Well I’m shit at blogging, last one was from July! My bad! Finally back at it with this blog about my trip to Budapest in November.
Remember my mate Dan from the Colorado Ski Trip and from last year’s trip to Warsaw? If you don’t remember (and can’t be bothered looking at the previous posts) Dan is a full time wheelchair user with a spinal injury (paraplegic). He’s also my travel buddy.
And this time we’ve gone to Budapest.
We had both never been to Hungary before and wanted to go – me because I had heard about some amazing gluten free places to check out and Dan because he had a Budapest magnet on his fridge, and it was the only place he hadn’t been to in his ‘magnet collection’.
Dan was in charge of booking the accommodation and I was delegated flights. We chose to fly with Ryanair from Stansted – Dan’s an Essex lad – so I had a round trip to make from Glasgow. Luckily I’ve a friend in Nottingham who put me up so I could break the journey over two days (Thanks Ben!)
Dan’s parents dropped us off at the airport and we had no problems with special assistance or the flight.
Outside Budapest Airport is a legit taxi rank which sorted us out. It took around half an hour to get to our AirBNB which was right across the street from the Great Synagogue in District 7. Rough price for the taxi was around HUF8000 (£20). Dan did good with picking the place, it was in the centre of Pest! >here’s the link if you’re interested, it was pretty much the same price as a hotel and we both got personal space Budapest AirBNB<
We met up with our host to get the key and the lowdown on the apartment, which had recently been renovated for disabled access. The lift was a bit small – we couldn’t fit both of us and our luggage in – but it was workable (Dan did have to tuck his feet in so they didn’t get eaten by the elevator door).
The apartment was super cute, with a small bedroom with double bed (just enough room for Dan to get in one side, and a bench in the shower. The living room had a pull out sofa so we were both set.
Anywho, after settling in, we were on our way out again to dinner. So many people on various coeliac facebook groups and blogs had recommended Drop restaurant and it did not disappoint! We did go there again later in the week so I’ll compile all the food photos in this one place:
Monday we wanted to go to the House of Terror, but I gave it a quick Google before leaving and it’s actually closed on a Monday. We decided to go for a walk instead and do a river cruise.
First though, we took a detour to this gluten free bakery WHICH WAS 5 MINUTES FROM OUR PLACE. I got a chocolate croissant. I should have got two though because I inhaled that little croissant in no time.
We wandered down to the river and walked from the Liberty Bridge to where the cruise boats are docked. Unfortunately we then had to turn round as there was no accessible path on the side of the river. We made it though and a quick reccy of the tour boat and with the help of Google translate I found out it was wheelchair accessible! There were a few hoses over the deck but basic wheelchair skills will have you sorted.
The tour boat was went up the Pest side of the Danube and then down the Buda side. It was bloody cold being on the open water but the history was quite interesting to hear about. It’s given via a loudspeaker in Hungarian, English and German.
After the cruise we continued along the river looking for the Shoes on the Danube memorial. The memorial is to commemorate the thousands who were lined up on the banks of the river in 1944-45, ordered to take off their shoes, then shot by the Arrow Cross, their bodies taken away by the river. Side note – there are no accessible toilets along this river bank, there is some dank looking under stair nooks though.
We took the scenic route back to the flat and came across a contentious memorial. The state erected a memorial in 2014 is interpreted as Hungary having no fault in the atrocities they committed during the war and it was all Nazi Germany’s fault, whitewashing history. The public have installed a protest memorial in which personal items such as photographs and letters from lost loved ones are displayed.
After a not so quick meal of Thai and a nap, Dan and I headed back out again to see the Christmas Markets. They were pretty small but we did make some new friends and checked out a few Christmas trees while we wandered about.
My directions back to the apartment took us the scenic route, but we did find a McDonalds AND they had a gluten free menu! Unfortunately they over peppered my cheeseburger so it was a bit of a letdown.
After a nice sleep, Tuesday saw us heading over to the Buda side of the city. We didn’t do a lot of research on how to get there, and once we crossed there wasn’t a footpath to walk down, instead we went down this…
We came across a museum on the ‘river road’ that had a World War I exhibit so we decided to check that out.
No photos are allowed but they did have free lockers where you can store your things while you soak up a bit of history. They also offer free disabled + 1 companion ticket so Dan and I saved 3000HUF each.
Walking further along the river, we looked up and saw a beautiful rooftop like garden that we wanted to see. We found the lift and went up. Turns out it was part of the castle gardens. Unfortunately there wasn’t a working elevator to get up to the castle – only a one way escalator – we could have gone up using wheelchair skills, but we weren’t sure how we were going to get down! We went on the hunt for an accessible loo instead.
That was another thing that was out of order, but we did find some public toilets (that you were supposed to pay for). BUT, you had to go through a turnstile to get to them and we found out that turnstiles and wheelchairs DO NOT MAKE GOOD FRIENDS!
It does make for a great laugh though – of course after we made sure Dan was fine and untangled him from the bars. At least the bladder was empty.
Next we decided to go and have a look in the castle. There was a path from the gardens heading up the hill, it did have a few steps of varying heights though. Unfortunately we couldn’t find how to get IN the castle, so we had a photo shoot instead.
There were more museums and art galleries at the top of the hill that we had a quick look around, but we weren’t very interested. Out the front (beware – and perfect that backwheel balance – Buda seems to be made up of cobbles) there was a lovely view overlooking the Danube and Pest.
Hunger was starting to creep up on us, so we decided to head down the hill and find somewhere to eat.
It seems getting down was going to a bit of an effort. Although there were a lot of flat paths, they were all interspersed with a small flight of steps.
Beside each flight of steps was what we first thought may have been a wheelchair access ramp – turns out it was a drainage area! Dan was able to backwheel balance down a few of them, and then two burly local lads offered to carry him down a set.
Near the end of the path, there was a longer staircase with the drain on the side. It also had a massive tree halfway down. I was doing a reccy, making sure there were no hidden branches or obstacles hidden under the leaves when Dan decides NOT to wait for me to check but comes careening (ok, it was snail’s pace) down the hill and ends up snagged on a tree root. We had a bit of an audience at this stage, and had a few people come and offer to help. One man carried Dan down and another his chair and backpack. It was the most awkward lift and carry either of us had come across but Dan got a nice stretch out of it.
After a warm lunch and a piss stop (in a nice fancy hotel – all of the hotels should have an accessible toilet) are next stop was the Liberty statue. We went a bit late in the day so a light fog had settled in, but there were still some amazing views to be had.
After a long day of walking around Buda we decided to hit up a thermal bath. We had done a bit of research on this one and the website told us the Gellert Baths were accessible. Lucked out on special prices here though – full price for everyone. Dan did get access to a private changing cubicle, although I think he did have to pay a wee bit extra for it. I was lucky as I just followed him and asked the attendant for my own space.
The attendant recommended the 36 degree spa for Dan, he thought the others would be too hot. It was a bit of a headache getting there.. up one stair lift and then having to find attendants in another part of the complex to use the other to come down the stairs, but eventually Dan got there, while I went off to have a massage. I always forget that I don’t actually like massages, only the idea of them. I came out a bit sore 20 minutes later and found Dan. The 36 degree pool was too cool for me and Dan agreed so we moved back to the ‘hot spa’ – a delicious 40 degrees. Which may have been a little too hot as we only managed to be in there for about 10 or 15 minutes.
Dinner this night was at Etna Pizzeria, who had a good gluten free pizza. Although the best pizza we found was at the Free From bakery on Wednesday morning. I had a delicious bacon with sour cream sauce slice while Dan went with the classic margarita.
Wednesday was our last full day in Budapest and we headed to the House of Terror.
There was a stair lift getting into the building and a lift to access the different floors of the museum. Overall it was pretty interesting, a museum exhibiting the fascist and communist regimes in the 20th century, although there was a lot of reading to be had – each section there was an ‘information page’ which ranged in size from a paragraph to a double sided a4.
After we had our fill of depressing regimes, we continued up Andrassy St and came across Heroes Square. Bordering the square are art galleries, so we wiled away some time in there before heading back to the apartment for a nap.
One last dinner back at Drop and we were ready to head back to the UK.
Dan’s Accessibility viewpoints
from a wheelie perspective
Overall Budapest was fairly inaccessible. Upon arrival the special assistance at the airport was good, with a taxi service directly outside of arrivals. The apartment we booked via AirBNB was perfect, all accessible and as described on the website. So great start, however the city itself was quite testing as there were virtually no drop curbs anywhere – not even at the pedestrian crossings! I thought this was crazy, they were normal size curbs meaning about 7 inches high. As a confident manual chair user it was still tricky. This also goes for shops, restaurants and all amenities, every one had 2 steps for entry. I am a wheelchair skills trainer for a spinal charity so my chair control is good, but 2 short steps is almost impossible to accomplish without help. The locals are responsive and happy to offer help, but as far as independence goes I could not have managed on my own, plus I was lucky to have had such great company. The only place that was a smooth roll in was McDonalds.
Once access was negotiated, inside most of the places was fine, the museums even had a chair lift. Despite having NO ramp for the initial access, which we found very amusing, so our perseverance was rewarded in some cases. All this aside, I did enjoy my time time there. But it is testing. For a power chair user I’m sorry to say it’s going to be difficult.
Flights £151.96 (Ryanair – 1 person with checked luggage, 1 with carry on priority)
Spending money £225
Money saved (thanks Disabled tickets!) £32
Our next trip were looking at heading to the Baltics.