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broodings from the burrow

April 13, 2015

budapest, day two: background, bikes, bath, and bar
posted by soe 2:03 am

[The start to our Hungarian trip can be found summarized here.]

After a fortifying and thorough morning meal in what was once the palace’s courtyard and now serves as the breakfast room, Rudi and I checked out of the Hotel Palazzo Zichy. Because we had a few hours to kill before check-in opened at our next hotel, we opted to spend midday at the nearby Hungarian National Museum, where we could put our luggage in storage, boning up on the history of our host nation. I came away with a few pieces of information:

Mosaic Design

  1. Hungary was invaded a lot.
  2. If you, like me, have not made the connection, Hungary<---Huns (as in Atilla the).
  3. Hungary, despite their Soviet overlords, had a relatively robust middle class even before the fall of Communism in the late 1980s. Their nation was considered one of, if not the, most liberal of the Eastern Bloc.
  4. A lapidarium is not a pool, but a repository of stone artifacts. The museum’s, located in the basement below the cafe, is home to a beautiful mosaic floor that dates back to the 3rd century A.D.
  5. To photograph much of the museum and its collection requires an extra fee. We are cheap.

Rudi on the Steps of the Hungarian National Museum

We settled into our new hotel, the Gerlóczy Rooms deLux, a charming inn centrally located in the Belváros neighborhood. With 19 rooms above a French-style cafe, the hotel felt intimate and cozy. Our room was one of four tucked into the attic and featured exposed beams and a pedestal bed. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Jo and her garrett.

Our Room at Gerlóczy

Teatime at Gerlóczy

After a meal of tea and desserts at the cafe, we decided it was time to go in search of a thermal bath. Our friends Michael and Julia had recommended Gellert Baths, which our guidebook likened to bathing in a temple. What we had not bargained for was the early closing time and the exorbitant price. (It should be noted here that I had not done an adequate job in researching exchange rates and so spent much of the trip believing things cost way more than they actually did.) Between the two, we were a bit put off and decided to try our luck at one of the other, less posh baths.

BuBi Bike and Liberty Bridge

Living in D.C., one of the first things I’d done when researching our trip was to see whether Budapest had a bike-sharing system. I was pleased to discover they had installed a system last fall and we quickly decided if it wasn’t too cold (for me; Rudi wouldn’t have cared), we’d make that our primary means of getting around. BuBi (Budapest Bikes, or whatever the Hungarian translation is) have stations near most of the tourist destinations and up and down both banks of the river. We pedaled up the river to Király Baths, pausing to capture the moon over the Parliament Building in Pest.

Full Moon over Parliament

Király Baths is a domed Turkish-style bath and dates back to 1570. While it clearly hasn’t been renovated in a while, it has recently switched to being co-ed all the time and its old-fashioned, bare-bones features do not detract from the relaxing nature of its pools. Being a Friday evening shortly before closing, it wasn’t crowded, which allowed us to enjoy a relaxing hour or so of soaking in 85-100 degree water in a couple different pools without feeling overwhelmed.

Szabadsajtó út and Elizabeth Bridge

After biking back across the river (and adding a couple extra miles because I couldn’t figure out in the dark how to access the bridge we wanted from the bike path), we docked our bikes at the station adjacent to our hotel and headed out on the town. We ate a mediocre dinner of microwaved fast-food crepes (and more spinach goo) and then headed to the Jewish quarter to experience a ruin bar.


Ruin bars are a Budapest institution. They pop up in unwanted spaces — abandoned buildings, empty lots, alleyways — and are, for the most part, bare bones. Szimpla is the oldest ruin bar still in existence in the city and is ridiculously popular, especially just before midnight on Friday night. As such, I think it’s slightly more built up than most of its kin. It’s also covered, which means it can operate in cold weather, although it remains unheated (thus Rudi’s bundledness). We waited in line for half an hour to get in and, once past the bouncers, found ourselves carried along by throngs of people cavorting from one of the six bar rooms to another. It was way too college drinking days for my tastes and I’m afraid I was not the most poker-faced in my expression to Rudi. So while I suggested sticking around for a second drink if he were so inclined, I think he felt, and correctly so, that my offer was a little hollow. We returned to the hotel to hit the hay.

Rudi at Szimpla Ruin Bar

[There are a couple more photos in this Flickr album.]

Category: travel. There is/are 2 Comments.

looks like a fun place to go and we are on the frugal side when it comes to paying for admission and such. Old habits and all of that.

Comment by karen 04.16.15 @ 9:16 am

@karen: It was. I completely understand about frugality. It’s a good habit to have.

Comment by soe 05.05.15 @ 10:23 am