It’s possible I’ve never been anywhere so bitingly, freeze-you-to-the-bone-marrow, cold. Yet somehow I find myself standing in a bikini, kicking off my flip flops and contemplating diving into an outdoor pool. With more than a moment’s hesitation I take the plunge. Luckily for me, not only is it a heated pool, but the ornate Széchenyi thermal baths. The water is the perfect tonic to my aching muscles after a spontaneous hour spent ice-skating on a frozen lake in the City Park. The evening has drawn in, and under the warm glow of floodlights, steam is rising from the blue water into the inky darkness above. Flakes of snow begin to flutter down. It is dream-busting perfection. For a while I stew myself in the mineral waters, before reaching to feel that my hair is beginning to freeze; I have a flashback to a scene of macaques bathing in hot springs in Japan, red in the face and with icy fur. Enough monkeying about.
And so to the famous Ruin bars. Meeting up with some friends coincidentally also visiting Budapest that weekend in a bar, we navigated streets emptied of life by winter. We found M Restaurant decorated with scribbles on brown wrapping paper, where we had the richest, heartiest, tender duck meat falling off bones dinner ever. Perhaps Budapest is populated in abundance with unrestrained doodlers, but the Szimpla bar next door was also decorated with scrawled writing and drawing on the wall. A fun night fueled by a corrupting Pálinka or six ensued. Good times.
How could day two possibly top that? Somehow it did. For the handsome sum of £3. The guidebooks said to expect grandeur at the Hungarian National Opera House – this was a rare understatement. From the rich marble staircases in the entrance lobby, to the row upon row of celebrity squares seating with red velvet cushions a bright contrast to the gold encrusted everything. No matter how fat the opera singers, I was sure they wouldn’t be able to compete with their surroundings. Alas, wrong again. I was blown away by the Hungarian State Opera‘s production of Faust. So much so, that the only way to describe it is to paraphrase someone the boyfriend spoke to during intermission:
I have absolutely no idea what’s going on, but it’s spectacular
Two nights in Budapest. Let the days speak for themselves.
I traveled to Budapest on Easyjet from London, and stayed at a fantastic apartment found on Airbnb.