Rushing to Relaxation

As most trips do, this one started off a bit rough as well. The flight was to depart at 08:55, meaning that either the bus getting there at 07:15 or a taxi were the options. We went for the environmental choice and set our alarms accordingly. We woke up, got to the tram station and were informed that due to vehicle issues the trams were late. This was unfortunate but we quickly walked to Korsvägen, hopped on a new tram and got to Centralstationen, jogged to Nils Ericsson just in time to see the bus leave.

We decided there was no rush now and had breakfast before calling a (Mini)taxi, they were out of cars and by the time we got one it was getting a bit too close to closed gate with potential morning traffic. This was when I realized I no longer were in possession of the printed boarding passes. A quick run to where we had breakfast saved me 80 Euro since the papers were still there. We got to the airport quickly, well at Säve there was no queue and the flight was late so in the end we could have gone with a later bus.

After landing and buying some local currency we got on a bus to the subway station, where we had to buy new tickets again. A little guesswork combined with google maps got us off at the right subway station and we were strolling towards our hotel when we came across a soup and bagel shop which looked popular. It was cheap and tasty and served as a filling lunch.

Once we checked in at Bohem Art and found that the room was very nice, heated floor in the bathroom and art is always pleasant, we lay down for a rest…

When we woke up we reserved a table at Costes for tomorrow and then took a longer stroll north and ended up at Cafe Kör which we’d read about. Not surprising they had really nice food to low prices and tables quickly got filled with locals as we sat there, I enjoyed a mixed skewer with pepper sauce and potatoes since they, again not surprisingly, lacked vegetarian dishes. We then walked back home after replenishing our cash for a decent ATM (much better exchange rate) and got to bed rather early.

Caste Hill, walking and leaving for Damascus

IMG_8477After checking out and leaving our stuff at another hostel by the same owners we started the day with a proper breakfast at a cosy café, a freshly baked croissant for Mirsada and sizzling bacon for yours truly.

We then did some empirical studies on how to use the phone booths when making international calls. On the plus side we concluded that it works well when calling the correct number and keeping a steady flow of coins into the belly of the machine. However, we also found out that the place we were going to didn’t allow reservations over the phone (?) but agreed to jot down Mirsada’s name and said that there probably would be vacant rooms around 5 am.

The weather was wonderful, not a trace of the expected rain, we decided to take a stroll to the Citadel/Castle Hill. After some walking upwards with a backpack we rested at the Citadel with a rather nice view over Danube. At this point we realized that Castle Hill and the Citadel weren’t exactly adjacent to each other. Well well, next stop would be Castle Hill be then, it didn’t look that far away on the map.

A good walk later we had the Castle Hill in sight, however it was on the other side of some tunnel which didn’t seem to allow pedestrians. Used to riding buses cheap, we jumped on a bus and rode one stop through the tunnel only to see pedestrians and bikers on the smaller sidewalk we hadn’t spotted before. To my objections we took some funicular railway, Sikló, rather than walk and after a minute the not-so-well-worth-the-money ride was over. At least we were now on Castle Hill.

IMG_8501It was much bigger than we’d realized and we took our time strolling and enjoying the views and architecture. The few drops of rain gave us the needed 20 seconds head start to hide in an archway while the rain poured down at the same time the sun shone brightly. The rain stopped as suddenly as it had started after some five minutes and we continued our little excursion now with enhanced smells. After circling the whole area we sat our eyes on some shopping at West End, a mall of the larger size.

Maybe it was the warm weather or ample walking in combination with my black leather boots but my toes started to grind against each other in a not only pleasant way so we ventured into the Metro again and got off at the mall. I managed to pick up a cable to my iPod which I’d cleverly left in Gothenburg so now it looked like I could get some music on the flight, yay.

After grabbing some turkish food we found a free wifi I managed to publish the blog. Then various important social networking sites had to be logged in to as well. Rather satiated and lazy we thought we would save the House of Terror until next time. We took the Metro back to the hostel and picked up our gear and I made some quick blister-surgery with alco-gel and after changing to my flip-flops I was once again ready to walk the earth in a more enjoyable fashion.

We decided that since we had rather plenty of time we would try to take the metro and then some buses from the suburbs to the airport instead of a less adventurous taxi. It worked out rather well and after some time we reached the correct terminal well ahead of our departure time.

Mirsada quickly learned the ways of power outlet scouting that Ulf and myself studied during our Japan trip and now armed with power as well as iPod cable I was one happy camper. I managed to sleep within a minute or so after the plan left ground, next time I’d breath fresh air it would be on Syrian soil.

Thermal Baths and Bodies

IMG_8452After a night of not so good sleeping due to Mirsada scratching herself the better part we got up and scouted for a place to serve us breakfast.

Todays plan was to first visit a spa, famous for their extraordinary mud baths, and then catch some highlights and views in general. We decided that it would be a good idea to get to know the city by using their local transport system. The first thing we learned was that the bus driver did not accept cash, one would use some pre-purchased ticket once the bus started moving. Well, we would pay next time.

Again we found our way to Lukacs a little too easy, luckily this was offset by the lack of any english instructions at all. After some german-spanish-english-body language we got one massage for 30 minutes (to get two was impossible) and two tickets to the baths. They claimed to have no mud baths. And we have to buy two very awesome swimming head wears.

They have a rather refined system for using lockers which goes something like this; You enter any of the two locker rooms (both with a mix of men/women) and change to your swimwear in a booth. You then wait for a guy to pick you up, show you an empty locker and gives you a small coin with a number on it. He writes this number inside the locker on a mini blackboard with a piece of chalk. The trick is now that the locker has another number than the one written on the inside, which you must memorize. When you get back the guy will then ask you to show him to your locker and if the number written inside doesn’t match the number on the coin you have, he quickly close the locker again assuming you tried to fool him. Not that obvious but I guess very few people manage to steal from others’ lockers with this system.

The thermal baths were nice and relaxing, the ones enriched with sulphur feels rather “heavy” and of course has the fragrance of an egg-fart lingering. After trying the outside pools I entered a sauna which was warm but not that warm. I there see a string with a handle in the sauna and think that pulling this perhaps cause some water to appear by black magic over the heater increasing temperature and moisture. This was not the case. Instead a loud ringing started, and of course seemingly couldn’t be turned off. All the swimmers outside looked at Mirsada though since she’s just outside. After a very long half-minute or so a guy came up and pressed a button next to Mirsada ceasing the alarm. We bumped into another guy working there in the place who explained that the mud baths were not open until august (or something), it only took about five people working here to get that information.

After some hassle with the massage (they were a bit reluctant to let us split the time since 30 minutes was cheaper than 2 * 15 but gave up when their english failed them) we hear the sounds of crackling thunder and it started raining cats and dogs. We decided to cut the castle hill for today and instead aim for some food and an exhibition called Bodies which we both had read about earlier and were happy to see was present in Budapest.

We got some pizzas (quattro carni for me, thank you) and manage to get a nice view of their parliament between the showers and then try out the Metro in order to get to the exhibition. The metro was rather self-explanatory and after we got our tickets we managed to find our way to the exhibition rather easy.IMG_8421Bodies was one of the coolest exhibitions I’ve seen, I recommend you to pay it a visit if you have the chance – it tours the world so chances aren’t that bad. Basically it’s like a long biology class with sculptures with muscles, tendons, spleens, kidneys and all organs visible and a few skeletons.

The catch is that this isn’t sculptures. This is real cadavers, allegedly unclaimed recently deceased chinese given by the chinese police to chinese universities for studies. A company then employed some experts ensuring that these guys died a natural death and then preserved them or pieces of them to display in this exhibition. By rather advanced methods different plastics have been used to replace e.g. blood veins down to a cellular level. The effect is a blend of awesome realism and beauty.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter that nice combination of art and science we try some hungarian specialties at a nearby restaurant. Apparently hungarian home-made noodles look like macaroni and paprika looks like carrots, either that or we both got someone else’s order.

A quick walk home in the now again pouring rain and our second day has come to an end.