Alex Spencer reminisces
When I arrived in Budapest in early August, I had no expectations. It was my first time in Eastern Europe, so I was ready to embrace a completely new place.
We began our time in Budapest by attending Sziget Festival. Hundreds of thousands of people gather to see the biggest artists in the music industry on a small island on the Danube River. The festival is very international and, unlike bigger festivals such as Tomorrowland, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Here, it is not uncommon to indulge in street food and cheap drinks to sustain you. If I could describe my culinary experience at Sziget it would be: kebabs on kebabs on kebabs. Oh, and a mojito. With over 100,000 people camping and partying on the island, you are never short of things to do or people to meet; it’s like an intense, boozy summer camp packed into seven days.
After the festival ended, we were in desperate need of a break from the heat. One of the biggest attractions in Budapest are the thermal baths, and have been since the Romans. They were the first to bask in the thermal waters of Budapest, then the Turks, and in current times, the humble tourists such as myself. We went to Lukács Thermal Bath, one of the local baths; young and old alike gathered in the baths to escape from the unusually hot temperatures. Lukács Bath functions not only as a spa, but as a hospital, an outdoor gym, and a tanning salon. You can do just about anything. The Hungarian approach to health and fitness is very different from what I am used to. Unlike usual, I wasn’t surrounded by a bunch of beef heads who are composed of protein powder.
Budapest also has an amazing nightlife. They have a bar dedicated to almost any niche thing you could imagine, and the street food on a Friday night would definitely put Dervish to shame. The ruin bars, a collection of abandoned buildings that have been turned into quirky bars, are a happening area at night. My favorite, Szimpla Kert, is like walking into the dreamscape of Jimi Hendrix and Alice in Wonderland’s child. The outside looks completely drab and decrepit, while the inside is completely haphazard, colorful and loud. Minimalism does not exist: ropes, prosthetic limbs and rubber chickens all dangle from the ceiling. It is a bizarre and magical place, a place I dream of going to again.
Budapest is a young, lively city and one of the coolest capitals in Europe. The revitalisation of its downtown in the Jewish Quarter is considered the most hip area in the city, and largely due to the younger generation who live there. Here you can find many of the best bars and food stands. Communism casts a long shadow over Budapest, but this city is unrelenting. It refuses to be anchored by it’s recent past, and I will miss Budapest dearly.
Photo Credit to Alex Spencer