The capital of Hungary is divided in half by the River Danube that runs through the centre of the city. On one side, the flat land provides the ideal foundation for the urban landscape of Pest. On the other, the natural, healing spring waters and hills make for a wonderful contrast. Just like the River Danube, Budapest is a city that has wonderful museums, intriguing ruins, pubs and relaxing baths. But within all that, lies a strange and odd Budapest that is truly worth discovering. Without further ado, here are some bizzare things to do in Budapest:
Try a traditional Polinka
The drink of Hungary is a shot called the polinka. It is a 50% alchoholic apple shot that apparently is drunk in between most meals. When Budapest was under communists rule, before the morning shift workers would go to a bar, drink a shot of polinka and walk straight back out to start their shift. The Polinka is most definitly an aquired taste with its pungent aroma that smells distinctly like bleach. But when in Budapest…
Michael Jackson tree
In the centre of Pest, outside the Kempinski Hotel is a tree wearing hundreds of photos of none other than the King of Pop himself. Famously, when touring in Budapest, Jackson stayed at the Kempinski and waved down at the crowd of fans that stood outside. Every year on the anniversary of his death, fans flock to the Memorial tree and re-enact a famous dance scene of his. It is truly a bizzare sight to behold: in the middle of a city crammed to the brim with culture and history, is a tree immortalising Michael Jackson.
Padlocks on a fence
Paris’s is home to an infamous bridge that is filled with padlocks carved with the initials of loved-up individuals. Couples flock to the bridge, padlock their love and then throw the key in the River Seine to symbolise the eternity of said love. In Budapest, it is slightly different and a smidge more cynical. In a park near the River Danube is a fence covered with padlocks. Legend has it that the Hungarians are slightly less romantically inclined than the Parisians so put up a fence a short walk away from the river so people can think about the longevity of their love before they throw the padlock into the river forever. However, some people have taken a more practical approach and used combination locks instead.
The changing of the guard
Outside Alexander Palace, that adorns a hill in Buda, there is a familiar sight. Guards in a flamboyant uniform protect the castle and every hour between 08.30 and 17:00 the guard ceremoniously change. But at 17:00, rather than ‘changing’, the guards flamboyantly ‘end-shift’. If you are lucky, you can spot their bus waiting on the outskirts to take them home. The tradition dates back to the early 2010’s when the Hungarian prime minister made a visit to London and was left inspired by the pagentry of Buckingham Palace.
The statue of Andras Hadik
Located in the castle district in Buda, there is statue of a man riding his horse. According to tradition, on the day before their exams school children visit the statue and rub the horse’s testicles for good luck. The tradition is derived from the fact that the word clover translates to horse testicle in Hungarian. If you plan to visit the statue, you may look at the horse’s shiny bollocks, but do not touch them. It is a pleasure that is exclusive to Hungarian students.
Whilst the baths, pubs and museums all make a visit to Budapest worth it, the bizrare atrractions are less busy and a good way to break up a long day of serious sight-seeing.