Wow. As I took in the magnificent Parliament, I was in awe of its intricacy, of its size, of its beauty. Never had I seen such an impressive building. Absolutely magical. I wracked through my memory trying to remember anything from my AP European History class about the history of Budapest, but I was lost.
Date: May 23rd, 2016
Time: 8:20 p.m. – 20:20 p.m. EST
Location: Ferry to Ancona, Italy from Split, Croatia
If I had to write a book about my travels in Europe, the Budapest chapter would be the shortest. Unfortunately, after getting rained on in Prague, and dealing with cold weather in Vienna, my immune system had taken a toll. I spent most of my time in Budapest trying to sleep through my fever.
I arrived by train on Thursday around 4:00 p.m., and I was excited to walk through the beautiful city. I pulled out my handy Google Maps and started making my way to the hostel a short thirty-minute walk away. The city looked pretty – not as beautiful as Vienna or Prague, but charming nonetheless. Upon arriving at my hostel, I dropped off my bag and threw my guidebook into my purse to do some planning.
I found a cozy restaurant to eat and ordered and extremely delicious burger. As I thumbed through my guidebook I realized I knew absolutely nothing about Budapest. I sent out messages to my friends asking for suggestions. Szimpla Kertz was a must, as well as the thermal baths, Buda Castle, and the Parliament building. The hostel had provided me with a little guidebook as well, and I found a few cool things worth checking out as well as fun nightlife activities.
Since it was already 7:00 p.m., and I wasn’t feeling too well, I decided to take a nap so I could get some energy to venture out into Budapest’s fun nighttime activities. I woke up around 9:30 p.m. groggy and congested, but I couldn’t resist seeing what all the hype around Szimpla was. I walked down into the hostel bar and ordered a drink, looking around to see what group I could join. I saw two friendly looking guys and asked if I could sit with them. Although they were nice, they were actually locals who spoke very little English, so it ended up being very awkward. I excused myself to go to the bathroom and decided I’d just wander over to the pub.
I bumped into three girls standing by the elevator, and I blurted out, “You look like tourists, please be tourists.” They laughed and introduced themselves, “Yes! We’re Canadian, and we’re about to grab dinner if you want to join us.” As we walked over to grab some Pad Thai, we exchanged stories about our travels. They had plans to meet up with a friend, so we parted ways with the plan to potentially meet again later in the night.
Around 10:30 p.m. I started walking over to Szimpla and somehow ended up in this huge group of Australians. When I entered the bar, it was obvious why everyone suggested I go. It’s a maze of little rooms with quirky décor and enjoyable music. One of the Australian guys had taken a liking to me, so we went back and forth joking about who gets a worse rep: Americans or Australians. “I think Australian women are gorgeous!” I exclaimed, “Yeah, well you haven’t seen the lot we’re traveling with, they’re a disaster.” They were a group of about 40 Australians traveling together on a big bus for 50 days. “It’s been quite the adventure for sure, but man, living with the same people is exhausting.”
I went to the bathroom with the promise of coming back, but I think he thought I was just using it as an excuse to ditch him because I couldn’t find him again when I came back. Afterwards, I continued walking around the bar making small talk with friendly looking groups. One of the best things about traveling solo is that I’ve learned to not be afraid of approaching strangers. Although I’m not sure I would go to a bar by myself back home, I’m genuinely enjoying doing it throughout these beautiful European cities.
Around midnight I came back to my hostel to pick up a flyer for free entrance into a techno club, and when I opened the door I was very surprised to hear Future blasting in the room. Apparently my British roommates were huge rap fans. “Nice to meet you, glad you can appreciate real art,” I joked in reference to the music, “Yeah! We love rap, it’s the best.” Their eyes lit up when I told them I was from Atlanta. We spent about 15 minutes going back on forth yelling, “I got broads in Atlanta.”
We made our way over to the techno club, and although the club was a cool spot, the vibe felt wrong. It seemed like almost everyone there was well past their thirties, and for the first time since arriving to Europe, I felt a little uncomfortable. I told my hostel friends that I would be heading back, and despite it being a short ten-minute walk back to the hostel, I felt paranoid the whole way back. I had been walking all over Europe by myself for two weeks, but that night I felt like maybe I should have actually paid for the cab. Fortunately I made it back into my hostel without any problems and quickly fell asleep around 1:30 a.m.
I woke up at 9:30 a.m. with hopes of having a busy day of sightseeing and exploration. My first move was to go to the train station and figure out when I could buy a ticket to Zageb. The woman at the desk insisted that my best bet would be taking the train that left at 2:42 p.m. tomorrow, instead of the morning train I wanted to take, so I just forked over my 30 euros and decided to take her advice. That meant I had all of today and a big chunk of tomorrow morning to explore.
I started by walking over to the House of Horrors, the former center of evil where Communists and Nazis set up their home base. Despite not being a huge history buff, walking through the house sent chills down my spine. I felt knots in my stomach and held back tears as I read about the monstrosities that had occurred in the corridors I was walking through. I thought the Topography of Terror in Berlin was intense, but this shook me in a way that I hadn’t expected.
After the House of Horrors I went to Taj Majal Indian Restaurant, an Indian restaurant that had fantastic reviews in my guidebook, and although it was a little pricey, it was absolutely delicious. Icontinued my sightseeing after lunch and walked over to the Parliament. I had never seen any pictures of it online, but Iknew I was at the right place by the sheer magnitude of the building. Wow. Just. Wow. Across the bridge I could see Buda Castle and a few other gorgeous bridges. Yet again I felt the same knots in my stomach as I approached the Shoes on the Danube. I wish I had paid more attention in high school because one of my biggest regrets in my Europe trip is that I’m surrounded by such rich history, but don’t remember absolutely any of it.
By 2:00 p.m. my head was pounding and my throat was burning too much to continue walking around, so I decided to go back to my room to get some rest. I told myself I would just take a short nap, but when I woke up it was 7:00 p.m. – I couldn’t fight it anymore, I had to buy medicine. The hostel staff suggested I try a pharmacy down the street, and when I got there much to my surprise I couldn’t just pick out my meds. Instead I had to tell the pharmacist my symptoms and listen to her suggestions. I got something that would help fight my fever and runny nose, and then picked up some snacks at the market for dinner.
When I got back to the hostel, I felt homesick, so I texted a friend to see if he wanted to FaceTime. As I munched on pretzels and peanut butter, he told me bits and pieces of what was going on in Atlanta – turns out I wasn’t missing out on much. When we said goodbye, I felt a pang of guilt at leaving behind friends and family to travel solo for a month, but then I remembered that now is the time to be selfish and explore, after all, that’s what your twenties are about.
I fell asleep around midnight with no desire whatsoever to go out despite it being a Friday night in Budapest. I hoped that the medicine would kick in and tomorrow I would wake up feeling like new.
Saturday morning I woke up at 8:00 a.m., when my eyes adjusted I realized the guy in the bunk next to me was naked. Looks like someone had an exciting Friday night out in the city. And on that note, if you’re ever at a hostel, please don’t be that person. I wanted to burst out in laughter, but it seemed like everyone in my room had a crazy night, so instead I ran to take a quick shower and pack everything up to make the most of my last few hours in the city.I wanted to take a free tour throughout Budapest, but I decided instead to head back over to the Parliament and actually cross the bridge. I grabbed a quick breakfast and found myself once again in awe at the beauty of the building. When I made it to the bridge, it was full of tourists taking pictures and admiring the view.
I I watched as this very well dressed Asian woman pursed her lips and tilted her head to the left, paused, and then to the right, her boyfriend took an insane amount of pictures of her, and then he walked over to her to see if she approved. I couldn’t help but laugh at the in sync couple. The bright blue sky and gorgeous bridge made the perfect backdrop for a flawless IG picture, and this petite and extremely stylish Asian girl wanted to make sure she got the perfect shot.
Without a doubt, bridges are one of the best places to people watch in Europe. Everyone is caught up in snapping the perfect picture and music is playing from different spots all over the bridge. I could spend hours just watching couples take their cute lovey dovey selfie or boyfriends going above and beyond to make sure their girlfriend gets their perfect picture.
After crossing the bridge, I realized I had been in the wrong part of the city. Everyone had told me the fun parts of the city were in the Pest part, but Buda was so extremely beautiful and charming. I had lunch at a pizza shop with a view of the river and in that moment I forgot about my runny nose and congested head and felt perfectly in peace. Ahh, Europa, you are so good to me. At this point it was already noon so I made my way back to my hostel to pick up my backpack and make it onto my train to Croatia.
When I arrived at the bustling train station, I thought back at the lady who had insisted I take the 2:42 p.m. train instead of the 11:00 a.m. I had wanted to take, and I felt thankful. Next stop Croatia.