Sciences Po winter break: day 5
If it were entirely up to me, I might not have gone back to Budapest. I might’ve stayed another day in Vienna or tried to visit another Central European city that I’ve never seen, like Bratislava. It was really my friends’ interest that brought me back to Budapest rather than mine.
It’s not that I didn’t love Budapest — it’s a really lovely city with some absolutely fascinating history, and I’ve written and done research on it before. I spent a whole week there my previous summer visiting my friend, Bilal, who had been studying at Central European University. That’s part of the reason why I didn’t really want to stay. I figured I’d already seen everything there was to see, and there wasn’t any sense in going back so soon.
But ultimately, I think I was wrong. Budapest was really quite wonderful to see again — I think especially so soon. I was able to act like something of a tour guide to my friends, most of whom had never visited or never spent a significant amount of time there. I was familiar with the public transport system, I knew the major sites worth seeing, and, to my surprise, I even remembered some of the walking directions, especially on the Buda side, where I had spent a whole afternoon exploring by myself during my previous trip.
I took my friends to see the Parliament Building, St. Stephen’s Cathedral (where we even got to meet Jesus himself (?)), the Holocaust memorial on the Danube River, Fisherman’s Bastion, and Buda Castle, which I’d really only walked past before. I think my favorite stop on our tour was Freedom Square, where I got to recount my research project on their eclectic collection of statues and the significance of each statue’s presence (or absence), including Ronald Reagan, the Soviet Union’s Red Army, Hungary’s Jewish population, and (not) Imre Nagy, who, since my visit in summer 2019, has now been replaced with an ugly anti-communist statue of a muscular figure strangling a snake.
There are many reasons why I think Nagy’s absence from Freedom Square is tragic, the most pressing of which is that it seems to represent Viktor Orbán’s overarching attempts to revise Hungary’s history and remove insurgent figures from their collective memory. His replacement with the anti-communist statue as well is just weird. For one, it seems odd to me in 2020 to imply that the entire philosophy of communism needs to be strangled out of existence. Also, it’s ugly and completely lacks the beautiful symbolism of the Nagy statue that gazed contemplatively towards the Parliament building atop a bridge.
Apparently, there’s now a George H.W. Bush statue next to the Ronald Reagan one, though we didn’t get to see that while we were there. I guess that gives me yet another reason to go back.
In the evening, after the sun went down, we went to the first site that I had never been to during my previous week in Budapest — one of the famous thermal bathhouses. We didn’t go to Széchenyi, which is perhaps the most famous of the baths, but instead, a smaller place on the banks of the Danube called Rudas.
I’d never been to a thermal bath house, but it was an experience like no other. For one, the actual complex was huge — I thought maybe there’d be one or two pools, and that’d be it, but there were literally three or four floors plus a rooftop tub. It was massive. We didn’t even get to go to some of the pools that night because they were closed to men only (I guess they switch out different days that different groups of people can use which pools?).
The most unique pool I tried was the hot-cold contrast bath, which involved sitting for a minute in cold water, followed by a minute in hot water, followed by several minutes in warm water, followed by a shower before you repeat it all over again. I almost didn’t do it because the cold water was so cold and the hot water was so hot. I’m normally not afraid of new experiences, but this one had me psyched out. Ultimately, we all went through the process a few times — and I think it was worth it? I felt refreshed and tingly afterwards, and I do think it helped to relax my muscles after several nights of sleeping on buses. I’m not certain I feel like I need to do it again any time soon — but then again, that’s what I’d said about visiting Budapest to begin with, and I was proven wrong about that.
For dinner, we got — you guessed it — more Asian food. I guess we were all just kind of tired of variations on beef and potato stews. From there, we hiked back to the bus station to await our next night bus on to Ljubljana.
That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life during my semester abroad in the Paris, France. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest,Instagram, Facebook, Bloglovin, Twitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Skirt: Pull & Bear
Coat: A vintage shop in Budapest (thrifted)