Budapest! Night 1, Day 1 and 2

On Saturday night I took a bus from Krakow to Budapest- about an 8 to 9 hour journey. The route was comically slow and winding- in fact, this was the first time I saw anything resembling hills or mountains since Iceland. At one point we were rerouted around a traffic accident on the main road and the bus had to meander through these tiny village streets in southern Poland- the people who were out in the streets were crowding to the sides of the road, pointing, laughing, and waving at the bus.

We drove through Slovakia around dusk. It looks like a beautiful country! I’ll have to add it to the list of places I’m not going to make it to this time. The “super moon” was out, and it was stunning watching out the window. This cell phone shot does not begin to do it justice:

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I decided to spend my first morning in Budapest sleeping in until my body decided it didn’t need any more sleep. I have barely done that on this trip, always feeling pressure to get up and see/do things. But I’m hitting another travel weary wall, and the extra sleep was so nice. I got up probably around 10:30 AM and had breakfast at the coffee shop next door to my hostel.

Oh, hostels. This place sounded great on paper and there are some good things about it. Everything in the building is handmade by local people and/or the people who run/own the hostel. Some things are shabby, but most things are really beautiful and interesting. I’m staying in the bottom floor apartment in a 4 person room. It has a separate door and separate bathroom, which really does make it feel like you are staying in some strange eclectic apartment instead of a hostel. My bed is on a platform and it’s almost a full sized mattress- a rarity in hostel living.

However, I get the sense that they think that their crafty interesting decor excuses them from being functional. For example, my roommate got a bunch of bites in the middle of the night- and they changed her linen but didn’t seem too interested or alarmed by what might be biting her. Last night I asked about laundry, and the guy told me that they do it for you for 3 euros. Perfect! He said it would be done by 10 AM this morning. Perfect! I wake up this morning and at 10 AM, I find my dirty laundry still sitting untouched in a bag near the kitchen. This means that today I am wearing dirty underwear and had to wash a bunch of my things in the sink. Which I would have just done last night had I KNOWN they were basically flaccid when it comes to actually doing what they say they are going to do.

Because the lay out of the hostel is so meander-y, there’s not a great common/hangout area, which has made it a lot harder to meet people from the hostel. There’s also not a great sense of organization or help when it comes to finding things to do or getting advice. It’s that sense that when you ask questions, they find you annoying and just want to go back to drinking or sleeping or whatever they were doing before you rudely interrupted them.

Anyway, I’m realizing that I don’t actually need things to be beautiful or interesting at all when it comes to where I lay my head at night- I just need things to be functional. If I can wash myself and my clothes, connect to the internet and get work done, have my few practical questions answered by someone who isn’t rude to me, and sleep without being assaulted by constant noise- I am happy. Lessons learned.

 

Sunday afternoon I decided to do one of the free walking tours- this time, the general Budapest one. Our tour guide was amazing, and she led us around for hours.

Apparently this statue was of someone’s young daughter dressed up like a princess- I can’t remember the name of the person, but its significance was that it was the first public statue erected after communism ended. It was refreshing because it wasn’t a powerful figure or leader, or propaganda- they just made it because it was nice. I rubbed her knees for good luck.

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Crossing the chain bridge. Budapest is situated on the Danube river, and the river divides the city into the Pest side and the Buda side. In general, the Pest side is more city-like, the Buda side more residential. The Pest side is flat, the Buda side is full of hills. The Pest side is a good place to get cheap food, the Buda side is more expensive.

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Looking towards Pest, from Buda. That building on the left is parliament.

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Buda. In some weird way, this reminded me of Queen Anne hill.

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Another WWII memorial. This is a site where Jewish people were ordered to take off their shoes before they were shot and their bodies fell in the river. Pretty uplifting stuff.

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After the tour, I hung out with a lovely girl from Toronto who was also on the tour- Kelsee. We had dinner at a place where for 4 euros, you have all you can eat food for 2 hours. I drank some wine (apparently Hungary is amazing for wine, yet they do a bad job of advertising this fact. So if you visit, drink the wine- it is cheap and delicious), and sampled some delicious Hungarian cakes- one with apricot filling, another with some sort of clove spice.

 

Yesterday I ventured out and took a 45 minute walk up to the northeast part of the city to the Sz├ęchenyi thermal baths. This place was MASSIVE- and very confusing at first. When I walked in the door, a woman with a clipboard tried to get me to pay double for a bunch of things I didn’t need- VIP access, a robe, hot tea, a tour of the facility- I guess that’s what I get for going to the most touristy bathhouse. I paid the regular cheap rate, but in retrospect the tour would have been really helpful- I couldn’t find the lockers, I couldn’t figure out how to use the lockers, I couldn’t find the thermal baths- and a guy yelled at me for hesitating to follow him when I couldn’t read any of the signs and wasn’t sure where I was going. (And I wasn’t the only one- people kept coming up to me in the locker room looking lost and speaking to me in all sorts of languages- luckily, I was able to help a few people and feel better in that way).

In the end though, once I figured it all out it was stunningly beautiful. I ended up getting a massage (probably overpriced for the area, but still much less expensive than Seattle) and the massage was very Thai influenced with lots of stretching and contorting. It was much needed and I feel much better physically today.

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In the farther pool in this photo, they were doing water aerobics with weights. It was quite comical.

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After the baths, I met up with my Hungarian friend from Ponderosa, Krisztina. She toured me around the city, pointing out things along the way.

Heros Square. Here I am posing with one of the original 7 “founders” of Hungary.

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Krisztina

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I’m not sure what was going on here, but I liked this girl’s sour face.

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This was at one of the more famous “ruin pubs”- Szimpla Pub.

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Krisztina was kind enough to loan me her bike, so I think today I’m going to go on a bike ride and also check out another thermal bath- the less touristy Rudas Bath.