This was about a week ago now so my recollection of these two days may be a bit foggy.
On the day after the castle I went to Kerepsi Cemetery . It is a huge, oppressive place filled with both huge monumental mussuleums and tiny little graves, graves with huge statues and graves which are do faded you can’t even read who was buried there, and graves dating from the 1700s to 2013. There were meant to be graves from the 1600s onwards but I really could not find them.
It was interesting but to tell the truth the place started to give me an existential crisis and then I managed to get lost and it was getting dark so there was a fairly real moment when I thought I might actually be stuck with the ghosts all night, but I eventually followed some living (I think) people to safety.
As luck would have it I actually passed Keleti train station on the way to the cemetery and so I went in after to buy a ticket to Romania. I was really lucky actually because it turned out the tickets to Brasov were on offer and there were about 5 left for 5200 HUF aka £17. I was going to get a bus there but that was actually the cheapest offer I could see so I booked my ticket and headed to a ruin bar.
I’m not really in the habit of going to bars alone (drinking alone is a totally different matter, but going to a bar alone can make you feel creepy and/or sad) and ended up drinking an ‘American Beauty’ craft beer and doing some ghostwriting work in the middle of the bar. It didn’t really look like it was actually in a ruin but the décor was pretty interesting.
The next day I went along Andrassy Ut to Hosok There and caught a glimpse of the famous Szechenyi bath house. I was planning on going to the baths that day but I’d somehow forgotten bikini bottoms at home (home as in London) and literally no shops seemed to be selling them so I gave up and went to the ‘House of Terror’ instead.
I actually got into the House of Terror for free for being under 26 and it being the first Sunday of the month. They did have English information sheets in most of the rooms but basically everything else was in Hungarian so it was a little confusing at times, but it still gives you an insight into Nazism and Communism as experienced by Hungary. The building they use is actually the former headquarters of the Arrow Cross party and they even show you the prison cells below at the end of the exhibit.
It does tend to focus on Communism far more than Nazism which some people take to be a sign of guilt for Hungary’s role in the war, bug you also have to remember that Communism was around in Hungary a lot longer than Nazism was.
When you don’t live in a formerly communist country you don’t tend to learn all that much about it. Sure you’ve heard of it and you probably think it was bad, but you don’t get the details in the same way that you do with Nazi Germany. House of Terror was really interesting because it uses a mix of propaganda from the time, information sheets, artifacts and testimonies to give you an idea of what went on. Things like people being locked up for years, tortured and beheaded, over worked, given impossible quotas, not even being told that their husbands had died until months later…
Obviously different countries experienced it slightly differently but you forget how wide spread it was. Literally every place I’ve been to on this trip had been a formerly communist state. I didn’t even plan it, it just turns out huge chunks if Europe were communist and get when you learn about it you normally only talk about Russia and Asia. And maybe Berlin.
I found an awesome cheap and began burger place about five minutes away from Friends hostel in Octagon. I don’t know what they make the burgers out if but it is really tasty without a single carrot in sight, they add loads of vegetables so you feel extra healthy and it’s only 600 HUF!
The next day I was determined to go to a thermal bath before leaving Budapest and my train wasn’t till 7:10 pm so I checked out of the hostel and headed to The West End shopping centre that I had visited on my first day. There I didn’t have much luck at first and the only bikini bottoms I could find were 4200 HUF (pretty much the same as the entrance ticket to the baths) but eventually I found some along with some flip flops so I was good to go.
I had been planning to go to the cheapest possible baths but realistically I had no idea where they were and not all that much time so I just went back to Szechenyi. The ticket only costs about £13 and you do kind of have to go there if you’re in the area.
The thermal baths are pretty amazing. It’s November and you can see loads of people in swimming costumes in the water outside and so when you first dip your toes in you think it must be freezing and these people are nuts but it’s actually warm. Outside. In November. With steam coming off it and all.
One thing you have to remember is that the water is, or at least seemed to be, chlorinated. It kinda had to be because of all the people but it’s not exactly the beautiful cleansing experience you envision. Never the less it is still pretty amazing just to be in an outdoor pool in November and it be warmer than anything you’ll find indoors. There is one warm pool, a swimming pool and a hot pool outside and the best one is the hot one.
The inside area is pretty huge as well. There are loads of different sizes pools, saunas, and steam rooms. I’d never been in a steam room before but it was definitely the best bit if the baths for me. It is literally impossible not to be relaxed in the steam room, although the amount of people who kept coming in and out and leaving the door open kind of took away from the experience a bit. But still the best, the music, the lights and the steam were brilliant. I think I went into the steam room about 5 different times in total and if I’m ever rich enough I am definitely buying one for my house.
The saunas were also pretty impressive and it’s amazing because when you walk outside after (you have to walk across the outdoor pool area to get back to the changing rooms) it is literally November but you feel all warm and heavenly.
After the baths I had to hurry back for my train to Brasov so keep your eyes peeled for all the (not so) gory details.