Pushing further into Central Europe we headed to Budapest. Famous for its castle, thermal baths and well quite a bit of history Budapest has captured my imagination since middle school. For me there is just some mystic surrounding Budapest that I can’t explain. Exotic and historical, Budapest seeps in its own past.
Buda castle and it’s old city were beautiful and interesting, but it was beneath Buda castle that we found the really intriguing part of Budapest. The labyrinth as its called is a series of caves underneath Buda castle. A vast network dug out over time, starting with the Romans, the caves have been witness to the history of Budapest, from providing refuge during times of war, to cellars to ferment wine and store food, the caves have a history as far back as Budapest it’s self. Not that you’d ever know that going to the Labyrinth itself. Dark, damp and slightly mildewy, the caves have been turned into a rather hokey tourist attraction. Strange counterfeit cave drawings decorate the walls and there are mysterious statues and sculptures throught the caves. Without any explanation the whole things seemed a bit bizarre and by the end it had collapsed into a joke. We emerged into the daylight wondering why we had paid entrance to the place.
Fortunately, there were few surprises at Budapest´s famous thermal baths.
It is said if you dig a hole in Budapest you´ll find a thermal spring. This of course is Europe, so the hot springs (baths) aren´t natural pools, they are magnificent victorian bath houses, ornately decorated with fountains, roman columns, the whole nine yards. We checked in to the Szechenyi Baths , changed and emerged on the deck ready to relax.
Unfortunately, the baths themselves didn´t seem very hot so after soaking in luke warm water for a few minutes we headed for the saunas. Marked, 60-80 degrees Celcius, the sauna thermometer actually read 81. Finally a little heat. Less than 2 minutes after getting to the sauna we left sweating profusely, showered off and jumped into an ice cold bath. Heat and repeat seemed to be the motto, and we completed the cycle a few times before tapping out. Feeling healthy and sort of like steamed vegetables, we decided enough was enough and went out for some ice cream. (Ok, we didn´t, but I wanted to!)
Budapest is a lovely city and despite failing to obtain visas for central asia, another of our goals while in Budapest, we had a great time and definitely would love to return.
*Pictures from Rick Steves . Promise we´ll upload some soon!