From the weekend location series
23. – 26. 6. 2016
Couple weeks ago I got my usual need to pack my bag and get out of Prague for a while. Therefore I have messaged my ‘getaway’ friend Frantiska, who shares with me the idea of those momentously-spontaneous trips. From that very moment we started looking up what options we had. One of my main priorities was to go somewhere, where I haven`t been yet, it had to be in a reasonable train distance and I didn`t want to know the local language. So we decided to go to Budapest in Hungary.
We started our journey at the main train station in Prague, where I hadn`t been a great deal of time and so at first I had to digest the amount of new, shiny stores that appeared over past years. Afterwards I rushed outside the building to wait for Františka in safe – well known surroundings of Sherwood park with homeless folks. Frantiska was coming right from work and to be honest, just on time, which caused me couple of unreasonable waves of panic…we caught the train without any issues and were also able to buy some wine. While entering the train itself I had realized one more time how long it had`t been since my last train trip. For past seven years I have been a motorist on four wheels and thorough my romantic relationship with Mr. Red Dragon (Mitsubishi Colt) I had only been passing the train station on the city link circuit. Nevertheless I overcame the memory of coupés and stinky bathrooms and had to accept the progress in a form of wi-fi, aircon and automatic door openings. We were all set to go…
Seven hours and couple bottles of wine later we arrived at Budapest-Keleti train station where we could finally start having the exotic feeling of being abroad. Frantiska had everything precisely prepared including the address of our AirBnb with information how to get there. It was really close so we just hopped on a metro right next to the train station from where it was just a few minutes ride. When it comes to accommodation itself – I will always kick for AirBnb because not only it is cheaper and the choice is wider, it also creates kind off local feeling.Our Hungarian home was perfectly located right across the street to the Hungarian History Museum from where everything was within a walking distance and so we went right away to find some place to eat.
Even though I am usually the one who’s got everything prepared (from reading about all different sorts of attractions, historical buildings and traditions in each country to the geography of the area itself) this year’s pick of ‘Rick Steve’s Budapest’ guide book was so shocking, that we decided to leave it in the train for its possible future consumers. This fact though caused that I was so desoriented in the streets until I managed to get myself a paper map to which I could cross and circle places.
One of the biggest disadvantages of the city – or rather surprise – is that there is still obvious the previous system of diversing the urban infrastructure into guilds. We were for example staying in a street full of ‘Antikvariums’ (Antique), behind a corner was was a street with one ‘Lirá’ (bookstore) next to another connected to a quarter with second hand stores. This quirkiness became a problem when we realized that it was not gonna be as easy to find a restaurant as we assumed. Especially regarding the late hour and level of hunger… After quite a while of walking we finally saw plenty of restaurants on Váci Utca (utca=street) which was the typical example of touristy pedestrianized areas where everyone is only trying to rip you off for ‘traditional cuisine’. In Fatál restaurant they even refused to serve us at all only because we wanted to split a meal! After that we ended up having a beautiful goulash soup each right next door in Rustico restaurant, where was very nice staff accompanied with a live typical gypsy style music band. After dinner we kept on walking around like headless chickens trying to find the bar district. This took forever again until we randomly turned into this passage which I cannot recall where was. The selection of bars was poor even here and so we chose the least weird one with some music and coctails. As it showed eventually it was a kind of a strip bar with two or three young tiny girls dancing on the bar over our heads. We each had couple of drinks here and at the end it was very nice in here as all the sleazy bankers were busy with the dancers and didn’t bother us:)
The next day we followed an advice on Trip Advisor and went for a breakfast into Zoska coffee place which to be honest dissapointed us with both – the food and drink quality and the service. If you are planning on going to Budapest get ready for many experiences with bad attitude of hospitality staff as there are tips automatically included in the price, so they don’t have to worry about their behaviour. After that we went through all those Akvárias with beautiful prints from propaganda era, second hands with unwearable clothes and then we headed to the Great Market Hall. Upstairs they have souvenirs and touristy kitch of all sorts but downstairs you can buy vegetables, cheese, sausage and Palinka (traditional destilated spirit from plums and other fruits). When you go shopping always buy a little more than what you need, especially water, drinks and cigarettes (in my case) because the likelihood to find some store when you need it is tiny. The Great Market Hall, which has always been a marketplace even though it may seem to be an old train station, sits right on the Danube river bank next to the Liberty Bridge. We were so lucky, that when we were there, the bridge was under construction closed for cars so at night it became a meeting point to all the young hipsters from all around who were chilling on the bridge’s arches or even brough hammocks to lay in.
In the afternoon we decided to hit a local tattoo salon Loco-Motive hoping, that we would sqeeze in for a small tattoo each.This didn’t happen as we worried but at least we learned that hungarian tattoers are no good and therefore we rather shouldn’t even keep up our hopes. So we dropped this idea of life-long lasting souvenir from Budapest and continued to the Parliament buildings. There we had to jump on a tram that goes along the river without a ticket, because there was only one ticket machine which was surrounded from all sides by German tourists. The Parliament buildings and its surrounding we enjoyed in a tourist pace, smelling the freshness brought by the Danube river right next to it and enjoying the view to the other side with a castle. From there we continued most likely to the District VII. but this numbering has stayed a great secret to us. This time I was prepared and had written down a list with rooftop bars and so called Ruin Pubs including addresses to make sure we won’t have to undertake another kilometers long walking at night. First stop we decided for was on Andrássy Utca 39 – a rooftop Bar 360. You had to pay 1000 ft. (approx. 3,5 euro) but it was the smallest price you could pay for such a view! It was quite a small rooftop terrace where you could walk all around the top and have a view of 360 degrees of the whole town! Moreover there was a music band, the staff was friendly which was rare until then, signature coctails were great and the tapas was just delicious! I would definitely recommend to book a table here, make sure to tell them you want a table on the edge of the roof and enjoy a beautiful dinner here!
From here we continued to one of the popular Ruin Pubs called Fogasház on Akáfca Utca 51. This one was very oddly structured space inside with a spacious hall and a DJ from where you could either go upstairs to another rooftop bar called Liebling where we should have probably gone, or continue into the building where was an outside courtyard with a bar, seating, another DJ and a beatiful colorful bulbs hanging in a tree. Above us was an arcade of this ruined historical building looking a bit like a squatt but it all definitely had a style. Their bartenders though were very rude and started bringing up prices that were completely different to the ones on a menu board above their heads. This was enough especially for Frantiska who got annoyed and in a combination with a long day of walking she decided to go chill in our apartment. For a bit I was considering to carry on with the evening in a company of three Finish guys whose mimic muscles must have had some problem as they seemed to be like robots. At the end I gave up my map and a tobacco which was on the table and sneaked out with two awesome Canadian girls with whom we went to the most popular ruin pub called Szimpla Kért on Kazincy Utca 14. This one I would definitely recommend even though it was packed with tourists. It was much more spacious divided into sections with dancefloor and a bar and at the back there was an open area where you could be on a fresh air. The stuff spoke well English and if you got lucky you could meet a little girl walking around and selling carrots! It is their signature specialty and I must admit that it was kind of cute.
Another place we considered to be one of the meeting spots for locals was at a little square Erzsébet Tér next to Jozsef Attila Utca. Other bars we did not get a chance to visit was Instant (Nagymezo Utca 38), Pontoon rooftop (Antall Jozsef Rakpart 1), Corvin Club (Blaha Lujza Tér) or you could also go to check out Margaret Island where is all the spa and apparently a lot of good places to hang out as well.
The last day we started with a beautiful breakfast made at home from fruits, vegetables and cheese we bought at the Great Hall Market. After that we went to the Castle Hill where we got by metro to the Deli Palyudvar station of a red line. From there it is only a short walk into the areal of castle, churches, viewing points and overpriced restaurants with food somehow flavourless (i.e. Baltazar). You could find here cute little design stores in rows of beautifully coloured houses that seemed to me as if they were from a different time zone. I must also point out that even though it was a weekend, the whole place was suspiciously quiet and so we could actually enjoy it without being sqeezed in masses of people. Across the Chain Bridge we walked all the way back home where we found out it was a museum night with folclore dancers and music. We went to sit on the stairs in front of the Hungarian History Museum in front of our apartment and cheered to celebrate this awesome weekend getaway.