Jess Rooney

Bathing in Budapest

Light reaches a dark boundary,

never passing into its gelidity.

Just beyond lurks a soul trapped inside its fleshy prison,

Never to escape until its captor steps into release. 

149.6 million km’s above our heads orbits a plasma ball that beats down light upon the earth. The heat lingers like a mirage hovering over car bonnets and road surfaces. Small wispy clouds float by giving no release from the blaze that reddens our faces. We are exposed with nowhere to hide but under the branches of a nearby tree that does not deny our please for liberation.
This makes it’s sound like Budapest was a horrid place when in fact it was one of my favourite cities. The city is stunning and like Prague, it has two sides, old and new. By now we were becoming more travel savvy. We booked our walking tour for our first day there to get an idea of our surroundings to make walking around ourselves a little easier. We met at the fountain in the centre, waiting with the hordes of people who also awaited our guide to everything that Budapest has to offer. There were so many bodies that we had to be split into three separate groups. I can only assume the reason it was so overloaded was that we happened to be here right in the middle of the famous Sziget festival but I will speak more about that a little down the line.
Our tour guide recited many entertaining historical facts about Budapest including how the water of Budapest has magically made a whale and cow pregnant. I’m not sure if I believe this myth but it was an amusing story to listen to while sitting in the grass, hiding in the shade.

Buda- pest, old and new is separated by the Danube, a memorializing river that pulls you to its edge daring you to enter its spirit only to be swept away and lost.

In Budapest, the tallest buildings are the Governments and the Church’s. Two powerful symbols dominating the architecture that surrounds its domain.

Planted atop a modest hill called Budapest Castle Hill Funicular is the President’s residence. We were lucky enough to see the change in guard, which was a brief but entertainingly rhythmic sight. Along the perimeter, you will receive a beautiful view of Budapest’s city but that is not all the lies along the surface of this turtles back.

If you continue on you will see a beautiful church just past a street of traditional cafes and restaurants. Matthias Church is a 14th-century church named for King Matthias, who married there. The roof of the church is absolutely beautifully coloured. The ceramic tiles reflected the light beaming from the sky upon us all.

Once upon a time water covered the hill and weaved its way through its unyielding rock. Slowly over an age, the rock succumbed to the might of the water. The Water pushed the rock apart carving caverns out of its cage. A man came, turned the caverns into caves which became the prison to a dark and mysterious force whose name would bring fear to all who know it.

Apparently, as the wall tells us inside these caves Vlad the Impaler was imprisoned for trying to run off with a kings daughter. For his treachery, the king sentenced him to these caves for 20 years. If the story didn’t hook you your interest then what also lies in the bowels of the caves are scenes of eerie mannequins staged in events from long past. I warn you they are far creepier then the faceless mannequins we are forced to look at every day when we enter clothing stores. It felt as though they were watching you, waiting for you to turn your back, giving them time to pounce.

My beating heart pumped in its boned asylum covered in shadows with the only light emanated from a small gas lantern that swung in my grasp. It felt like we were being stalked by the hunter that had been trapped in these caves for so many years hungry for the veins hidden under our skin. I absolutely loved it! It was such an unexpectedly Gothic adventure that I never knew I needed to have in Budapest.

Széchenyi Thermal Bath is an outdoor giant communal bath. It is somewhere I recommend you visit. Inside there is a salt bath that is supposed to heal and also help with fertility. If like me you have no interest in the second it is a really relaxing environment, worth trying.

On the grounds of Városliget city park sits the Vajdahunyad Castle. It was built in 1896 as part of the Millennial Exhibition which celebrated the 1,000 years of Hungary since the Hungarian Conquest of the Carpathian Basin in 895. There are restaurants just across from the castle which has comfy pillows for you to relax and unwind on while you take in the view.

Budapest is famous for its ‘Ruin Bars’ or ‘Rom kocsma’ which translates to the pub in ruin. After the war, there were many ruined buildings that’s space was not being utilized. Instead of creating another Irish bar to go along with the numerable others, they used the existing interior to produce a kooky ambience. Old Dentist buildings were the tools and decor made the hair on my arms stand to attention. The echo of drills hitting its enamel target and a body awaiting the needle that approached its cavity. It was as if we walked absentmindedly onto a film set where you were handed a drink instead of a script. Some moulded themselves around natures arms, leaving us open to the elements that beckoned. It’s remaining hold on society, a metal roof full of old-fashioned toys dancing along its trusses. All its Sisters cover the city Like X’s on a treasure map. The air outside was warm on your skin and the drink in your hand was everything you could ever need at that moment. The Bars and such interesting pieces of Budapest that I think everyone should see for themselves.

Sziget festival is a music festival that takes place on Budapest’s Island Obudai – Sziget. If you are in or around Budapest during the festival and are not at the festival you are definitely missing out. The atmosphere of this festival is electric. A beautiful mix of chilled and energy. The musical performances are by amazing Artist from all over the world and Hungary itself. The festival is completely capable of battling against the heat too. A water tank patrols the arenas to give ease to the baking bodies flailing around the Island while the stages are equipped with sprinklers to cool you off as you dance into the night.

We happened to find ourselves in a taxi whose driver had gone to Sziget the previous night and was full of chat about the festival especially Robbie Williams who performed on stage the night before and who supposedly bleached his hair blonde for the occasion. The conversation transitioned from festival chit-chat to a taxi tour of Budapest’s highlights. I will remember that taxi driver fondly and comically as our last view of him was driving into the distance blaring music with his trunk wide open. I guess what you can take from this is that the people of Budapest are an interesting and friendly bunch. A lyrical end to a wonderful trip to Budapest city. I will see you again very soon.

Hope you enjoyed the read and come back for more.

Jess x


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