Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Solo Trip Part II: Budapest, Hungary

Well, now that it's been a few days for me to recover and reflect, at least a tiny bit, I suppose you guys want to hear about the rest of my awesomely planned and incredibly luck-filled trip.
Ok, so it wasn't so much luck as it was that everything that could go wrong, didn't go wrong.  I suppose I'd heard, and continue hearing, all these horror stories from friends and classmates about their travels and Alana and I never ran into the kind of things that could have happened.
View from the Danube
Seriously, the majority of our trip was spent exclaiming "OH MY GOD, we're so--nope. Never mind. Not gonna say it." and then we would share a look that said we both knew what was about to be said and we were in silent agreement to never utter it for fear of jinxing the rest of our trip  (whether or not I believe in jinxing and karma is up for debate, but no reason to start experimenting with luck at that point).
Anyway, on to the things you actually want to hear.  And I promise, I will write more about those horror stories later because if they weren't true they would be almost comical.
Hero's Square
So, when I last wrote here, I had typed up a blog on my phone in the Bergamo airport and reflected on the past two days in Italy.  Landing in Hungary went very smoothly, despite some violent turbulence in the beginning.  I don't know what it is about budget airlines, but I think I get more scared on their flights than I would on any other airline even though they have to go through the same inspection and vetting process for their air crafts and pilots (I hope?).
On the bus ride to our hostel in Budapest, or more specifically Pest since we were staying in that side of the city, I could already see a marked difference from Italy.  I don't want to say it was greyer, but...definitely a bit more rundown? Not in a bad way, but more of a "I could see this country used to be in the Soviet Union" kind of way.  The city itself definitely didn't reflect that though, and it was absolutely not what I expected it to be.
Inside Matthias Church
I had either expected it to be a grey, ugly-ish sort of place with no real individual personality or a tiny, quaint sort of city like Copenhagen.  To be honest, Budapest kind of falls in the middle.  It is most definitely not a tiny place with cobblestone streets and bright houses.  There are large roads and tall, grey buildings. The city definitely didn't lack personality either. I mean, with one look down the Danube or view on the top of one of Buda's many hills you could still see the beautiful and impressive landmarks that make Budapest different.
Our hostel itself was nice, the building it was located in was...not.  It was located on the 3rd floor of an apartment building whose lobby was run down and graffitied and they had the tiniest elevator I've ever seen.  The rooms were nice, though, and the hostel had free breakfast so we couldn't complain.
We got in around 6pm or so and were so tired all we did was eat a dinner at this tiny cafe down the block and took a night walk around town before passing out.  Our walk was actually incredibly beautiful, we made our way to the Danube after stumbling on to Szent Istvan Bazilika (St. Stephen's Basilica) and saw a lot of the important landmarks prettily lit up at night.
Ceiling View of Szimpla Bar
 The next morning, our first full day, we took a walking tour which was great.   Our tour guide was funny in the stereotypically corny sort of way you'd expect from a tour guide and after all his jokes would say "sorry, that was bad."  We saw many of the landmarks of Buda and Pest and he told us a lot of history while also plugging for the other tours the company offered.  After, we ran back to our hostel and grabbed a lunch around the corner.  The place was super nice and the chef came over and told us all the vegetarian options they had, since it's a bit hard in eastern Europe to find such a thing as a non-meat meal.  We walked up Andrassy ut, a main boulevard that leads to the Hero's Square and into city park.  For dinner, we were still so full from whatever it was we had eaten that day that we ended up going to a wine bar and split a bottle and had some Hungarian scones, basically tiny bread balls with a little melted cheese on top.  We then walked to the most famous ruin bar, Szimpla, and stayed only for a little while to check it out before going home.
Dat view tho
Our last full day in Hungary was my personal favorite.  In the morning we went to the Fisherman's Bastion and Matthias Church to get incredible views of Pest and go inside the former mosque-turned-church.  After, we walked to the Rudas baths and, despite it taking longer to get there than anticipated, we spent THREE AND A HALF hours there.  It was absolutely incredible, and necessary for anyone travelling to Budapest to go to the Turkish baths.  Any Turkish bath.  Seriously guys, do it.  After spending the majority of our day in glorified hot tubs (I'm absolutely not complaining, though) we went back to the hostel with wobbly limbs.  Honestly, the only reason we left was because I nearly fainted from hunger and I was still willing to stay.  I was willing to give up food. For those that know me, they will agree that this happens very rarely.  We met Alana's friends at the hostel since they had randomly decided to book the same hostel as us (and ended up in the same room! Crazy right?) and had dinner, showed them around (since we were basically Budapest aficionados by now) and headed yet again to Szimpla bar.
St. Stephen's Hand
The last day, we had some time before our flight so we went into Szent Istvan's and took a look at what apparently was his preserved hand and then to the House of Terror, a museum dedicated to the communist and fascist regimes of Hungary and also acts as a memorial for the victims of the regimes. Then, we packed up our things and left for the airport where we caught our plane to Greece.

More on that next post.

P.S. If anyone is planning on going to Budapest, it's a wonderful trip and I highly recommend it.  But please be warned, their escalators move super fast and will either traumatize you or ruin you for all other escalators (I mean, really, who decided that the standard speed of escalators should be so slow??)
P.P.S Hungarian is impossible, do not attempt.

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