After a joyous overnight train ride, we arrived in Budapest. I really enjoyed the night sleeping in a train cabin middle bunk. It matched my desire to sleep in a small tight space that cradles you to sleep. The only obstacle was that we had to cross through Slovakia to get from Prague to Budapest so Britney and I had to pay extra for our 3-country Eurail pass (encompassing Czech Republic, Hungary, and Austria).
I was exhausted the first day and the gloomy weather did not help. Budapest was noticeably bigger and more spread out than Prague because it took a 45 minute walk from the train station to our hostel. We went on a free walking tour in the afternoon to get a nice summary roundabout of Budapest. Budapest was just as windy as Prague; it was very much to our surprise that we were experiencing much colder weather south of Copenhagen.
Budapest was much more modern than Prague. We learned from our walking tour of the recent reconstruction over the past century due to destruction of the city over the battles in Europe. Budapest is separated by the river with two islands called ‘Buda’ and ‘Pest’. Originally, Hungary wanted to make Buda the capital, but the area is too small so they joined the city with Pest to increase the landmass of this one city and announced it the capitol of Hungary. We also learned that Hungarian food is ranked one of the best cuisines in the world. They also produce low cost quality wine that is not well advertised so generally people don’t think of Hungary when it comes to wine making. The tour guide also claimed that Budapest was the true origin of the love locks on bridges and not Paris. I feel that Hungary is a humble eastern Europe gem that many overlooked. The nation is rich in culture and history that is overshadowed by its neigbhors.
Unfortunately, I did not realize the strong bath house culture so I did not bring a bathing suit. The first night, we walked so much that my feet was almost numb. We wanted to check out a small bath hall on the Buda side, but they didn’t rent bathing suits since it was almost closing. Only Chloe remembered to bring a bathing suit so she was able to experience the more traditional Turkish steamy bath hall. We went to Budapest’s largest and most popular bath house, Szechenyi, the next day, but it was much more modern and crowded.
Hungary is just as affordable as Czech, if not, more affordable. We ended the night at a crepe restaurant ordering both savory and sweet crepes. I was extremely full after the savory crepe and potato, but for the cheap price, I had to squeeze in a chocolate crepe. It was nice to take a night stroll along the river on our back to Pest where our hostel was located.
As a city girl, seeing the city lights at night and the sounds of the cars racing in the freeway really reminded me of home. Though I doubted this trip. As gross as it sounds, I was very excited to sit down in the hostel and take my Sperry’s off. I had the largest blister on my right big toe ever taking up a good inch.
Day 2 in Budapest was wonderful with the complimentary good sunny weather that makes any travel all the better. I was very excited to hit up the largest central food market in Budapest first thing in the morning. Upon entering, we were mezmorized by the pastries, affordable pastries that is. We all immediately purchased a pastry before wandering around the 3 story market. Generally, most shops sold similar products from baked goods to honey to paprika to alcohol. I considered the food market to be an obvious tourist trap that I voluntarily indulge myself in for the unbeatable prices, or what I considered extremely cheap after living in Copenhagen for a bit. I ended up buying a number of pastries, sweet and spicy paprika, and goose liver (yes, Hungary is also known for that) as souvenirs. I was hoping to purchase their famous white wine, Tokaji Azul, but I wanted to wait to see if I can find better prices along the way.
After the central food market, we went to Budapest’s St. Stephen’s Basilica. It was a beautiful church with amazing decor inside. Unfortunately, Church of Saint Stephen in Prague has won my heart; it would be extremely hard to one up that. We’ll just have to see about Vienna who also has a St. Stephen’s Church. Right by the basilica was this structure with spiral stairs that brought us up to see a nice city view of Budapest. Despite, the tiring hike up the stairs, the view was worth the effort.
After that we headed towards the Szechenyi bath area which is surrounded by a park. Brytne and I rented swim suits which were like non padded leotards. I was feeling a bit exposed, haha. We went for a 30-minute Swedish-Thai massage before dipping in the water. To be honest, I was not too impressed with my massage because I didn’t feel like it did anything for me. In the pool hall, there were many little pools with different temperature to choose from. There were also saunas that I did not get a chance to go in. The place was a little too crowded and the smell of fainted sulfur was not my favorite. Chloe explained how the smaller bath house she went to the night before was very different and much more steamy and traditional. I left early because I was determined to buy a more comfortable pair of casual shoes before leaving for Vienna the next day.
I went to WestEnd mall by a train station. They had many familiar brands such as H&M and Aldo. However, the prices in these stores were not as cheap as the prices for food. I found a pair of Timberland that I really liked, but I wasn’t ready to make a $160+ USD purchase and left empty handed. I rushed back to Home Plus Hostel to enjoy the free dinner they provide on Thursdays. To my disappointment it wasn’t a nice traditional Hungarian cuisine, but just boiled pasta. Sadly, I did not get a chance to sample any Hungarian cuisine. Right before the train took off Thursday morning to Vienna, I quickly ran to buy a lángos – a Hungarian snack made with fried dough and typically complemented with a garlic spread. It tasted like some awesome fatty food for game night. It was a satisfying end to my visit in Budapest.
Thursday night, Chloe and I along with other folks staying at the hostel ventured out to explore Budapest’s ruins bar. The Szimpla Ruins Bar is ranked the world’s 3rd best bar and it sure lives up to it. That place is huge and full of art and surprises everywhere. I liked how it is very much a tourist attraction, but many locals also go there. I tried a glass of the Tokaji Azul and for the first time, I finally appreciated some sort of wine. Although I don’t normally like sweet stuff, I actually like sweet white wine. The nice atmosphere and listening to interesting travel stories made it a very enjoyable night.