Our arrival in Budapest was marked by a strange hunger in Dotahn. We had arrived late and settled in to our latest Airbnb, dazzled by its large and elaborate entrance which was both crumbling and grand at the same time. Despite the late hour Dotahn insisted on finding food and came back before long with snacks.
After a quick scoffing Tahn began to sweat and feel strange, quickly realising that the aforementioned hunger was not hunger at all, but a something far more sinister. Before long there were buckets involved and Dotahn devolved into a moaning sick mess.
After a night were neither of us got much sleep we arose late in the day. Dotahn put on a brave, albeit pale face. Convincing himself he felt much better so we rugged up and headed out to explore the city. Heading straight over to the Pest side of the Danube river to visit the Semmelweis Medical History Museum as recommended by Atlas Obscura.
The museum is held in the old residence of Dr Semmelweis. Famous for being an early pioneer in antiseptic practices. He was the first doctor to realise that surgeons should wash their hands before working on patients, preventing many deaths especially in child birth. Although common sense now, Dr Semmelweis was mocked by the medical community and it was only after he had died that this practice was made compulsory in the medical community.
The museum showcased the tools and practices of medical history throughout Europe, beginning with ancient Egypt practices of basic surgery and pharmacology. Concepts of religious iconogrophy and faith healing, bloodletting, poultices, tinctures and herbs. There was a comprehensive display of doctors toolkits through the ages and some incredible models of operating theatres as surgery began to become almost a spectator sport. The most amazing element of the exhibition was a couple of wax sculptures by Clemente Susini. His ‘anatomical venus’ merges classical beauty and science is a sensuous and grotesque rendering of a reclining woman splayed open revealing her internal organs.
Unfortunately Dotahn quickly began to fade and Emm had to put him to bed for the rest of the day. Making the hard decision that we would have to miss out on seeing the Hauschka concert we had booked during the Cafe Budapest Festival 😦
The following day we decided to take it easy and check out Hősök tere (Hero’s Square) just up the road from our apartment in the giant city park. Walking through the loud festive atmosphere of an international marathon that made it difficult to cross over roads we walked into a large open square dedicated to the past heroes, kings and priests of the Hungarian kingdom. The crowning glory of the monument was the Seven chieftains of the Magyars representing the heads of the the seven tribes that made up ancient Hungary from around 800AD.
Looking for other low impact activities we decided on taking advantage of Budapest’s famous Turkish thermal baths. With so many to choose from we settled on the Rudas Baths and once more headed over the bridge to Pest.
Unfortunately only men could go into the ancient Turkish baths on that day. But it was not all bad as there was also various mineral thermal baths and saunas that were open to everyone. Our favorite was a large circular hot spa on the roof of the old building with gorgeous views of the tall forested cliffs rising up behind us and the city over the other side of the Danube.
With our bodies soaked and soothed we ventured over to the For Sale bar for an afternoon tipple.
Small and dark the bar was saturated in paper notes from the history of its patronage. The ground was littered with hay and peanut shells to which we contributed from the large baskets on each table filled with free peanuts. Leaving our own mark on its walls in floral paper folds.
Dotahn continued eating soups and taking naps and with each day he become less woozy. With his delicate constitution and the miserable cold and wet weather our outings were kept short and sweet. We perused some markets and marveled at old buildings before returning home to recuperate.
By our last evening Tahn was feeling closer to his old bright eyed and bushy bearded self. We had tickets to a theatre show for the Cafe Budapest Festival which was the premiere of a work called ‘Drip Canon – How’s it going, Heraclitus?’ by Gabor Goda. The stage was filled with a layer of water which worked as a mirror and reflected light and the movement of the performers. It was quite beautiful and involved a lot of Tai Chi, contemporary dance, projections and an amazing choral score with prepared piano. Although a little labored at times in its ideas of connection and taoist principles and lacking in space and room to breathe in its pacing the show had some beautiful moments, the musical score being especially moving.
We had heard that the highlight of Budapests nightlife was its ‘ruin’ bars and so we needed to experience at least one of these for ourselves. With a plethora to choose from we decided upon ‘Simply’. Expecting a bar nestled among crumbling ruins we were a little disappointed, but the bar was still quirky and interesting. Set in two old tenement buildings joined together the bar is a maze of rooms with strange decor and eclectic lighting. We particularly liked the huge sculptural installations and the foosball, albeit a little sticky.
Although the circumstances preceding this photo can’t be remembered it can be presumed that Dotahn was being annoying.