My Thanksgiving unfolded in the land of Budapest. The city stands more than 1100 years old, snaked around the Danube, it has been dominated by multiple leaders and occupations. Budapest felt relatively like walking around Paris, adorned with intricate facades, stunning statues, and fabled with stories of promiscuous artists generating their work across ceilings and walls to support their boisterious lifestyles.
.Most of the buildings were erected in the late 19th century in celebration of the upcoming millennium and recreated a sense of Parisian art nouveau. Even with a cold chill from the Danube, some of my highlights involved roaming the streets along the river, and gazing upward at the buildings….
Besides strolling around, here are the things you might want to get your high on in Budapest
1) Take in a bath! Budapest is known for its thermal hot springs. I went with a couple of girlfriends, and so the ladies and I took two of the baths during our 2.5 day excursion. In Budapest, unless it is a gender specific day, you wear your bathing suit. Most spas have dry and wet saunas and pools of different temperatures. Many people go and just hang out. We spent over 5 hours total hopping from sauna to pool to sauna to pool. The setting of the second one SZECHENYI stole our affection. There was circular tide in an outdoor pool there that pushed us along a current in a circle . We linked arms and like little girls giggled and laughed and snorted. Hours of conversation and relaxing equaled to a deepening of connection (from playing around, to showing each other who can float and who cannot, to analyzing our relationships and dreams) the space makes you feel free….
2) Coffee and Cake breaks. We took three official coffee breaks, but I completely loved the one located in the top floor of a huge bookstore, called Alexandra.. Why did I love this place? First, we had been walking in very cold weather almost 2 hours, and craved something warm. Second…look at the setting.
The spacious ceilings splash the work of Karoly Lotz (that womanizing artist who needed to ALWAYS produce something to maintain his affection with the ladies). Not as busy or crowded as a Parisian cafe, but as elegant and tasty. I drank a 1cl glass of white oazariesling for $1.25 (or 375 HUF) and bought a bottle to take back home for around $3.75. Then we sampled three cakes, each $1 (or 350 HUF). A light quark/cottage cheese and apricot tart, a cherry merengue and a poppyseed cake (which is very traditional). Lovely and pleasant.
The company, (talking about Hungarian culture and American culture) the setting, the wine and cake, the reprieve from the cold…all made it an hour to remember. We also visited the oldest coffee shop in the city, called Ruszworm.
Opened since 1827, this tiny two room location have offered treats so tasty that queen Elizabeth made her servant get treats every morning (it was also the birthplace of the Linzer cookie!). We visited Gerbeaud as well (a grand coffee shop in the center square that was started in a grand style by A swiss chef. It is HUGE and the most touristy).
3) A walking tour with Intrepid Travel….I’ve done lots of these tours in the past year or so (2 in Istanbul, China, 2 in Marrakesh, now Budapest) and one thing I love: the personal experience of getting shown a location by a local, who is willing to answer all my questions about his or her life. Tomas, our guide, not only told stories, provided history, gave us details about folklore, but also extended a caring spirit. Fro example…this looks to the unaware eye like a black slab of marble with a flame, right?
It represents the lives lost in the social uprising against Communist occupation in 1956. I reveled in this monument. The sense that the human spirit will always long for a sense of freedom, to be able to work in fairness, and when united, that flame continues. The children, running around it, a perfect moment in that cold morning, reminding me how precious my own freedom feels.
Tomas was an excellent host. He emailed me after a list of Hungarian songwriters for my interested friend to try out. Anytime you are visiting a city, be sure to check out if they have any Urban Adventure Tours.
4) Going to the ballet with unbrushed hair and backpacks and being so close to see muscles and hear flute spit. Which means, my friend scored us FRONT ROW tickets to the Taming of the Shrew. I felt like a child scrunched up near the front, my elbows on the ledge, watching the violinists enter, or follow music, then glancing up and checking out the details of the dresses, the makeup, the lines of muscles. Wonderful, and not a form of entertainment that I typically engage in. So delightful. (Sorry! No photos from inside the ballet…)
5) Did I mention how awesome just walking around was? Look at the grandeur of the city!
Plus…awesome little “breaks” during the vacation…Like a 15K solo jog one morning, up to Margaret Island and back (It is is a 2.5 km (1.6 mi) long island). The island mostly consists of a park and is a popular recreational area for tourists and locals alike. And Wine Tasting!
Even got to try on my first Versace!
Shopping, Eating Cake, Balleting, Swimming, NOT floating, SAUNA-ing, Chatting, Coffee and Wine Drinking and Walking Walking Walking with the ladies….
I am Thankful for these Wild Ways….the Highs, the Lows…and
All my Travels………