Ice Ice Baby

February… freezing cold outside and this winter seems so endless…
Let us cheer you up with the number one winter mass sport of Budapest: let’s go iceskating!
If you would happen to visit Hungary one of the first things you’ll notice is that we don’t have really high hills. The highest point of the country is Kékes in the Mátra Mountains northeast of Budapest rising 1014 meters or 3327 ft. That’s not so high, is it? Year by year – due to the global warming or who knows the behind reason – we have less and less snow .
Oh, those white Christmases of my childhood seems to be gone forever… Well, what shall we do if there was no snow, no hills and your pockets are not full? Most of the people here in Hungary (especially the working class) rather go iceskating instead of a fancy holiday in Italy, France or Slovakia for skiing. Iceskating has old roots in this country. The Budapest Skating Association was one of the five founding members of the International Iceskating Union in 1892 and 3 years later the European Championship was organized in Budapest on the ice rink of the City Park. It’s not our purpose to go through the history of Hungarian iceskating, but for some fun facts we have to highlight a wonderful women, Lili Kronberger, the pioneer of Hungarian figure skating.

Just imagine till 1924 only Male Iceskating Championships were organized, so in 1908 Lili had to compete against men on the ice! She became Hungary’s first World Champion in figure skating and won this title four times in a row between 1908 and 1911. What is more she was the first skater ever who used musical accompaniment to her free program which was coming from Zoltán Kodály, the famous Hungarian composer. What seems so obvious today: that every single iceskating program has music, originally was a Hungarian idea!
That’s all about historical facts and now let’s lace up our skates!

Although the most famous outdoor icerink in Budapest is located in the City Park – it’s on the top list of Lonely Planet as one of the best places in Europe in winter time – we decided to discover something less-known and hit the ice on a brand-new ice rink of the Bálna Center.
The Bálna is basically a shopping and cultural center behind the Great Market Hall at the riverside, nearby the Liberty Bridge. The building – very interesting combination of contemporary design and two historic warehouses from the XIX. century – has a whale-shape, hence the name Bálna ( meaning whale) in our language.
The ice rink itself was opened for the public this winter for the first time and open every day till the end of February. Although the rink is not very big, but we felt like kings – we had almost a private space since there were only few people on the ice.
The other thing is that the only cost is the ice skate rental (600Huf ∼ 2€) really inexpensive as well.The area is pretty, while you’re skating you can admire the gorgeous view of the Danube.

If you would be hungry after the activity the Great Market Hall is just a stone’s throw/ just around the corner/ away, you can refill your missed energy with a big sausage or a tasty lángos.

Finally, here is a little ‘retro’ for you:


This is Anita with her sister sometime in the middle of the 8O’s. The ice rink was made by their father at the end of their garden on the countryside.
First thing to do when the temperature went below zero he made the banks and after he got back from work in the evening he filled up the area with water which got frozen during the night. He had to repeat this night by night for a week at least…The result was a wonder for us: we had our own icerink. Fun times.

If you’re interested in other ice rinks of Budapest, here is a little info:

Think we missed any?
Let us know where your favourite rinks are in Budapest!