Budapest

It would be more accurate to title this post Pest, because we never actually made it across the river to Buda. We managed to experience something of the Hungarian capital today but there is much more that we could have seen and done.

After our overview on the RiverRide yesterday we talked about what we might do today and how to manage it. Majella was keen to try one of the hot spa baths and was encouraged in that by comments from Angela who had been here. She was also keen to use the Mol Bubi bicycles as a flexible way of getting around the city. In addition we had comments from friends who had visited the Parliament building and who had not managed to get to the island. All of those pieces contributed to our thinking about today.

None of that required an early start so we did not hurry breakfast. About 8:30 am we started looking more closely at how we might get tickets for the city bicycles. Majella had read some material last night and had a look at the information on the cycles in the courtyard of our apartment complex. We walked the 100 m or so to the local office but they did not open until 9:00 am and my reading suggested the one day ticket had to be bought online. Back in the apartment I managed to work through that process on the laptop and received a TXT message with a PIN linked to my French mobile number. I was surprised that I had not needed to provide a credit card number for payment.

We tried those details in the courtyard without success so we walked back to the nearby office to try there. Majella asked a young man in the office who helped me to get through the process once I had downloaded the app to my iPhone. With my credit card details entered I was able to buy the 2 one-day tickets we needed. The app also made it easier to access the bikes by scanning the QR code code on the bike rather than entering my phone number and PIN each time.

DSC_7308Once we had the bikes we were off. First destination was Széchenyi thermal baths, almost 4 km away. That required us to ride bikes up Andrássy avenue with all the traffic that entailed. Fortunately Budapest has marked cycle lanes in many places and, based on cyclists we have seen, a relaxed attitude to cycles using footpaths. We made it to the park at the end of the avenue, dropped our bicycles in the docking stations to avoid the charge for exceeding 30 minutes use, and then walked to find the spa. We found the rear entrance which is not as impressive as the front but Majella assured me later that the experience was well worth the cost of admission. While she enjoyed the spa for an hour or so, I wandered the park, had coffee, and read some news from home.

DSC_7327Once Majella was done we cycled the 4 km back to the apartment to drop her wet things. On the way back we were a little more relaxed about the traffic, because most drivers seemed aware of bicycles, so we were able to appreciate some of the magnificient old buildings. Back at the apartment we had coffee, rested for a bit, and then walked out in search of lunch. We sat in a park and shared a ham, cheese and tomato roll from a bakery before picking up more bikes and continuing our adventure.

DSC_7332The Hungarian Parliament building is a large and impressive edifice so we headed in that direction thinking we might take the tour. Soon after we deposited our bikes just short of Parliament we we distracted by an alternative attraction, the Szamos Csokoládé Múzeum. We perused the exhibits, watched a video, sampled some chocolate, and had hot chocolate and coffee in the café before moving on. We did consider the Parliament but the last tour in English for today had just departed and we did not think the museum would be a suitable alternative.

DSC_7342Our next target was the Margaret Island (Margitsziget) in the middle of the Danube. We walked to the Margit Hid (bridge) that connects to the island, picked up fresh bikes, and cycled across the bridge to the island. The island is a green oasis in a busy city and lots of people were enjoying the sunshine. Majella had read about a musical fountain on the island so we went in search of that. The island is about 2.5 km long and, although I noticed a fountain soon after we arrived on the island, we seemed to be seeing signs and maps indicating it was at the far end.

DSC_7345Majella was beginning to feel the effects of all her cycling in various parts of her anatomy so we alternated cycling and walking during the afternoon, dropping cycles at one point and picking up at the next. Eventually we found ourselves at the far end of the island with no sign of the musical fountain. However, it was about time for one of the afternoon RiverRide trips to enter the water. We moved to the Pest side of the island and were just in time to see the bus appear, drive down the ramp, and set off down the Danube.

DSC_7361We cycled back up that side of the island and found the fountain near the end where we had entered. Once again our timing was impeccable. We arrived just in time to enjoy 20 minutes or so of fountains rising, falling, and spinning in time with music played from speakers around the fountain. It was an impressive display but I was especially taken by the small boy who stood by the fountain at various times conducting the performance. Perhaps he is a future Hungarian virtuoso.

We alternately cycled and walked back to the apartment, picking up some sausages, tomato, bread rolls and other items at a store on the way. Majella was thoroughly bushed and enjoyed a cider while I cooked the sausages and tomato with some of the sheep’s cheese we had bought in Slovakia yesterday. It made a simple but tasty meal.