The Best Pearl of the Danube Destination in Europe

Budapest (said “Buda-pest” to those in the know) is a bit like a tarnished necklace you find at a junk antique store. Underneath the grime is a sparkling jewel, you’ve just got to work at it a bit.

I didn’t know much about Hungary before our visit, except that it’s home to one of the most challenging languages in Europe when you are on a travel destination, but after our short weekend there, I have a new understanding of the complex history of this place.

The area around Budapest has long been occupied and by many different people from the Celts and Romans to the Mongols Ottomans and famously as the capital of the enormous Austro-Hungarian empire. The 20th century found Hungary is a battle against terrible foes for independence.  First from Nazi Germany and then from the Soviets, the latter of which finally left Hungary.

Despite the difficulties of living in a country occupied by Soviet forces, which, among other things, heavily influenced the politics of the time, Budapest itself has made a grand come back.

The damages done to the beautiful neoclassical buildings were largely repaired, bridges were rebuilt, and while the interior of Pest castle was forever altered due to the Soviet’s belief that buildings such as this were symbols of the former regime, today they are heavily visited by tourists.

Monuments to darker days remain, but the city and the people of Hungary were welcoming and keen to show us around.

We were there as part of “7 Countries in 7 Weekends Christmas Market Extravaganza” so, of course, our main objective was the markets, and naturally, eating all the foods.  This one, in particular, was worth the trip.  It’s called a chimney cake and was as mouthwatering to eat as it was mesmerizing to watch spin and cook over an open flame.

We visited the large market hall and bought bags full of Hungarian souvenirs, went to the main square and eyed all the wonderful Christmas goodies, got educated at the House of Terror, and before we knew it, it was starting to get dark, so we hustled across the Chain Bridge to the Pest side to check out the view from the castle.

On our way, we stopped at a moving memorial to Jews who were forced to remove their shoes and were then shot into the river.

The next day we were struck by one of our famous strokes of good luck and I was able to book my friend and I massages at the spa we were headed to.  Making the whole day better was the chance sighting of these elegant ladies on the metro.  Life goals

The spa itself was a bit like a public pool – actually almost exactly alike.  There was struggling into a bathing suit in a cramped and musty changing cubicle, cold water sloshing into your flip flops as you scurried down the hallways full of Hungarians in their speedos, confusion about the vast layout of the spa, an errant hair touching you occasionally in the pool, and plenty of “lads on tour” hogging prime pool locations.

It was also cold until you get in the pool that is.  We left this charming city still a bit wet from the medicinal waters of the spa only to wait at the airport for hours as our flight got more and more delayed.  Ahh, you win some, you lose some.

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