The Austro-Hungarian Empire is over 100 years dead but you can still feel that lavish, over-the-top opulence around every corner in Budapest.
Gilded without being gaudy (ok, maybe a bit gaudy but not Donald Trump gaudy), the New York Cafe has been meticulously re-built by a hotel group to live up to the splendor of the late 19th century, when writers would hang out while rich patrons paid their tabs, and some dude apparently threw the keys to this cafe into the Danube so they would have to stay open 24/7. I wish that could still work with my favorite country line dancing bar. The cappuccinos are ridiculously overpriced, but you can’t put a price on ambiance. Or maybe you can try your hand at getting a rich patron too?
Budapest is famous for its baths, but not all baths are created equal. While the Széchenyi baths have a beautiful outdoor pool, the inside baths are a bit plain and blasé, not to mention crowded. (Although that might have to do with the fact that I didn’t get there until noon.) I preferred the Gellért Baths, where you can relax in mineral water as you look at beautiful mosaics and listen to gently gurgling fountains in the pools. Bitch to your neighbor about how those pesky ethnic nationalists are just getting too big for their britches, don’t they know they’re better off being part of our Empire anyway? Oh do excuse me, it’s time for me to leave so I can make that train to Sarajevo.
If you’re not yet sick of my historical jokes, take a gander at the Hungarian parliament building, which was started in 1896, the 1000th anniversary of the Kingdom of Hungary, and symbol of how Hungary was definitely the Hapsburgs’ favorite child, a fact that probably didn’t help the ethnic strife and discontent that led to the First World War.
Fisherman’s Bastion was also built in part to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the kingdom of Hungary. Look at that gorgeous, neo-Romanesque glory that literally serves no purpose other than look nice in front of the Matthias Church.
Even though people often tout Budapest as a budget traveler’s dream, I found myself spending this vacation on more expensive meals than any other place I’ve been to, drinking lots of fancy wine and eating heavy meals with no regard for the conversion rate of forints. In fact, my jeans feel a bit tight, even a week later. The temptation to act like turn of the century 1% is just too tempting.
Full Disclosure: Europe was not my area of study so who knows if my facts are even accurate, except the thing about getting shot in Sarajevo. Franz Ferdinand was one of my favorite bands in middle school so I know all about that shit.