The perils of Budapest

26 June 2010

Day 25: Budapest - Saturday, June 26th
Early this morning, we arrived in Hungary. I imagined the city to be absolutely breathtaking from the moment we would step off the bus. I envisioned incredible architecture, sites we would never find anywhere else and all-around unbelievable beauty. But so far, Budapest is the most memorable city we've visited, but for all of the wrong reasons. Though, I can't blame it on anyone but ourselves.

We stepped off the OrangeWays bus at about 5:30 a.m. It was nearly an hour earlier than we’d planned, so we worried our hostel would not be ready for us. Without another option, we hoisted our packs on our backs and groggily made our way to a creepy-looking staircase that led underground.

Unfamiliar with Hungarian, Heather approached an official in the subway and asked to point us in the right direction. No luck.

Minutes later the subway arrived. It was the ricketiest subway we'd been on in all of Europe, but we boarded and counted the stops until it reached our destination, crossing our fingers it didn’t fall apart before then.

Anyway, we began our hike through the grungy streets of Pest. The walk was rather unsettling, but we continued until we reached the right address. We opened the door to a pile of rubble ahead of us and a dwindling staircase on our right. All signs led us to conclude we were in the wrong place. As it turns out, Friends Hostel collapsed a few months prior. This was not what I needed at 6 a.m. in the morning, standing in a crumbling building in a foreign country with a dead cell phone and no Hungarian money. Now what?

We backtracked until we came across a sign for a different hostel, again climbed through a crumbling building, out a window, onto a downward slanting balcony and into a tiny two-room hostel. We must have looked flustered because the two owners looked at us with disbelief and suddenly became extremely accommodating. We quickly learned that Friends Hostel is in fact a gay hostel. Men only. And we were searching down the wrong street. We gave up hope on Friends Hostel and with the help of our new friends, we found vacancy at Big Fish Hostel across the street.

Frustration aside, we made it. We were fine. We were safe. The day would continue.

And it did. After we got settled, we headed into the city center to catch the last free city tour of the day. It was way too dull for us. I mean, we just hiked in and out of collapsing buildings in a foreign country. We needed something that would keep us awake. So, we ditched out early and wandered Pest on our own.


We made it around Pest and into Buda to see the cathedrals and castle before jumping on a Danube cruise for a few hours. It wasn't the most exciting excursion we'd been on, but it gave us a good glimpse of the city. Personally, I wouldn't recommend it. I think Budapest is best seen by foot, and on your own time. Our hostel staff were really friendly and provided plenty of great recommendations for us.


With the morning aside, we enjoyed our afternoon sightseeing a city we've always imagined visiting!


Day 26: Budapest - Sunday, June 27th
Provided we had a rather eventful day yesterday, we slept in and enjoyed the comfort of decent beds, peace and quiet. Throughout the afternoon, we enjoyed a few hours in the Great Hall Market. One plus about Hungary is the food! The market hosts a variety of vendors, and visitors can sample a number of authentic Hungarian dishes while searching for little trinkets.


Advice to fellow travelers: don't even think twice about bargaining at the Great Hall Market. These ladies just won't have it! Needless to say, we spent more than we intended, but settled on a few trinkets and found our Hungary travel ornaments.


I enjoyed a fank for just one dollar. It's a giant deep-fried donut with a filling of your choice. Since I can never have enough chocolate, they loaded it up with rich milk chocolate and homemade whipped cream. Five thousand calories later (rough estimate), I was in heaven.


Day 27: Budapest - Monday, June 28th
The sun came out for our final day in Budapest, and we decided that we weren't leaving this city until we spent a day at the baths. We boarded the string of aluminum cans to City Park and purchased day passes for the luxurious Szechenyi Baths. It was about $12 for a day pass into the hot springs, the swimming pool, the weight room, the gym and the use of many other amenities. Massages were only $15 for 45 minutes, but one masseuse was rather flirtatious with us and it made us think twice about locking ourselves in a room with him.

The baths were fantastic! We all thoroughly enjoyed it. We even took a water aerobics class. How many people can say they took a water aerobics class in Budapest? It was good fun, and the instructor got a kick out of our lack of coordination.

The day ended up being a thrill, and we were happy to have such a beautiful day to cap off our trip.

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