It has been a whirlwind of a weekend, so I’m finally catching up! Budapest was absolutely amazing. We started our first morning there with a walking tour of the city. I realized that the city actually used to be divided- there is the ‘Buda’ side which is hilly and considered to be posh according to locals and there is the ‘Pest’ side which is completely flat. The two areas are divided by a river with multiple bridges connecting them.
We started our tour on the Pest side, learning about the history of the area, the cities were united 150 years ago. We walked by many churches, the main one also named after St. Stephen. We crossed the Chain Bridge, a beautiful suspension with huge carved lions on either side. It was one of the first suspension bridges ever built!
We headed up to the Castle District which ironically didn’t have any castles, but it did have a beautiful palace and lookouts of the city. Once again it was rainy, but thankfully it didn’t pour the entire day. We ended our tour in the Castle District, around another beautiful Cathedral with a unique tiled roof, similar to the one we saw in Vienna. Fun fact, our tour guide told us that because their language is so unlike any other language spoken and so few people understand it, in almost every alien movie they speak Hungarian.
Our tour guide offered to show whoever was interested a cheap, local place to eat so Grace and I tagged along with some others from the tour. It was this great hole in the wall restaurant that we definitely wouldn’t of found without him. He translated for us and I tried a traditional Hungarian dish of chicken paprika. It was delicious! It came with the same gnocchi-like pasta that I ate in Hallstatt.
We ended up eating lunch with a Jack, a guy from our tour who was from Britain and backpacking by himself during his break from work. We all got along and decided to explore the city together the rest of the afternoon. We wandered around the Castle District, getting some pictures and looking at little shops.
We also visited the Hospital in the Rocks museum. Basically there are these massive caves underneath the city that have been used forever, starting out as storage for people since it was so cool and eventually they were forgotten about until WWI. They originally built the hospital to accommodate 60 people but at some points it held over 600 patients. It was used during both World Wars and durning the Communist Era it was top secret. The hospital was in the perfect location and offered protection from any bombs or destruction since it was underground. For the time period it also contained some of Europe’s most advanced medical equipment. It was pretty cool to walk through the twisting halls underground which were all original and contained the original equipment. They also had hundreds of wax figures, kind of neat but also pretty creepy. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, so I just have one of the entrance.
After the museum we headed back down the Pest side in search of Hungary’s best apple strudel. (Grace LOVES it!) Our tour guide told us to check out the central market, so we followed his directions and ended up at this huge building filled with individual vendors. It was so vibrant inside and teeming with colors, smells and languages. Tons of locals were doing all of their shopping there so we knew it was going to be good. Each stand was overflowing with fresh fruit, vegetables or meat. We found the sweet shop and Grace scored the last apple strudel they had. I tried a piece of chocolate cake and Jack got a piece of Hungarian cream cake. My cake was pretty good but I tried Jacks and it was amazing! My sweet tooth got the best of me and I got a piece of the cream cake…when in Hungary right?! After our sweet fix we parted ways with plans to meet up that night.
Grace and I headed back to the hostel to rest up and eat some dinner. We bought some strawberries from the market which were great and some food from a street vendor. We had planned on going to Gellér Hill to watch the sunset because everyone told us the view of the city was amazing. Gellér Hill is on the Buda side (hence the hill) and overlooks the river and all of the lights of the city. However the weather was still pretty crappy and we were tired so we decided not to go, staying in at the hostel.
The whole time we had been in Budapest everyone told us the one thing we had to do was go out at night to the Ruin Pubs. They are all in the Jewish Quarter of the city, which used to be a really rundown part of Budapest because it was nearly destroyed during the war. Recently however some entrepreneurs came in, buying these huge abandoned properties for hardly anything and turning them into bars and clubs, aka the name Ruin Pubs. We were a little hesitant at first but Jack and his friends were also going out and we felt a lot better knowing they would be there with us so we decided to go. After asking around we went to the original and most famous Ruin Pub, called Szimpla. It wasn’t far at all from our hostel so we just walked, waiting for Jack and his friends.
However it seemed they got lost so we decided to go in without them. The inside was amazing, most of the building was open air and it was three stories high. Each room had a different theme, some were loud and full of people while others were much more laid back with tons of seating everywhere. Going along with the ruin theme, pretty much anything went there. Seats were made out of old bicycles or bathtubs full of pillows. I wish I could describe it better, Grace and I spent a good twenty minutes just walking around, going up spiral staircases and into different parts. It was awesome but a bit overwhelming because it was packed. When we were waiting by the bar to order drinks a guy asked Grace about another club, assuming for some reason she was Hungarian. Eventually we ended up talking to him- he was from Rome and there for a bachelor party. After being introduced to all of them we started chatting and they freaked out when they found out I was study abroad in Florence. I definitely entertained them with my shabby Italian but it was fun to talk to them about life in Italy. They also were super excited when they realized our school was where Micheal Jordan went. Anyways after a free drink and cheers for the husband-to-be they went on their way. Super thankful they were so friendly and not creepy at all! We finally got in communication with Jack, him and his friends had gotten lost and then the line was too long so we met them right at the corner of the street at a grill. We met his two Aussie friends Elliot and Chen who were hilarious and great. We chatted for awhile and convinced them to go to another club, Instant, with us. Most of the ruin pubs were pretty similar to Szimpla- super cool inside but people mostly drink and stand around and talk but we wanted to dance so Instant was the place to go. It was also super cool inside, it was four stories and also filled with different rooms playing different types of music. There were rooms filled with neat artwork or pinball machines. They were playing great music and we had a blast dancing literally the whole night. It was so much fun to just be hilarious and not care much about what other people thought of us. And dancing in Europe is extremely different than back at home. Most people dance by themselves, jumping around or really doing whatever they want. Jack, Chen and Elliot totally had our backs the whole night which was amazing, so anytime guys started to be creepy they would make it clear we were with them and not interested in dancing with anyone else. We hopped around to different levels, at one point in the basement they were playing remixes of American music which Grace and I thought was hilarious because they broke out Souja Boy which was a popular song in middle school. Another highlight of the night was when Elliot, who was a phenomenal dancer, got into a dance battle with a Hungarian guy who then started to break dance. So much fun, America could definitely learn a thing or two from the Budapest ruin pubs.
Anyways before we knew it, it was nearly 4:30 in the morning and we were still on the dance floor. Elliott proposed that we all take a cab to Gellért Hill to watch the sunrise over the city. It was a brilliant idea so we all hopped into a cab and up we went. Of course the second we got out of the cab it started pouring so we had to run and find shelter. After the rain slowed down we walked up to the highest point where the city’s ‘Statue of Liberty’ is. Looking over the entire city lit up was unreal. Writing about it right now gives me chills. Similar to the feeling of floating in the Alps, it made me feel so small which I love. My heart was completely brimming over with joy and thankfulness that the Lord designed such a mind boggling creation and I get to experience these amazing snapshots of it.
Anyways we watched the sunrise over the city and then ventured down, sliding through mud and laughing the whole way down. (R.I.P. to my white converse) After crossing the bridge back to the Pest side, we sadly parted ways with our sweet friends who we will hopefully see again one day.
The advantage of staying up all night is that when Grace and I were walking back to our hostel all of the bakeries in the city were opening. We grabbed warm pastries and made it back to Mandala around 6:30. We took a nice three hour nap and miraculously woke up feeling pretty refreshed. Another staple of Budapest is the thermal baths across the city. They have been around for ages and we thought spending the morning there would be the perfect way to wrap up our incredible time in Hungary. We went to the Gellért baths and they were awesome, they had two main pools on the inside and two pools outside, one of which was a wave pool. Not only were the designs beautiful but the water was the perfect temperature and so relaxing! The wave pool was so much fun and sitting in the pool outside in the rain was great. We decided to splurge and got facials after we relaxed in the pools. Also everything was so cheap in comparison to the U.S. that we didn’t need much convincing.
(I didn’t take any pictures inside so I took this off google images)
We picked up our stuff from the hostel and headed out on the train to Bratislava. Budapest was phenomenal, definitely on my list to go back and visit again!