Budapest – Thermal baths and Ruin Bars
Budapest is becoming one of those hot travel spots and I can see why. With a mixture of history, cool night time spots, trendy cafes and of course thermal baths. Budapest is not the most accessible of cities and I’m glad I had a friend with me to help me out (and also spend some great quality time with).
Accomodation: I stayed at Wombats City Hostel Budapest. and we shared a twin room. There was lift access to the room and the room was a good size easy to maneuver around in. The bathroom wasn’t an accessible bathroom (ie didnt have handrails), but I asked for a shower chair and there was plenty of room to transfer.
Transport: Once again the trains were inaccessible with alot of stairs to get down to most of the station stops. The trams however are accessible most of the time and so are the buses. Information about buses and trams can be found here; http://www.bkk.hu/en/accessible-public-transport-in-budapest/. The funicular up to the castle is also accessible.
Overall Accessibility: Budapest as a whole is not overly accessible. The kerb and guttering is a bit questionable in parts, however the drivers will stop for you when you cross the road. Again alot of the resturants/ cafes have a couple of steps to get into. Lots of places do have wheelchair access, although it is not very well sign posted or the staff doesn’t know it exists. Also it’s a bit of a hit and miss whether you get free access into places, some places do and some don’t. Again the cobblestones are a bit of a nightmare especially up the top of the castle.
Day 1 – Wandered around, ate really good food, Saw the Great Synagogue
I caught a super early train from Prague to Budapest, passing through (for a brief moment) the country of Slovakia. I shared my accessible carriage with another wheelchair user from Estonia. Her wheelchair had no footplate and looked super difficult to negotiate hence limiting her independence. It made me think how lucky I am to live in a country where we have access to top quality equipment.
I caught a bus to the hostel where I met my very good friend, Caitlin. After we dropped our bags off the rest of the afternoon was spent catching up over amazing delicious food and drink. Budapest is divided into two parts with the river (Danube) running between the two. Buda is hilly side topped by the castle and Pest is the trendy side with the main restaurants, bars and accomodation where we stayed.
We walked/pushed our way past the Great Synagogue and down to the river, where we continued to eat at some market stalls. We finished the night at the most famous of ruin bars Szimple Kert. What are ruin bars you may ask? After WWII a lot of the building in the Jewish Quarter were left empty and began to fall into disarray and so people started turning these places into bars. They are generally filled with op shop furniture, and graffiti and miscellaneous household items line the walls. Because these bars are in abandoned buildings the accessibility isn’t great – think uneven floors, rickety stairs, lots of clutter, no accessible toilet. However it kind of adds to the excitement of the place.
Day 2 – Castle Hill, a Funicular, and the Gellert Baths
After a bit of a late start we made our way across the river via the chain bridge to the Buda side and Castle Hill. There are a couple of ways to get up the top. You can walk (however there are stairs and it
its very steep), take a bus, or there is the funicular which is the most direct route. We ended up taking the funicular (cable car) and it was completely accessible. However It can be a bit confusing to know where to go.
The top of the hill is made up of a collection of buildings including; Buda Palace, Matayas church, and Fishermans Bastion. The top of the hills is full of cobblestones which again are huge so it can be a bit difficult to navigate.
We started at Matayas church which is a beautiful white church featuring a mosaic pattern. To get inside there is an accessible entrance and people with a disability get in for free. There are a couple of smaller rooms and alters inside the church that do have a couple of steps.
Next was the Fishermans Bastion which sits on the edge of the hill and was orginally designed as a fortress. It can be seen from the ground. You can climb up into the bastion and onto the viewing platforms. However these viewing platforms have steps and you can see the same view from the ground.
Next was the palace. There were even more cobblestones here, and a few steps with little to no signposting for disabled access so we did waste a bit of time trying to find the accessible route. We went into the Budapest History Museum as we wanted to learn a bit more about Budapest. There are a few steps to get in but once in it’s fully accessible and free for people with disabilities. Its however a very long museum and we ended up getting bored about 1/4 of a way through.
We went back down the funicular and walked/pushed along the river until we landed up at the Gellert baths. There is an accessible entrance into the baths however again it can be a bit hard to find. Once inside people with a disability get there own little changing hut as the normal changing rooms are through the turn styles and down the stairs. There were however no hoists or ramps into the baths (that I could see).
After soothing our weary muscles in the hot baths we finished the night with some lovely hungarian food and then off to bed.
Day 3 -Walking tour around Pest, Great Market Hall, and the Citadella
We started the morning with a walking tour around Pest. We ended up using this company http://www.triptobudapest.hu/#tours. Other than just the general walking tour this company also offers a communism and Jewish walking tour. On the walking tour we we
nt past the St Stephen’s Basilica, (a beautiful cathedral), the Parliament and the Danube east bank. We left the walking tour early and met up with a friend of a friend who lives in Budapest. She took us to the Great Market Hall – a huge building covered in back and white mosaic tiles. Inside you can find a variety of Hungarian knick knacks and souvenirs as well as cheap, delicious hungarian food. There was so much to choose to eat, we settled on Langos which is a deep fried flatbread topped with cheese and is absolutely amazing.
We walked around a bit more taking in the atmosphere and then decided to catch a bus up to the Citadell (on the Buda side) to see the sun set. Most people walk up to the top but it is super super steep with a few steps. Lucky our local friend directed us to the bus to catch which took us 3/4 of the way to the top so fortunately/unfortunately Caitlin had to push me up the last very steep last 1/4. The view from the top was absolutely amazing and we timed it right so we could watch the lights of the city gradually turn on. We walked around the top for a while and saw the liberation monument.
We finished the night by seeing a few more of the famous ruin bars
Day 4 – Szechenyi Baths and Heroes Square
Last day in Budapest and we were feeling a little tired due to all the walking and late nights. So we decide to finish off at the Szechenyi baths (another lot of thermal baths). We found with difficulty the tram to get us there. The Szechenyi baths are located in the City Park near the botanical gardens and the Zoo. To get in there are a couple of steps. There is a stair lift but it looked pretty rusted and broken. Once in, again the change rooms and lockers are down stairs. After much keffuffle and discussion I was able to get changed in the disabled change room and Caitlin ran down and put my stuff in her locker.
The baths are outside and very nice and relaxing with men playing chess on floating boards and people swimming in the pools. I did see one hoist into the main pool but no ramp. Other than the main outside pools there is another building which has a variety of smaller inside pools all of which are different (temperature of the water, type of water etc). To get to this building there is a lift, but to find the right person with the right key took a bit of time, which was not pleasant seeing it was 0 degrees and I was standing outside in my bikini.
After the baths I said goodbye to Caitlin who had to go and catch her plane back to London and I continued to meander through the beautiful gardens. I passed the imitation Translyvanian castle ( I didnt go inside) and headed down to Heroes Square. Heroes Square is a massive square lined by statues with each statue depictating a key person in Hungarian history.
After Heroes Square I made my way to the Christmas Markets and spent my last remaining Hungarian Forints (Hungarys currency) on the most amazing food before catching a train to Vienna.
And that was Budapest, a most amazing city experienced with the best company.