Time is up for snow shovels, winter tyres and gloves. They have had limited use this past season as we did not have a proper winter, not even a white Christmas. Spring arrived quickly with gorgeous weather around 20 degrees and sunshine. You can read part one of our “Budapest Spring Tips” here.
The Rudas has been operating since the 14th century – the Turks built the spa in its present form in 1566. The thermal spa on the Buda side of Erzsébet híd offers healing opportunity especially for people suffering joint pain and dislocated vertebrae. Many healthy people visit the pools with water temperatures ranging from 16 to 42 degrees too. It’s not a coincidence that online lifestyle magazine thrillist.com listed Rudas at fourth place among the eleven best spas worldwide. The spa is a strong competitor for the Széchenyi, which was elected by Spiegel Online in 2013 as one of the most beautiful thermal spas in the country.
Saturdays and Sundays are the only mixed-gender bath times in Rudas. Otherwise, the gentlemen have the advantage: on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays the spa is theirs, leaving just Tuesdays as ladies day. The swimming pool is always open for both genders.
When the reconstruction of the southern wing is finished in August we can enjoy four more renewed pools.
Staying with water, you probably don’t have to walk far to find a station of Budapest Transport Company’s (BKV) Danube boat service. Even though one or two lines are still not back in service after the winter, it is worth trying the D11, the only currently working line, to enjoy a river cruise at an especially good price.
The ships start from the station Egyetemváros A38, the station south of Petőfi híd, then pass Boráros tér, Szent Gellért tér, Petőfi tér, Szabadság híd, Batthyány tér and Margit sziget, then under Árpád híd and beside the “festival island” Óbudai sziget, ending at Népsziget in Újpest.
The boats leave by the hour from morning until evening. There is an extra fee at weekends. On weekdays the normal BKV ticket is valid. Do not expect an audio guide; the Danube and the view of the shores are just as beautiful as from the deck of an expensive tour boat.
Kopaszi dam stretches between the triangle-shaped Lágymányosi bay and the Danube like an artistically arranged green peninsula. Lágymányos is the name of the large part of District XI, and the dam, which lies near Rákóczi híd (previously Lágymányosi híd) and points right in the southern direction, is an unusually nice place for excursions.
In the 1930s Kopaszi dam and its surroundings were a real jack-of-all- trades: you could bathe, canoe and fish there. After the Second World War a large part of Lágymányos was built over, so it lost its power to attract many people on excursions.
Nowadays even the view of the industrial buildings on the mainland contributes to making Kopaszi dam special, giving visitors a feeling that they are standing on a green island. Besides many neatly built pavements, numerous benches and a playhouse for children, you can find a dozen restaurants, ice cafés and bars that invite you to relax and feast.
From this month Vakvarjú Beach has opened again, with a small and nice choice of dishes and tasty grilled food. It is also worth trying Fruska Bisztró with its lovely colourful interior, vintage floor tiles, chequered tablecloths and pastel coloured Hungarian Soda bottles, plus a taste of some bread with aubergine cream or a wine spritzer.
However, visitors to Kopaszi dam have to swallow two bitter pills. For one, the swimming ban on the banks of the dam is really sad. Not only the shallow water and the shores that are ideally built for sunbathing invite you for some splashing; the quality of the water, especially in the Lágymányosi bay, is much better than in the rest of the Danube.
For two, the BKV boats that are part of the public transportation system have not been stopping at Kopaszi dam since last May because of a dispute between Budapest Transport Company and landowners at the dam.
So it is better to arrive by car or bike (a bicycle road will take you along the shores of the Danube), or to take the BKV boat to the Egyetemváros-A38 stop (lines D11, D12 or D13). From there you can reach the dam with a 20-minute walk.
The Wekerletelep (Wekerle Quarter) can be easily spotted on a map. The residential neighbourhood in District XIX is a large part of the city that used to belong to Kispest and lies in a precisely drawn square between two rapid-traffic streets (one being the way leading from Üllői út towards the airport).
Exactly in the middle of the Wekerle Quarter you can find the Kós Károly square, built in 1912 as a central green surface. Eight streets lead in the form of a star from this square to the residential areas, two of which have monumental names such as Hungária út and Pannónia út. If you are visiting the Wekerle Quarter for the first time, you cannot decide if you have arrived in a hundred-year-old Pleasantville, an urban version of Park Güell in Barcelona or in one of the villages dreamed by J.R.R. Tolkien.
We are at the end of the 19th century. After the Settlement between Austria and Hungary, industry is growing fast, dynamic economic growth characterises the last 25 years of the 19th century and the population of Budapest grows continuously. Many come from the small villages near the capital to find a job in the new factories. This is the time when Sándor Wekerle, the first prime minister who is not of noble birth and the current financial minister of Hungary, introduces a new city build concept and with it the Wekerletelep.
Like many of the other municipalities from this time, this one also served as a home for workers and their families. However, here, in eastern Budapest, instead of building big, multi-storey residential buildings that can house as many workers as possible (like for example the “kolónia“ quarter for the factory workers of the Hungarian National Railways), architect Róbert Fleischl decided not to scare away the workers, who were used to traditional areas surrounded by nature, but to offer them an environment that reminded them of what they were used to. Such social empathy!
For this reason, 70% of the residential buildings at Wekerletelep have only one floor and their own garden. You cannot call the Wekerle Quarter totally unique: at the turn of the century the outskirts movement brought forward similar architectural initiatives worldwide, such as Hampstead in London, Margaret hill in Essen and Radburn in New Jersey.
Even if you are less interested in the historical background of the Wekerletelep, you may find the sight of the many cute houses, the parish church Szent József at Kós Károly square or the Zrumeczky Gate to be refreshing. Bus 99 reaches the heart of the Wekerle Quarter within 30 minutes from Blaha Lujza square.
To be continued