Visitors, the cool young as well as others, are genuinely impressed by the architecture of Budapest, a city made up of Buda on the north side of the river Danube and Pest on the south. The shining white Parliament building, in Pest, was built during the Austro-Hungarian period when money was no object and was inspired by the Houses of Parliament in London. The disney-like Fisherman’s Bastion, in the castle district on the Buda side, is a white terrace with seven towers, each representing a Magyar tribe. Behind it is the gothic Saint Matthias church which became a mosque during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries before becoming a church again. Dohany Street synagogue is one of Europe’s largest and the terrible historical events which affected the Budapest Jews are commemorated by a beautiful sculpture of shoes on the Danube prom.
The Romans loved the springs in the area, caused by a fault line, and built their regional capital of Pannonia Inferior, Aquincum, so as to enjoy them. Later these 120 springs were developed into the spas and thermal baths for which Budapest is really famous. Octogenarians, standing around floating chessboards, can be seen during the day in the neo-Baroque splendour of the Szechenyi baths but, at night, something really cool happens. This is the so-called Sparty (spa and party) beloved of Interrailers and others. Organized by the Cinetrip company, they basically consist of a rave in a spa with famous DJs playing trance, trip hop, hip hop, electro and funk music, and a brilliant laser light display. There is, of course, copious amounts of alcohol. The clientele is mostly under 30 and there are many more men than women though all-male stag parties are prohibited. The Sparty is more gentle in its earlier hours before intoxication changes the atmosphere, making the Sparty more fun or more threatening depending on your viewpoint. Security, though, is good.
Budapest has so many other unique places and events. The ruin bars or kerts are really cool. They are set up in empty buildings and furnished and decorated by local artists often using what they can find in the street. In August Budapest hosts the enormous Sziget festival, a large outdoor rock festival attended by in excess of 400,000 people. By contrast, Hungarian folk dances are also popular and there is also plenty of classical music including opera. Other events include Budapest Pride and the Budapest Fringe Festival. There are also numerous museums and art galleries including the unusual Budapest Pinball Machine museum and the Hospital in the Rock Nuclear Bunker Museum. Being centred on the border between eastern and western Europe much of the food is an unusual fusion of eastern and western European fare. There are also the standard outlets providing food from many countries and alot of places to stay that won’t break the bank. These, together with cheap flights, and Interrail, make Budapest a place that is enjoyed by large numbers of young people looking for something cool.