining in Budapest

Part of our new laissez-faire outlook on travel includes not booking accommodation in advance. When we arrived in Budapest our first goal was to find somewhere to stay. The city is divided by the Danube river into two main areas, Buda and Pest. We decided to try and stay in Pest but this was slightly easier said than done. We’d forgotten what it was like to wander unknown cities with large and heavy backpacks on. We’d also lost all concept of time and days of the week and didn’t realize it was the weekend. Hostels get busy during the weekend and in September, the kids have not yet gone back to school. After walking for what felt like ages and being turned away by a couple hostels with no vacancy we eventually found a great place to sleep and drop our bags. I started to remember why we actually planned ahead when we were in Europe this time last year. It’s less stress when you have a destination where you can settle and orient yourself.

We felt a bit weary after our two nights and two days on trains. Luckily we were in Budapest and there would be a cure: beer and hearty Hungarian eats. We went to a nearby pub, the For Sale Pub and started off with a flavourful and deliciously dark Borsodi draft. The long kilometres of stop-and-go started to easily to slip away. Upon the bartenders recommendation, Mark ordered the gypsy steak. We couldn’t believe our eyes when it was brought to the table. The plate was enormous and on it was a steak even larger than the plate. It was a pounded out like a schnitzel, but was a pork steak, and instead of breadcrumbs, it was encrusted with a thick layer of garlic. Beneath the hulk of steak were enough garlic potatoes to feed a small army. Then they brought him pickles. A platter of pickles of every variety, shape and size you can imagine. I wasn’t aware that so many things could be pickled. There were pickles stuffed inside of other pickles! Our server told us that the platter held roughly 12 portions of pickles, Mark was supposed to just take one portion. They must eat a lot of pickles in Hungary for there to have been 12 portions because there were so many pickles — more pickled peppers than Peter Piper could ever pick. If only they knew that Mark doesn’t even really like pickles.

pickle accoutrements

And then they brought me my meal. I thought I had ordered a light soup, bean goulash is what it was called on the menu. First they brought me out a regular-sized bowl. Then the brought the soup, goulash, in a significantly larger pot with a ladle sticking out of it. This was not going to be a light soup. It was a thick and chunky beef goulash with some sort of dumpling in the mix. Just in case I thought it needed some extra seasoning, they brought me another plate chalk full of chili where I could take my pick from dried chili, powdered chili or chili paste. And to top it off: an entire loaf of fresh rye bread. The spread was hilarious. It was also delicious and goes down as one of our most memorable meals for sure (although maybe not quite top 5).

chili accoutrements

We rolled off the chairs and waddled back to our hostel. In the morning it was cool and raining solid. Feeling lethargic from the train ride and copious amounts of pork and goulash we decided to beat the rain by visiting one of Budapest’s famous baths. There are many thermal baths scattered throughout the city. Some hark back to Ottoman-Turkish times and others have been built in more recent centuries. Our only prerequisite was that Mark and I could go together. We went to the Szechenyi Baths, which were built in the late 1800s and added to and renovated over the following decades. I’m not sure what stylistic period the building can be classified as. It was yellow and flowery, full of nudie sculptures, and pools of water. There must have been over 20 baths and at least a dozen saunas. They all offer something different. Different temperatures, mineral contents, bubbles or jets, etc. Our favourite pool was outside and had a giant highspeed whirlpool in it. It was really funny watching people’s heads whiz around in circles. We also liked the herbal steam room where you inhaled cooling eucalyptus scented air. Our bodies got nice and pruney as we cycled through the complex over the course of six hours. I reckon that I almost feel clean after all those months backpacking and bush camping!

outdoor pool

That evening we cooked a meal in the hostel kitchen. It was such a delight to cook in an oven and on a stovetop. We got so used to cooking over a wood fire from our time in Africa that we had almost forgotten how fantastic it is to have instant heat! We sampled some local Hungarian wine we picked up from a grocery store, a Pinot Noir. Blech! It was yucky. I’m sure they do produce good wines in Hungary, we just chose the wrong bottle.

Looking at Pest from Buda

The next day we visited Castle Hill for some good views of the city and walked along the river The sun came out in the afternoon to brighten our day. Budapest is an incredibly beautiful city, one of the most architecturally-stunning cities in Europe, in my opinion. It’s almost over-saturated with grand ornate buildings of all sorts of rich styling. We could have spent a lot more time taking in the city but had another train to catch to keep us on our beeline west. Next stop: Vienna.

Bambi lost his mother


    I think we went to that bath. Was it in some sort of park? Did you hop in the freezing cold pools? So difficult, but oh so refreshing.

    Yes it was in a large and pretty park. I stayed in one of the cold pools for almost two minutes! Very refreshing.

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