Budapest Travel Blog› entry 4 of 7 › view all entries
Baths have existed in Budapest since Roman times. The Turks were the ones who best exploited Budapest's numerous natural hot springs. The major attractions of this kind that I wanted to check out were the Gellért Baths (I ended up not getting there) and the Széchenyi Baths. Gellért was just too far from where we were late in the afternoon, and since they close at 6 I was afraid it wasn't worth the dash across town. Széchenyi, in Városliget, is even farther. So, while walking down Margit Körút towards the river I saw that the Lukász and Király Baths were closest. Király was built by the Turks in 1566 and from what my guidebook states, it is worth a visit with many of the original Ottoman features still in place - so off to Király I went.
What to say... Well, the cupola over the central pool is interesting example of Turkish influence in Budapest, but in general this seemed more like a set from "The Hostel" than a nice place to relax in the warm spring waters... Definitely would not want to nod off in the warm waters here...
The condition of the place is pretty deplorable, dirty and foul smelling and the quality of the facilities and service is really poor, which is a terrible shame because this could be an incredible place to visit with just a little maintenance and a little investment in giving the place a bit of a face lift without ruining it's original style. For example, the showers in the steam rooms are fed by exposed white plastic pipes which could be installed properly to make the place look a whole lot nicer. Also, the drainage and plumbing systems could be maintained to eliminate the odors and make the place a lot more pleasant. I brought a bathing suit (which is necessary - although you can rent one) but didn't have a towel so I rented that - it was like a small thin cotton sheet.
This place was an interesting experience, but after all is said and done, if you don't have time to explore them all, you may be better off trying just about any other Budapest bath house before this one! I'm writing this after the fact, of course, and can really recommend Széchenyi - especially if the weather is cold!
Breakfast at the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus in Budapest is fantastic! (Except for the coffee, so I had tea!) After a fantastic, hypercaloric breakfast binge we left the hotel and walked across the Chain Bridge from Pest where we're staying to Buda. We walked by the Tunnel entrance on Clark Adam Tér. The Tunnel was built by Adam Clark, a Scottish engineer who also built the chain Bridge. This Square - Clark Adam Tér (Tér being Square in Hungarian), is the official center of Budapest. The "Zero Kilometer Stone" marker is located here and all distances from Budapest are measured from this point. A funicular of "Cog Train" travels from here up to the top of Castle Hill, but we decided to walk up rather than wait in the long line.
We eventually reached the Szécnenyi National Library and then walked through the Budapest History museum which will have to wait for another visit - there's so much to see and do here. We walked by Sándor Palace which is at the top of the cog wheel railway. The Sándor Palace is the official residence of the president of Hungary. The arvhitecture is neo-classical and being so symmetrical, it reminds me of an enormous Polish dworek! Another place we see here is the Várszínház or Castle Theater. This was originally a Baroque church, but was converted into a theater in 1786. The first plays staged here were performed in German. Nothing was staged in Hungarian until 1790.
We wander around the Royal Palance and see the Mátyás fountain, the lion gate and the Habsburg steps with an ornamental gateway by a bronze (or copper?) statue of the mythical Turul bird which guards the palace. I've looked this up later and found that the Turul bird comes from the legend about the origin of the Magyars. The bird is probably a large falcon. In one mention the bird appears in a dream of Emese, the grandmother of the founder of the Hungarian State. The bird flies over her, leaving her pregnant and tells her that the child would be the father of a great nation. The second time the Turul bird appears is in another dream, this time of the leader of the Hungarian tribes.
We continue through Old Town which began to develop in the 13th century. Here we aren't able to enter the Mátyás Church which I would have enjoyed seeing. Close by is the Fishermen's Bastion with interesting conical Towers which supposedly are a reminder of the tribal tents of the early Magyars. It never had any defensive purpose.
There was a falconer by the St. Stephen Statue. The bird was enormous. People were getting really close to it - I could just imagine what that bird could so with its enormous claws and beak! It was a beautiful bird and I enjoyed seeing it. The views form this area, overlooking the Danube, are beautiful. One thing that surprised me here is the Hilton Hotel - a large building with modern architecture in the midst of all of the neo-classical façades and the neo-romanesque Fishermen's Bastion.
Finally we continued out of this part of Buda through the Vienna Gate by the Buda Lutheran Church which is a neo-classical building built in 1896. You can really feel the close relationship that Budapest has with the German language, most everywhere I look, information for tourists is in German (sometimes Russian and usually English). So, we walked through the Vienna Gate (which was re-built in 1936 on the 250th anniversary of the liberation of Buda from the Turks) down Fiáth Janos U to Margit Körut which is a main street here. We walked into a shopping center there called Mammut - trying to find some gloves - but that didn't work out. There is a monument to the victims of the 1956 uprising against the Soviets that I took some pictures of. For the most part, the shopping center was pretty ugly. From here we continued to the Király Baths.