Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Bathing in Budapest!

Finally the rest of our Budapest visit. As enjoyable as the Opera and the cafe was, it was not the grand total of our four plus days in Hungary's capital. Despite the bad weather (it rained HARD over half the time we were there) we did a good job of getting out and exploring an interesting town. Our two big highlights were the House of Terror and the Baths in City Park.

The House of Terror (terrible name, good museum) was the former headquarters for both the Arrowcross (Nazi-occupied Hungary's version of the Gestapo) and the AVO/AVH (communist version of the secret police). It's now a museum covering that time of terror. The museum itself was interesting and had a number of exhibits that certainly seemed fairly moving. Unfortunately for us (and everyone else from a number of countries that pointed out the same issue) there was very little information in anything other than Hungarian (There were page-long general description in each room (though nowhere to sit and read them), but little Engish in the captions/labels/etc.) As a result, we were left to look at pictures and read the sparse english descriptions. Throw in the very unfriendly security guards and staff and we were left with the opinion that it was a worthwhile experience (we still learned a lot about the various regime's brutal suppression of radical movements) but one that could have been improved exponentially with just a little bit of effort on the museum's part.

The other story from the Terror Museum was Becca catching her toe on a metal letter and ripping it open pretty good (Casualty score for the trip so far: Becca 3, Brian 0). Of course, we didn't realize how badly she'd cut it until she'd walked across a room leaving a slow drip of blood across the floor. Talk about trying to make the museum interactive...

(And we can't decide whether splattering the floor with blood at a Terror Museum was incredibly appropriate or incredibly inappropriate)

The other big highlight of the trip was a visit to the Szechenyi Baths. Hungary's Carpathian Basin is a thin crust on top of a lot of hot water. As a result, Budapest is the home of 123 natural springs and 27 thermal baths. We decided to check one of the thermal baths out as we had been told this was a great opportunity to hang out with the locals and experience a Hungarian tradition. I have to admit I was pretty excited about the idea of just hanging out in the warm baths for an afternoon (this despite the fact that I'm not a big water guy) as the bed in our hostel had caused by back to lock up pretty severely. Despite some inappropriate mental images of people in ill-fitting speedos, we headed out to the baths.

It ended up being just a cool experience. Neither one of us figured we'd be there for more than an hour or so but three hours later we were wishing we'd shown up earlier. We just spent the overcast afternoon going back and forth between the two outdoor pools in a wonderful royal like setting with statues etc. One pool was cooler (with bubbles and fountains and a fun current track to float around) and one was quite warm (with hard shower like fountains to work your neck and back and men playing chess).

We also made a couple quick detours into one of the indoor mineral baths (water is a little green as a result) to refresh the body. Becca went outside of her comfort zone and tried the sauna with me but lasted about 30 seconds (I wasn't much better; it was certainly hotter than the saunas at home) before exiting and plunging herself in the cold water. Sure we ended up all wrinkly but we were pretty happy to have experienced a true Hungarian treat.

In all, we were glad we had come to Budapest. Though it didn't make its way into our top cities ever, it was a nice look into a place that had once ruled and empire, then been devastated by two oppresive regimes, and now was getting back on its feet with a vengence.

Brian

1 comment:

wadE said...

So settle something for me... as far as pro-noun-see-ay-shun...

is it Buda-pest or Buda-pesh?