The Grand City
"You're in Buda, looking over Pest aren't you, Raphael?" - My Father
Me, somewhat smugly, "No, specifically the other way round."
"Oh, Pest is on the hill?"
The next day, we were wondering around Budapest and realised our error. The day before, we had in fact been in Buda looking down on Pest and I meekly apologised to my Father for correcting him without any humility. That was our first day, we had just arrived and went for a wander past the Hungarian Parliament building, along the Danube and up into the hills overlooking Pest, though we all thought otherwise. The first thing we were struck by, or at least I was, was the sheer beauty of our surroundings. Whether that be the remarkably grand - hence the title - Parliament buildings, Buda Castle (which really should have been the giveaway as to whether we were in Buda or Pest on the first day) or the views across the Danube. It's a weird beauty. A lot of the buildings are fairly modern, especially compared to their look, deliberately built to look older. It does not quite go, an odd mix of colours and styles but it all sort of makes sense. Kind of. If you did not really think about it.
I couldn't quite put my finger on the city. It's undoubtedly beautiful, breathtaking in fact. The river is dramatic and bisects the city in a way that almost feels intentional. The views from the various bridges made me stop in awe, delighted to soak it in and always happy to venture from Buda to Pest or the other way round. Despite everything you would have thought it normal to write home about, none of the buildings or views or monuments or museums were what actually stood out. And that was weird. Really weird, in fact.
It was the baths. The baths, though located in buildings that befitted the surroundings, had obviously been updated and offered respite from the bustle of the city. Budapest's baths are, of course, famous, but they easily made the trip in a way that was not expected. Which feels weird. Because you can sit in a swimming pool anywhere and you don't need to fly out to Budapest to share a bath with your friends (even if doing so n the privacy of your own home may raise a few eyebrows). Because the city has a wonderful National Gallery that does a superb job of showcasing Hungarian art, is put together masterfully where you can easily spend a few hours. Because we didn't even fit in the Hungarian Parliament, despite wandering past it a few times. Because the views are stupendous, the main Synagogue excellent, Fisherman's Bastian stunning, the market vibrant, Heroes' Square and surrounding area astounding. Yet somehow, despite all that, being swept around in a circle by a current in the middle of a swimming pool, bobbing up in a wave pool and just generally relaxing in the baths was what made a city break into a holiday.
Maybe it's because Budapest is just so stunning you have to wander around everywhere, walking across the bridges and into the castles and museums that the opportunity to sit around and do nothing in beautifully warm water was so required. The baths were the perfect way to end both of the full days I was there, somehow the lazy finish set you up for dinner perfectly. Wandering around Budapest made you feel like you earned dinner, as if taking it all in required more effort and energy than you'd expect. Budapest is beautiful, stunning, breathtaking and yes, it is remarkably grand...up there, in my opinion, with Prague or Paris or Rome. And that certainly means I'll be back. With a spare set of swimming trunks.
The Boring Stuff
The taxi app used is called 'Taxify' and it doesn't appear to take credit cards, only debit.
The Kosher food was delicious. Carmel better than Hanna, both in terms of food and service (value was about the same) for meat and Tel Aviv an excellent milky breakfast or lunch spot.
AirBnBs seemed cheap, especially between four people. Look around, you'll definitely find a bargain.
BOOK for the Hungarian Parliament in advance (if you want to go). You cannot get in without a tour and they are normally sold out for the day by the time you arrive.
We went to two of the baths. I forget their names, but one is known for being in a beautiful building and the other is in Heroes' Square, itself worth a a couple of hours for a wander.
WALK. Everything we did was within walking distance and walking is easily the way to see the city.
The main Synagogue has an excellent museum, which has a real focus on Hungarian artefacts making it stand out amongst Jewish museums I have visited, which are normally quite similar and dull.
Public toilets are not free! We used hotels.
There is plenty to do and see in Buda. It is worth setting aside some time just to wander around, enjoy the view and take photos as well as time to go into the various buildings. We spent an afternoon and early evening as well as the next morning and afternoon and still had not seen everything.