Budapest finally got what it’s been missing – a way for everyone to enjoy the Danube, not just tourists, freighter captains, and the odd nouveau-riche speedboat owner. With the new boat service run by the public transport system, you can get from Buda to Pest and back again, and from Római part in the north to Kopaszi Gát (Rákoczi bridge) in the south for just 400 forint (free with your BKV pass!) and no traffic jams.
The boats zigzag up and down the river, running every half hour on weekdays and every hour on weekends – more boats were put into service after 2,000 people took a ride on the very first day, July 1st. The stops are well-marked with the new BKK Duna logo (BKK is basically the company that now runs the BKV), and there’s a glass-covered waiting area, which unfortunately during the current heat wave does more harm than good, but good marks for effort.
It’s a motley crew of boats, some mildly restored clunky old ones, some more modern, but I suppose that keeps it all very Budapestian. The captain and crew are still BKV employees, so you can expect the usual grumpy service and not much knowledge of English. But the schedule and the information boards at each stop are detailed and informative enough to get you where you’re going. Download the schedule here: http://www.bkk.hu/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Hajózás-Menetrend1.pdf
My friend Hunter and I boarded at the Erzsébet bridge stop, which is actually closer to the Marriott. There wasn’t much of a breeze as we gazed at Castle Hill and then the Parliament, with a detour over to a small bay in Újpest where rowers and kayakers were plying the waters.
We traveled all the way to Római part, where kids were learning to kayak and people were wading in the water or strolling the tree-lined promenade along the shore. Swimming isn’t allowed or recommended in the Danube here, not because of the water quality, but because of the strong currents. You could take the boat here and then go to the family-friendly swimming pool complex called Római Strandfürdő, which has quite a bit of shade compared with others in Budapest, a short walk inland. http://www.budapestgyogyfurdoi.hu/en/romai/history
We had a smoothie on the shore at one of the little bodegas serving lángos and palacsinta (fried dough and pancakes) and other beach-type food, took a short walk to see the restaurants and sandy shores, and then got on the next boat back to downtown, where there was finally a breeze washing over the upper deck. The boats are not fast – we chose to get off at Jászai Mari tér and take the No. 2 tram further down the river to get there faster. But the boats are perfect for an outing with friends or family. My next destination will be Kopaszi gát, the gorgeous park-restaurant-beach complex in southern Buda…