I just don’t think there are very many better places to see your first opera than in Budapest*. So when I knew that I would be going to the Hungarian capital, I immediately did some research into what opera would be on during my visit.
The Hungarian Opera
Puccini’s Tosca was on at the Hungarian State Opera House, so I got my ticket and made my way to the opera house. Obviously, I had no idea what was happening, what with the Italian language and Hungarian subtitles, but I had a wonderful time.
More interesting than the opera itself, though, were the intermissions (there were two) where I could wander through the building. I pretended I was at a royal party and drifted in and out of elegant women in long dresses and cocktails in their hands, and men who were dressed in black suits or business casual wear. (And then there were the tourists in jeans and t-shirts.)
Out on the balcony, as most of the crowd lit up cigarettes and continued their conversations in assorted languages, I looked out over the street below as if I belonged to the neo-Renaissance world that the opera house was built for. Next time I’ll make sure I’m in town for the ballet…
The other highlight of my time in Budapest was the Hungarian baths. I spent one of my days at the Széchenyi baths, one of the largest bathing complexes in Europe and a great pick if you like to be outside while soaking.
The interior thermal pools are surrounded by an early 20th century style and are pumped with thermal water that was found under the city in 1879. I soaked in every single indoor pool and sauna (temperatures are posted by each) and people watched as tourists came in and navigated their way through the serene locals.
Outside, the sun was shining brightly down on the large outdoor pools, which sit at the foot of gorgeous neo-baroque architecture painted yellow. In the centre of one is a whirlpool-like area where the water pushes you around in a circle, a favourite for many. When my body needed a break from the water, I took at seat on a bench and watched the speedo-clad older men sitting chest deep in the far pool playing chess, steam rising around the boards.
What a beautiful city.