mysterious until the fall of Communism. BUDAPEST is well worth

Disparate Danube

Right in the heart of Europe lies a jewel of a

city which remained

discovering. Words: Peter Ross

The under-researched visitor to Budapest may well anticipate frosty post-Cold War streets and an icy

wind whistling in from the Steppes. But don't let

Hungary’s location next to the former Soviet Union fool you into cramming your suitcase with large furry hats summer months can see temperatures exceed 30°C.

Suitably attired in T-shirt and sunglasses, you should prepare to get to know a schizophrenic city which

combines centuries of tradition with a thriving youth


Appropriately for such a divided culture, the city itself

is riven by the Danube. Buda, on the left bank, is the more historical and tourist-orientated side which looks

similar to Prague. Here you will find the architecturally astonishing Fisherman's Bastion, Matthias Church and

Gellért Hill, which affords tremendous views across the

river. Pest is home to Hungary's political landmarks including the Parliament Building (plainly inspired by Westminster), but is also the best side for shopping,


Stating the obvious

Gellért Baths The most famous of over 100 thermal bath-houses in Budapest are housed in a fabulous Art Nouveau burlding and include both indoor and outdoor pools. For a more authentic Hungarian experience, Visit Lukas Furdo baths which are popular With locals. Fisherman's Bastion A 19th century edifice bUilt to celebrate Budapest’s 1000th anniversary, this architectural marvel has a fairytale feel and offers fab Views of the City,

Matthias Church Founded in 1250, this church has changed allegiances many times and even served time as a mosque. The result is a bizarre and beautiful bUilding steeped in history. Parliament Home to the National Assembly, this neo-gothic pile is an obwous rip-off of its London c0unterpart. However, it looks gorgeous next to the Danube.

Heroes Square Another millenial landmark, Heroes Square is a hugely impressive monument to one nation's self-belief ~v the column that forms the centrepiece is especially awesome A monolithic statue of Stalin stood here until it was smashed during the 1956

(liaiii Blitlge

restautants and bars.

Like much of Central Europe, food and drink are cheap by Western standards. Meals have traditionally been rich, heavy and creamy and, although tastes are changing especially among the young, meat does tend to be a constant. Vegetarians should be under no illusions that they are going to eat well. One quirky tip, though: Hungarian tomatoes are the best in the world. Booze-wise, things are better the beer is tasty and inexpensive, while local hooch known as palinka is the only thing that will make the bizarre language seem at all comprehensible.

Hangovers then are to be expected, but Budapest has a special cure which puts the Scottish lrn-Bru and fry-up remedy to shame. A quick trip to one of the many famous thermal baths is the perfect pick-me-up after a night of excess.

The List alternative

Pub: Racz kert A huge open-air bar popular With artists and students who enjoy revelling until the early hours of the morning The beer is cheap, but you should try the schnapz, especially Palinka or Unicum Beside Racz Bath at the Buda side of Elizabeth Bridge.

Club: Cinetrip Parties Hip hop and house music, silent movres, belly dancing and booze, blended together into one incredible ’happening’. Check the Pesti Est listings mag for details, Rudas Bath-house at the Buda side of Elizabth Bridge.

Shop: In Ciankali Budapest's hip young things shop at this flea-market style

1999— The Big Fling

Travel before the millennium Why wait until the year 2000 to head

off in search of the ultimate adventure, when there’s still time in 1999?

From 10 May—13 June '99 STA Travel and Virgin Atlantic have joined forces to offer some of their lowest fares ever to destinations worldwide . . Plus if you choose to fly Virgin you could WIN a fantastic trip for you and three friends to one of nine destinations on 9.9.99. There are nine of these trips to be won, so a total of 36 people will be off to one of the following destinations: Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San FranCisco, Miami, Washington DC and Johannesburg.

All wrnners will fly on 9.9.99 and stay for 99 hours.

PLUS . . There are 5,000 instant prizes to be won. Each person booking a Virgin Atlantic flight at STA Travel will receive a free scratchcard . . . prizes include V99 tickets, Virgin clothing, Cinema tickets, USA Lonely Planet Gurdebooks, Virgin Cola, flight bags, t-shirts and hundreds of other goodies. Call into STA Travel between 10 May and 13 June for more details or check out their websrte

store for 60s retro gear. 9 Va'mha'z kOrut

Food: Daubner This is the best patisserie in a city famous for its cakes. If you over-eat, then you can walk off the excess at the nearby stalagmite cave. 50 Szepvo'lgyi ut,‘ bus 65 from Kolossy te’r for the cave.

Theatre: Merlin This excellent Budapest theatre company perform in English. They brought Bluebeard’s Castle to the Edinburgh Festival last year and are due to return in 1999. 4 Ger/Oczy Ut.

Getting there

STA Travel offer return fares from Glasgow or Edinburgh to Budapest from £234 including tax.

STA Travel are at 184 Byres Road and The University of Strathclyde, 90 John Street Glasgow. Tel: 0141 338 6000

27 Forrest Road, Edinburgh. Tel 0131 226 7747 0 30 Upperkirkgate, Aberdeen. Tel 0122 465 8222 0 '

13—29 May 1999 THE usr 107