It helps to have a spacious, modern apartment in an interesting but non-touristy part of town to hang out in for 11 days.
This wasn’t the original plan. We were supposed to be biking in the Balaton region of Hungary this week, but when my knee acted up in Vienna (see post dated May 24), I decided to reschedule the trip until after my knee replacement surgery later this year. Instead of changing flights and cancelling Katherine’s trip to Italy later this month, we figured we would spend the days we would have been biking in Budapest, making it 11 days in Budapest instead of the four we originally planned.
For this revised plan to work, we needed a comfortable place to stay where we could unpack, stretch out, chill and catch up on my blog posts. So we got busy looking for a suitable place to hang our hats, as well as the other clothes we have been picking through and searching for in our overstuffed luggage. That is how we ended up in the Adina Apartment Hotel in the northern Pest section of Budapest.
Before I go any further, let me note in the spirit of full disclosure that the management of the hotel offered us a good professional rate for our stay. Normally that would rate an acknowledgement in my posts. But I love this place, so I’m gushing.
As I noted the apartment is spacious, with a large living room, comfortable bedroom, an alcove to work in (though I’ve taken over the dining table for my work space), a foyer, a kitchenette with dishes, utensils, etc., two TVs, and that distinctive European innovation, one room for the toilet and small sink, and a separate room for large sink, shower and bath.
The photos should give you a good idea as to what the place looks like, though instead of photos of a clean, pristine apartment, like in the marketing brochures, I am including the clutter and mess of an apartment that someone actually inhabits.The hotel also has a spa and swimming pool, which we have not used since we have been very busy touring the city, a bar, which we have also not used, a garden/patio (ditto), and a buffet breakfast every morning for an additional cost. There is a market a half block away where we shop for breakfast items and snacks, so I have only been to the buffet once.
I could go on, but you get the point.
The neighborhood, the 13th District of Northern Pest, is also great. It’s a residential neighborhood of young families pushing baby carriages, 20-30 something hipsters, and aging bohemians and intelluctuals, sort of like the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It’s easy to get to the tourist areas and sites by walking a couple of miles, or taking a convenient subway, bus, or streetcar. Since the hotel is only a few blocks to the river – the Danube – it’s also possible to take a boat to the Castle District across the river in Buda, or to the Nagycsarnok Market in Southern Pest, or to just cruise the river looking at the incredible views of the Castle, the Parliament buildings, the bridges, Margaret Island in the middle of the river, and the Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Bauhaus apartments lining the river banks.
Good to great restaurants are only a few short blocks away on laid back, tree-lined streets (detailed info to follow in later posts), as are many cafes, boutiques and the Budapest Jazz Club, one of the best jazz clubs in the city. My favorite place in the neighborhood is the Beer Store, a hole-in-wall just a couple of blocks away from the Adina that sells Hungarian craft beer, including two on tap that you can drink while hanging out on the sidewalk in front of the store.
In other words, between the spacious, well-appointed apartment and the hip residential neighborhood, it feels like we are actually living here, not just visiting.
The neighborhood also has an interesting if disturbing history worthy of tourists, if they can pull themselves away from the clubs, bars and restaurants in the more tourist-oriented districts. During the Nazi era, Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat and “righteous gentile” enshrined in Israel, worked closely with other diplomats from neutral countries to issue foreign identity papers to Jews. They also established “protected” houses for 30,000 of them in the District.
All of this ended in 1944 when the Arrow Cross Party started murdering Jews on the streets in the neighborhood and deporting the rest to concentration camps in Austria. Tom Lantos, former US Congressman from California, was born and raised in the neighborhood and was among the local Jews sent to concentration camps. He survived the camps and eventually became the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the US Congress. There is a plaque on his former residence on Svent Istvan Park near the river.
The District and our apartment at the Adina have served as our home and neighborhood for the last several days as we’ve explored this fascinating city. I’ll tell you more about where we went and what we did in my next post.
In the meantime, I’ll try to whet your appetite with some more photos.