I’m back from my first venture out to Eastern Europe…and I can’t wait to go back (and to go further into Eastern Europe)! This weekend, I went to Budapest, Hungry. For some reason, I have always wanted to visit Budapest – even though I didn’t really know much about it. I knew it was separated by the Danube River and that it used to be two different cities, but that’s about it. I got a group of friends to go…we found a train, booked a couchette, and booked a hostel and we were on our way! I thought it was really funny that none of them really knew what Budapest was, or what we could do there – but they all trusted me that it would be a cool city. I think we were surprised by how much fun it really was.
Prior to leaving, we were warned by our program director that there were a lot of riots going on in Budapest recently because the people were revolting against the President for lying to them about their economy. Even though we were advised not to go, I thought that this element might make our trip really unique anyway – as long as we were safe about it. Maybe I have a little sense of adventure in my blood that I didn’t know about ☺ Who gets to say that they have experienced riots in Hungry in person? Now, I can!
We hopped on the train, a little nervous about what we would run into, but really excited. We all had our backpacks, but Colby only brought his guitar (with underwear and a toothbrush stuffed into the case, of course). The train ride over was easy schmeasy and we arrived in Budapest Friday morning. After checking into our southern-asian-travel-inspired hostel (really awesome), we set off for the day. Heading off to Hero’s Square first. By this time, we’re all pretty good at navigating the metro systems in Europe…so we got ourselves across Pest in no time. Walking through the beautiful park behind the Hero’s Square, we saw an outdoor ice rink and knew that we had to check it out. It was closed at the time, but would open that evening…so we decided to head on over to the Buda side to check out the Fisherman’s Bastion and the Matthius Templom (a beautiful church with a colorful, tiled roof, and mosaic artwork all over the walls). After getting some Hungarian Pancakes (which turned out to be just likes crepes!) and cappuccinos at a local café, we went back over to Pest to go ice skating. It was the best. THE BEST. I always loved ice skating, but I’ve never done it in an outdoor rink – and especially not in Hungry. There were a bunch of Hungarian youth at the rink and they were blasting music straight from middle school. We’re talking Blink 182 and some other good oldies. After a day of touristy stuff, it was fun to just hang out and see some of the people.
Later on that night, most of our group were pretty exhausted but I wanted to go check out what the big deal about the riots were. So far, we hadn’t seen any sign of public revolts! We had been told that most of the riots were going on around the Parliament (one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen). So, Pam and I decided to break off from the group and check it out. It was really neat to see. Just people gathered everywhere, candles lit, wreathes hung, flags flying – it was a peaceful riot. There were the “SWAT”-type police men all over the place…but we felt safe as we watched from the back. We also used this night to run over the bridge from Pest to Buda and then back…but while we were on the Buda side, we saw that there were some people sitting on this “Arc de Triumph”-esque tunnel/arch that overlooked the entirety of Budapest and the Danube River. We headed on up there to check out the view – and it was amazing. Again, it was just another slice of Hungarian culture that not most tourists get to see. There were just a bunch of kids hanging out and enjoying their beautiful and cloudless Friday night.
To finish off the night, we headed back to our hostel because we wanted to return before midnight…but we found Colby sitting in the square outside of the hostel with his guitar, some beer, and a cigarette…talking with some Hungarian kids our age. The rest of the group had gone to bed but he wanted to make sure we got back okay. We decided to stick around and talk with the kids and find out more about the riots. They were really fun and (probably because of the alcohol) were really willing to speak with us. I got to play the guitar in the square in the middle of the night in Hungary with some local kids. Probably one of the coolest things I’ve done so far.
The rest of the trip consisted of a great nights rest, going to the thermal water bathing pools (Baden-Baden was better) and shopping on the main Vaci utca. Hungary has a very unique sense of style and design…it was really creative, but I wasn’t really a fan. I did purchase an awesome mug for my coffee house though ☺ I have no idea how I’m going to get these home in one piece…
Goulash for dinner (I had to try it! I loved it!) and then back on the train to get home by Sunday morning. We had a long couchette ride home that consisted of good times with friends, jam sessions, trying to brush your teeth and wash your face in a TINY bathroom with a slow trickle of water, and saying random things in the middle of the night.
It was a quick trip…but definitely filled with a lot. I loved the people, the food, the architecture, the culture, checking out the riots…even trying to figure out the Forint (their currency). I want to go back!