Bathouses, Bars, and Bedbugs in Budapest

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Hey friends! Joe and I have been living it up in Budapest for the last week, where we met up with our Denver friends Jen and Anna. What an amazing city- it has been our favorite so far. If you have ever considered going to Budapest- now is the time to do it before it gets too overrun with expensive tourist traps- (which can both have a positive and negative affect on an area). There many old decaying, buildings with leftover bullet holes in them from the Revolution in 56, juxtaposed with a burgeoning hip scene with delicious food and amazing coffee.

One of the top reasons to visit is so that you can feel like a Turkish Princess (I know you all secretly long for this everyday) when you bath in any of the impressive bathhouse. Budapest is built on a network of thermal springs, which provides water to the bathhouses- and they are elaborate. I have never bathed somewhere so ornate and colorful before. And, it’s just a thing people like to do on the weekend together- go hang out together in warm pools, transitioning from pool to pool every 20 minutes or so. Some pools even had built in chess boards, but I wasn’t about to challenge the elderly men playing- they looked fierce with their gold chains and focused disposition.

Another thing Budapest is known for is it “ruin bars”. After WW2, the Jewish Quarter of the city was mostly empty because the majority of the Jewish population was deported to concentration camps. Since WW2, there hasn’t been much development in the area, so in the early 2000’s some hip kids started squatting and turning abandoned buildings into amazing bars with lots of mismatched furniture, art on the walls, and found objects. Rent/ownership was cheap, and regulations were minimal. Once people started migrating to go out in this part of town, food trucks and other bars started popping up, and y’all know what happens from there. They are called ruin bars because they look very old and decrepit from the outside, but once you go in, they are vibrant with color, live music and art installations. I guess this is in line with what our tour guide said about Hungarians- they appear angry and mad on the outside, but they’re actually bursting with ideas and creativity on the inside. They just learned to put a face on during communism because happiness was seen as suspicious. It does feel kind of weird to party in a space that you know was vacated for such an oppressive, murderous reason, but history is everywhere in Europe and reclaimed spaces seem to be a significant part of the culture.

Anyways, ruin bars are super amazing. It’s like Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Portland, Oregon had a crack baby called Ruin Bars. One of the ones we went to, Szimpla Kert, is consistently rated one of the coolest bars in the world, which I highly doubted before I went because that’s a ludicrous claim. However, once i got there, it was hands down the coolest bar/community space I have ever been in my entire life. It was an entire apartment building converted into a bar, with graffiti, plastic baby dolls, tree branches, fancy map shades, decorating every room. You could seriously get lost in there, and every room turned up a new surprise. A room full of antique toys? Poetry classes? Saxophonist playing music to Retro porn? A room full of tvs hanging from a tree with ominous lighting? A car cut in two? Live Roma Gypsy) music? Farmer’s market? Pop-up tattoo shop by donations? It’s basically where hipsters go after they die if they’ve fulfilled all their stylish duties correctly. We had a very fun night hanging out there, exploring it’s caverns of wonder.

Also we unfortunately picked up bed bugs somewhere in Slovakia. Luckily, when you travel light, there’s not much to wash. We escaped with a handful of incredibly itchy bites, and the lingering sense of bugs crawling on you when you sleep despite there not being any. Joe and I have both traveled a lot- India, Africa, hostels in NYC, squatting in Barcelona- but neither of us have ever encountered bed bugs before. I guess there is a first time experience for everything, and was another adventure to bring us closer together.

I’m bummed that we will be leaving here two days before the election, because the embassy here is putting on an election party with “authentic American election decorations” and an American food buffet. I also didn’t talk about the history much of the city, but it is super

fascinating- the revolution of 1956 seems to be one of the more impressive feats of the Cold War.  We also went on a haunted river cruise for Halloween- boating down the Danube with the city all lit up was magical. Tomorrow we are headed to Memento park, which is a space where they moved all the Soviet statues once the country became democratic. There’s still a lot more to explore here, and I would HIGHLY recommend adding it to your travel list if you are planning a trip to Europe soon. Not too many tourists yet, a rich thriving history, amazing architecture, and dynamic culture- just do it!