Hello from the Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel in Bratislava!
It's been a hectic few days, so I'm taking it slow today and thought I'd check in with some thoughts on the first leg of our trip.
Turkish Airlines is very nice
Thursday night, I flew from Chicago to Istanbul on TK6 in the economy cabin. The seats were pretty comfortable but there was not quite enough legroom for me to ever get comfortable enough to sleep for more than a few minutes. Next time: business class (famous last words).
Fortunately, there was a wide selection of movies available on the large seat-back screens, so I got caught up on some movies I'd missed this year. I particularly enjoyed this bizarre Indian television show "Great World Hotels," which follows sultry hostess Elisha Kriis as she coos over fresh fruit and in-room swimming pools at Amansara.
I also enjoyed watching our tiny Turkish flight attendants free-pour cocktails from novelty over-sized bottles of liquor.
Istanbul is a pretty easy place to connect internationally
It's become fashionable in certain circles to lament that US airports are collapsing into rubble around us while international airports are sleek hyper-modern affairs. Not Istanbul!
Istanbul Ataturk Airport still features the teeming mass of humanity and rundown facilities that makes you proud to be an American. I don't think I've ever seen an airport with more toilet facilities, or an airport where such a high percentage of the facilities were closed for "cleaning." It's also been a long time since I've seen someone casually smoking a cigarette in a public restroom!
Travel is fatal to prejudice, as people are fond of remarking in their social media profiles.
Anyway, connecting in Istanbul to our Budapest flight was a cinch, although a mobility-impaired person might struggle with the long walk between gates, and our bags were checked all the way through to Budapest without issue.
Budapest is lovely, and cheap
I had a three-night reservation at the Radisson Blu Hotel Beke, which is a fairly basic business hotel, and like all Club Carlson properties featured a range of confusing amenities:
- Treadmills and other workout equipment were placed poolside in the basement athletic center;
- The health center prominently advertised massages, but when I inquired about a massage with the attendant, he explained that his colleague used to provide the massages, but he doesn't work there anymore;
- Our room featured a real king-size bed, but with two twin comforters;
- When our room was made up, the housekeeper didn't replace the coffee — but did artfully rearrange the empty plastic packets we'd already used.
We spent a few days exploring Budapest, and visited the Széchenyi bathing complex, which was a very interesting experience. I've never seen so many pools with such slight differences in temperature before. Pro tip: either bring your own towel, or bring cash to rent one. You'll pay 3,000 Hungarian forints and receive a towel, then get 2,000 forints back once you return it.
Speaking of forints, Hungary still hasn't adopted the Euro, and at this rate it seems unlikely to ever do so, making visiting Budapest ludicrously cheap. Over 3 days in the city, I spent $308 total, including our pre-arranged (i.e., overpriced) cab to the hotel, train tickets to Bratislava, and some pretty thorough minibar-raiding at the hotel, and I don't think I could have spent any more money if I were trying to.
That's it for now; I'm off to see what I can see in Bratislava!