By Colleen Sloan
Today was a free day in Budapest, although, most of us ended up staying together anyway for the majority of the day. The day was comprised of a walking tour, lunch on our own, a trip to the famous Budapest baths, and then dinner and the remainder of our night on our own.
As mentioned, we started our day with a walking tour led by Todd, which included seeing the Dohány Street Synagogue, near our hotel. This included a public art space in the back of the synagogue of a tree with Hebrew inscriptions and every leaf represented a Hungarian Jewish life that was lost in the Holocaust. We also saw the national museum and a large library as well as learning about other buildings along the way. We took a small break to check out the large market near the edge of the Danube which had everything ranging from food to small Hungarian dolls. The market allows for good accessibility to food for all people by foot in order to increase equality, an aspect of sustainability. We ended the pre-lunch walking tour with a trip to the Parliament where Todd told us the history of the design Competition of this building and the fighting that took place in this square in 1956.
After breaking off for lunch, we met back up in Deak Ter (square) and continued our walking tour, stopping at the Octagon Square and opera house before reaching the baths. One sustainable aspect of our walking tours, in general, was the large pedestrian ways that are protected from cars. Many busy streets have underground crossings, which allow people to cross without entering vehicle traffic. The easily accessible tram and metro lines are also excellent in Budapest.
The baths were a great experience and we all were ready for a swim, or even a dip in the ice bath, after such a long walk. The large outdoor baths tend to be the main attraction with one of them including a small whirl type pool that we had a blast swimming in. The history and architecture, with its Roman-style statues and bright yellow exterior, makes this place a must see attraction in Budapest. The grounds of the baths themselves also include a small pond and a lot of green space which adds to the aesthetic and mitigates against the urban heat island effect in a dense urban area.
All in all, it was a jam-packed day of exploring the Budapest urban form and a great way to conclude our travels in this city. The main takeaway from this day is the level of walkability, public transportation and public plazas that it offers to make getting from site to site sustainable and truly a city for people rather than cars.