Tonight is officially my last night in Budapest, and though I'd like to stay longer my desire to have enough time in Romania coupled with the fact that my hostel is totally booked over the weekend means I leave tomorrow evening for Brasov, Romania.
My time in Budapest has been amazing from minute 1, and I could not have asked for better accomodations. It's not even that my hostel is cheap, but the fact that I feel like I'm hanging out in someone's living room, completely at home. As soon as I got here I was treated like a friend and was offered food, homemade wine, and sat down for several hours of conversation of what to do in the city. Hungarian as a language is absolutely incomprehensible to me, and I can't even pretend to know what's going on. My bumbling American mouth can't begin to attempt the subtle differences between the 12 different Hungarian vowels. But it's great feeling removed from the rest of Western Europe and one definitively notices a difference in the atmosphere once in the city. And as for the city, it may very well be one of the most magnificent and gorgeous places I've visited. The only thing more beautiful than Budapest is Budapest by night. I had the chance to climb the citadel on the Buda side of the river (didn't know beforehand that Budapest is actually 'Buda' and 'Pest' separated by the Danube river) on my first night of arrival, which provided stunning views of some of the most impressive buildings I've seen thus far.
My second day I was feeling quite worn out from all my walking, so I headed to the natural thermal spas located in the city. The one I went to was the largest complex, and although a bit confusing in the beginning, I got my changing cabin and found my way to the baths. I don't remember how many there were, but someone at my hostel claimed 18 indoor, and 2 outdoor (don't quote me on those numbers). I do know there were a heck of a lot, all with different temperatures and purposes. Types of pools included many regular hot tub style of varying temperatures, one for doing aerobics, one with a circular current, and a room full of baths emitting gasses and other natural elements. The outside pools were my favorite and much larger, with fountains cascading heavy streams of water to provide massages on the neck and back. They also had saunas of every variety, from dry to steam heat, aroma therapy, and light therapy. Outside of the hottest they provided cold water baths, and the very hottest had a room to massage yourself with ice. It was absolutely ridiculous and over the top. I spent over three and a half hours just wandering from bath to sauna and back again. Being the off season for tourism meant that the spas weren't too crowded or saturated with obnoxious foreigners. It seemed that most of the clientele were older Hungarian folk, relaxing, chatting, or playing chess within the pool. All that relaxing wore me out and worked up my appetite, so I didn't do much else exciting for the day except eat some food from a street vendor and call it a night.
Today my big activity was heading slightly out of town with two others from the hostel to go caving under the city. Budapest has heaps of underground tunnels in the limestone thanks to all the thermal springs, and our hostel arranged a tour for us even though they weren't scheduled to run today. It was only the three of us plus the guide, so we got a great, personalized tour through the caves. I was told before leaving that the trip can be a bit claustrophobic and that I should be ready for small spaces. I did not, however, imagine we would be crawling through some of the spots that we did. At some points the guide would have to tell us exactly how to fit through; "left arm straight ahead, on your right side, head up, push with your right leg." I would look at some of the holes we went through and think, "there's no flipping way I can fit through that!" but somehow my body flattened out as we crept through tunnels and passageways deep below the city. Several times we would reach an open spot, turn off our lights and sit in absolute silence and darkness, enjoying the peace and tranquility of the caves. It was incredible and not something I was expecting to do when visiting a bustling metropolis such as Budapest.
But sadly tomorrow I must continue on. I will hopefully wake up early enough for a free walking tour through the city (Assuming it still goes. Tomorrow is a national holiday so many things are closed) before grabbing a night train to Brasov, where I will be for a short time before reversing course and heading back west and north to my cousin Anna's in Germany. I'm having a heck of a great time travelling at the moment, but I am equally as thrilled to visit my cousin and her family. Part of me wants more time to explore on my own, and the other can't wait to be with loved ones and I'm very anxious to see them.