So until day four I had been quite impressed with the accessibility of the city and transport (with the exception of places that sell food) however it all went a bit down hill on the penultimate day. I was impressed before I left that the Budapest transport website had the option to tick ‘wheelchair user’ and gave me buses with wheelchair symbols. Upon arriving in Budapest I discovered the first problem – the website is flash based so the three iPhones and ipad we had between us were next to useless! The second thing I discovered, earlier in the week, is that routes that run accessible buses do not indicate so on the signs as they do in, well, any other capital city I’ve been too. The final discovery is that even if the transport website does say the bus is accessible (I found a browser that will run flash called ‘Puffin’) that actually means nothing. Interestingly, if you tick you’re a wheelchair user the website won’t route you on any metro lines, so the system does work; it just uses a logic where wheelchair users can navigate three steep stairs with a pole in the middle so you can’t even lift the chair on. I presume disabled Hungarians use jet packs. We also just missed a bus that was accessible, yet the next 5 or so that came on the same route weren’t, which was pretty baffling. Eventually we just cut our losses and piled on to the front door which didn’t have the pole that blocked the way. Luckily Hungarians are really nice and loads of people offered to help. So to sum up, there is no way to tell what kind of bus you’re going to get, and there are about 5 different types. I can however tell you that bus number 105, an extremely useful line that goes up one of the main streets and connects you to the tram lines is mostly inaccessible and bus number 16 is a (as I have named it, being the highly politically correct person I am) ‘retardibus’ that sort of looks like it’s been squished and has 2 steps. Trams 4 and 6 have great accessibility (the rest along the river don’t) and as there was absolutely no way to pay, may or may not be free!!
On Wednesday we started of by doing the second half of the hop on hop off bus tour we hadn’t done, mainly because it was the only way we could figure out how to get to the Citadella which considering it’s the highest point in Budapest we would not have wanted to walk up there (and when I say walk, I mean be pushed by my wonderful friends!) The views from up there are incredible, despite it being a bit hazy; you can see all the bridges and monuments on both sides.
After that we headed up to heroes square, after a quick lunch of leftover cheese, bread rolls and chocolate smiley face biscuits (so sophis) in a sort of park, but mainly an area for office workers to come smoke by a main road (yum.)
First we had a little wander around heroes square, which is said to be Budapest’s most beautiful. Each of the statues there commemorate someone that helped lead Hungary to independence. After that we headed to the art hall to check out a modern exhibition that I think it’s safe to say none of us really ‘got’. It’s been so long since I’ve thought about art I think I’m losing the skill! After that we went to the opposite side of heroes square to the museum of fine arts and picked a few of the key pieces to listen to the audio guide about. I think by this point we were all starting to feel like we might die of exhaustion, due to the fact that the bells of St Stephen start up outside our window at 6am and we’d been doing jam packed 12 hour days. Katy and Kas have been walking and pushing me round for days so probably have no feet left and I’ve been sitting like a sack of potatoes for 5 days and pushing myself round so that combined with morphine meant I probably didn’t take that much in and it’s definitely a place you could spend hours in. Both galleries are completely accessible and are free for disabled and one carer.
Now it was time for the Sechenyi medicinal spas, which is probably one of the things I was most excited about. There were literally no signs outside the building labelling that’s what it was, only some signs to advertise ‘Thai massage’ – which always carries the risk that it might not be your back that gets the ‘massage.’ (although all the ones we saw did all seem to be legit.) Confusingly the lady at the desk told us that the spas closed at 7pm, but if we went the the entrance on the other side of the building, to use the same pools, then they closed at 10pm?! When we got around the other side we discovered the wheelchair stairlift was broken and very little English was spoken for Katy to even communicate ‘wheelchair.’ Two strong men carried me up the stairs and we bought our tickets – no discounts here, making it the most expensive thing we’ve done by miles (still only about £10 each) we also got given a free cabin rather than just lockers as they were downstairs and although I did see another stairlift, maybe that was broken too. The cabin is essentially a wooden phone box, definitely smaller than British swimming cubicles and 3 of us were supposed to be using this! We headed outside into the freezing night to go and check out the outdoor pools – one warm, one for swimming (only with caps) and one lovely hot one. I did see a hoist for the main pool but not sure if it could be used in the baths, to get into the baths you first had to pass a moat of cold water for feet, so it wasn’t the easiest to get into. Although the spas were lovely, they were very full of children and stag parties, so weren’t really THAT relaxing, although it did ease my muscles a bit. As there were steps to get to the indoor pools on the other side we didn’t go in, although Kas went to go and check them out and said they were cloudy/yellow and full of middle aged couples canoodling. Hot. Although I had thought about it before hand and thought of making myself a waterproof wheelchair cushion I didn’t, because I’m useless and lazy. Therefore I ended up with an absolutely soaked wheelchair cushion, at which point Kas reminded my I had a poncho in my bag I could have used!
Getting back into our clothes was also thoroughly unrelaxing as there was no shower, although I think there was one in the disabled toilet. We had to shift use the phone box cabin, you can’t even change outside them because they are open to the pools (with windows.) For a spa that supposedly has medicinal waters I was a bit disappointed with the lack of disabled provision, I’m still glad I went but I honestly don’t know how much I’d recommend it, if you had a more severe disability than mine it would be an absolute non starter. There were kiosks around the outside that sound food/beer so perhaps in the summer when you can sit out you could make more of a day of it like a theme park.
After that we had the bus saga trying to get back to our apartment, the only way was bus 105 and after missing the accessible one the rest of them were impossible to get on. It wasn’t so much the three steps that were the problem but the bus was so high off the ground I just never would have got up on to it. We decided to walk onto the Main Street (Andrassy Utca) to see if there were any other buses we could use and I had decided that I would just have to bum shuffle on to the bus if needs be. There wasn’t another bus, it was still and unaccessible 105 but it wasn’t so high off the ground at this stop so I was able to walk on. At the the other end Katy had to lift me off the bus which was both hilarious and terrifying, as well as being quite satisfying because she wouldn’t have done that 2 years ago when I was 9 1/2 stone heavier!!
I don’t think we’ve ever been so happy to see our beds and even managed to sleep through the arsehole that plays his saxophone until midnight!