First day in Budapest and no part of me wanted to leave my comfy Airbnb bed, but… Budapest calls. Jumping on a tram to the other side of the city, I started my full, exciting, beautiful, and exhausting day in Budapest. After getting off the tram, I headed into the Budapest underground metro system in order to get to my destination of City Park. The thing about this is that I definitely didn’t have the right ticket to ride the metro but nobody checked and I hopped on board unimpeded. Honestly, figuring out the public transportation systems in each city you visit is extremely difficult and I didn’t really feel like spending half my time working out the logistics of which ticket to buy and which bus/train/tram/metro system was which so I basically just go with it and hope for the best, haha.
Once I got off the metro, I walked up the stairs onto a street facing Heroes Square which was a large open area with impressive statues and museums at either side. Walking a bit beyond Heroes Square, a giant beautiful castle appeared and of course I went straight toward the gorgeous piece of architecture to get a closer look. Vajdahunyad castle was originally made with wood and cardboard but became so popular that it was built permanently with brick and stone. The castle was so beautiful on the outside and I wish I could’ve seen the inside but I try to spend the least amount of money I can on my trips so seeing the outside was sufficient enough(free) for me.
My next plan was to go to the House of Terror, sounds like fun right? To me, absolutely! The House of Terror is a three story museum with exhibits on the fascist and communist regimes in Hungary. Since the fifteenth of March happened to be a national holiday, this museum was free for the day! The history fanatic inside me was both intrigued and deeply disturbed by the story of this building. Hungary was occupied by both Nazis and Soviets, thousands were tortured and killed in the basement of this very building. Comprehensively telling a story of the power struggle and daily misery experienced by Hungarian people, the House of Terror was an incredible museum. It’s nearly impossible to grasp the dark history enveloping the world during this time, but I really felt the history while walking through the basement torture chambers and prisons. Easy to say, I really enjoyed this museum and should probably make an effort to visit more museums when I travel places… even if it costs me a couple bucks. Next, a long walk for a quick visit to the Hungarian State Opera House which was under construction so I wasn’t able to see the old, beautiful architecture as it was covered up.
Lunch time in Budapest was interesting. I decided to try the Hungarian food special called langos. Since it was a national holiday, there were little parades, shops, people celebrating, and food vendors selling the popular fast food. Langos is a fried circular dough with a layer of sour cream(yuck) then cheese. When the the woman working the food stand asked me if I wanted the classic Hungarian Langos, I said sure because I didn’t really know what I was ordering anyway. Turned out classic meant covered in fatty bacon… which I despise. Reluctantly, I ate about a quarter of this until I could not force any more down… then I found a bench outside St. Stephen’s Basilica and fed the rest to some pigeons.
Already sitting outside my next destination, I took a few steps and headed inside St. Stephen’s Basilica. With only a 1 Euro donation, I was able to explore the most beautiful building I’ve ever been in my life. Upon entering the place of worship, I looked up at the ceiling and my breath was taken away. Sitting down, I took in the beauty of the interior architecture for a little while. Feeling overwhelmed by the stained glass, murals of Jesus, statues, and gold tainted details, I really wanted to share the exquisiteness so I Facetimed my Momma and showed her around the Basilica because I knew she would appreciate the splendor as much as I was. Since there were people worshipping and signs suggesting silence, I tried to keep my photo taking to a minimum due to the annoyingly loud shutter release, but it was pretty stunning, take my word for it…or look up other photos on the inter webs.
Heading to another interesting piece of history, I made it to the Danube Promenade where a memorial called Shoes on the Danube honors Jews who were ordered to take off their shoes and shot by Arrow Cross militia men, their bodies falling into the river. This country has such an interesting history, there were museums, statues, exhibits, and memorials everywhere. Architecture was probably my favorite part of exploring Budapest. Most iconic is the Hungarian Parliament building. You can see the ginormous building from practically anywhere in Budapest but since I was so close, I decided to get an up close look. Trying to take a photo of the entire building while standing in front of it is nearly impossible because the sheer massive size. Conveniently enough, while I was taking photos in front of the Parliament building, the guards changed posts and it was a pretty cool spectacle. Setting out for my next interesting piece of architecture ended in some disappointment as the Great Synagogue was closed. After taking some unsatisfactory photos of the outside, I moved on into the inner city. Luckily enough, I stumbled into a cute little parade and then went into a couple souvenir shops. Apparently embroidery is a big thing in Hungary because souvenirs are covered in floral embroidered designs. I love embroidery so much and I miss doing it when I’m at home, so it was pretty difficult to keep myself from buying everything, especially with the very persuasive vendors.
Feeling my stomach rumbling, I realized that I hadn’t actually eaten anything all day since I hated the Langos. Passing a restaurant sign advertising Hungarian dishes, I walked backward and entered on in. Looking over the menu was a chore, but I settled on Paprika chicken and noodles because it’s one of the dishes most commonly found in restaurants in Hungary, besides goulash, the national dish, but I didn’t really feel like eating beef stew. I really didn’t know what to expect but I’m trying to be more open with food because at home, I eat like a small, unhealthy child. Of course, in the middle of my plate is a huge dollop of sour cream. I hate sour cream, why are they so obsessed with it here? But guess what Kassie(older sis)? I ate it all. I even ate the dark meat on the chicken leg. Overall, it was pretty good, I was not disappointed. By the time I left, it was dark and rainy. Taking the scenic route home, I walked back to the other side of town over the illuminated chain bridge. I attempted to take some decent long exposure shots but I forgot my tripod back in Ljubljana like an idiot. Oh well, I was still able to experience Budapest at night and it’s a whole new view.
This morning I went on a journey to the top of Budapest.
Next, I headed for Buda castle and also stopped to see the funicular which is the second oldest in the world, using weights to raise carriages up the hill.
Then, my daily adventure took me to new heights as I climbed to the top of Budapest called Gellert Hill. Walking up the stairs nearly killed me but I finally made it, the view was worth the near asthma attack. From the top, there was a barely visible rainbow resulting from the drizzle.
After enjoying the view for a little while, I went back down to the city and wandered around and visited some shops, found some art to buy of course, and just enjoyed some free time in the city. As I was walking around, some guy tapped me on the shoulder, slightly alarmed, I turned around to see a guy in his late 20s with long hair smiling at me. “You are Hippie?”, he said in a thick accent. Confused, I replied with a shrugging hand gesture. “I like your style” he replied, then he waked away. Super weird encounter considering I’m wearing big overalls covered in distressed holes, an oversized “Harvard for Earth” long sleeve shirt I stole from my brother-in-law, dirty hair covered with a thick brown headband, no makeup, and my black combats boots. I was looking real rough… perhaps that’s what he’s into, haha no judgement. As I was walking the streets of the inner city, I passed an ice cream store that allured me with a swirled cone made of dough, dipped in cinnamon sugar, coated in nutella, and filled with strawberry ice cream. It was beginning to become dark so I decided to head back to airbnb. Since Budapest is a big city, I needed to jump on the tram to get back to my room in a timely manner. Jumping onto the tram, I realized it was going in the complete wrong direction then course corrected by getting on the opposite bus. Finally going in the right direction, I realized there was a guy checking the validity of passenger tickets coming closer to me, one passenger at a time and I still hadn’t bought a ticket. Can you blame me for trying to save a buck? Also I was still horribly confused by the entire ticket system and it turns out not as many Hungarians speak English as the Slovenians so I couldn’t find any help. Anyway… the man was coming closer and closer until I was able to hop off at the next stop unchecked. Needing to make it home, I was supposed to get back on a different bus, but the man was waiting to get onto THAT bus to check some more tickets. So, I waited about 15 minutes for the next, next bus and by the time I made it back to the apartment, it was much later than I originally intended. This is definitely not the blog for people who want to know a lot about food and what I’m eating in all these fun countries because I might be the first human who doesn’t need sustenance in order to live. Having not eaten anything but a cone of ice cream all day, I stopped in a small grocery store outside the apartment and grabbed some noodles for a super late dinner because I know my mom would want me to eat something even though I wasn’t hungry(you’re welcome Ma). I also bought a thing of crushed red pepper because I can’t find it anywhere in Ljubljana and I can’t live without spicy in my life; priorities right?
Last day in Budapest! I decided to have a pretty relaxed day because I had been doing a ton of walking and climbing and also, since I had to check out of my airbnb early, I had to carry all my belongings on my back all day which includes a heavy laptop and several camera lenses plus toiletries and clothes so my back was basically dead by the end of the day. I walked to Margaret island, an island in the middle of the Danube between Buda and Pest. A decent sized island with parks, rose gardens, tandem bicycles for rent, playgrounds, fountains, and medieval ruins. I wish I could have seen the island in spring when all the flowers are budding, but it was still pretty and the weather was surprisingly warm. I enjoyed my time walking around and sitting in the Japanese garden. Heading back to the main part of Budapest, I looked up antique markets in the area because it’s my favorite place to be. Desperately wanting to buy antiques, I decided I didn’t have any room in my backpack for anything extra or breakable so instead I meandered around enjoying the familiarity of old jewelry and dust. My next stop at Starbucks seems kind of dumb, but my back was killing me from walking through the whole city, and there are zero Starbucks in the whole of Slovenia so I was very excited to see the green siren calling me in for coffee and free wifi in Budapest. Time to head for the bus station back to Ljubljana, my temporary home! I know this was a long one to read so thanks for sticking with me.