My Top Five of Hungary
We spent a few weeks in Hungary, travelling mostly in the area around Budapest, and I loved it! It was a country I didn’t know much about, but I had been curious to know more for a long time. Especially with everyone raving to us about how incredible Budapest is, I was sold and I couldn’t wait to see it for myself. I will hopefully visit again, but for now, here are my top five things we saw this time around!
The Puszta Great Plains
The Puszta Great Plains is a large, incredibly beautiful region encompassing most of southeastern Hungary. We were lucky enough to be volunteering along the northern edge of the plains, quite close to Hortobágy National Park, and flocks of cranes flying overhead brightened up our mornings. The region is characterized for its grassy, treeless plains stretching out into the horizon, but famous for its bird-life, Hungarian Grey Cattle, and the Hortobágy Stud, one of just two breeding centres for Hungarian Nonius horses. While we didn’t manage to see one of the amazing talents of the csikós (mounted horse-herdsman, a.k.a. cowboys for horses) check out the (slightly cheesy) video above for a glimpse into this amazing tradition!
Sitting in the northeast corner of the country is the Hungarian pearl of Eger. Famous for its wine and the medicinal waters, the city also has a dazzling collection of beautiful architecture for you to check out. Make sure you buy a few bottles of Egri Bikavér, the most famous (and delicious!) of Eger’s wines, but don’t miss out on the cellars of the Valley of Beautiful Women either! You can go from cellar to cellar tasting wine produced from the local vineyards. Another neat spot to see: a lone minaret left behind by the Ottoman empire, one of the northernmost left in Europe. For a small fee you can climb the dizzying staircase and get an incredible view of the city, but make sure you aren’t afraid of heights!
Széchenyi Thermal Bath, Budapest
Mmm, the Hungarians know how to relax in style. All over Hungary you’ll find thermal baths to soak away your troubles, but Budapest takes it to another level. Of the various baths Budapest has to offer, we chose the Széchenyi Thermal Bath and it was INCREDIBLE (Check out more of the pictures here)! The baths are contained within a beautiful complex of Neo-baroque buildings, the largest in Europe in fact, and are supplied by two thermal springs. The locker rooms alone are massive, and we couldn’t believe how many pools, tubs, saunas, steams, and even bucket showers (in a variety of temperatures and mineral contents no less!) the rooms held. Even though it was chilly outside the outdoor pools were still packed and steam puffed up from the warm pools. No matter how old you are, don’t forget to give the whirl pool a spin (see what I did there?)! I’m not even a little bit embarrassed to admit how much fun whipping around that whirlpool was. Whatever the reason you find yourself in Budapest, make time for the baths!
Buda Castle, Budapest
Exploring Buda Castle could easily take days, but we did our best to make a good dent in it over a sunny afternoon! While there is a lot to see, including great views of the Danube and city, museums, galleries, and lots more, the Fishermen’s Bastion (above) was my favourite spot. A relatively recent addition (built 100 years ago) it was constructed to commemorate the fishermen who plied their trade in the market below during medieval times. The seven turrets (gnome hats!) represent the seven Hungarian tribes that moved into the Carpathian basin more than 1100 years ago. Just behind the bastion, the Matthias Church, with its incredibly, multi-colour roof, is another must-see during your visit to Buda Castle. We didn’t go into any of the museums (I know, boo to us but they were expensive) but there are lots of really interesting ones like the Labyrinth and the Hospital in the Rock for you to check out.
Of those that have visited, who doesn’t love Budapest? This is the one city Nat and I have heard nothing but good things about since we started travelling. And, for me at least, it lived up to all my hopes and expectations. Cycling through its busy streets I don’t think I had ever fallen in love with a city so quickly. The place has a great energy to it, it’s thriving and you can feel it. Highlights for me (besides the spas and Buda Castle mentioned above) included taking advantage of the great city bike system, the Parliament Building, Vajdahunyad Castle, and checking out the ruin pubs. Don’t miss out!