Come Hungary, my trip took a complete 180°. Driving into the city at sunset crossing over the Danube from Buda to Pest on the historic Chain Bridge, I was immediately enchanted by this new and foreign place. One thing is for certain- when it comes to Eastern Europe- Budapest wins.
I immediately started the city out by going and getting a camera- it was love at first sight and I couldn’t not have photos of this extraordinary place! And in doing so, I learned how extraordinarily complicated this city truly is. As much as I tried, Hungarian is a language completely of it’s own. I couldn’t find anyone who spoke English or Italian for an hour and I was wandering around Pest aimlessly with my map. Of course, it wasn’t until I finally found a homeless man with a cowboy hat (c’mon a cowboy hat in Hungary… he had to speak English right?!) that I learned I was standing above the mall I was desparately searching for. Underground… who would’ve thought! Never been in a mall so huge… it took twenty minutes just to walk across it to get to Media Markt! Bought a camera that I am still a month and half later trying to figure out how to use… because of course I had to get the Hungarian model!
Then of course I went and got lost in the hood all by myself… may or may not have been chased down the street in the hoods of Hungary, but such is life! HOWEVER, there was a beacon of light at the end of the tunnel… the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in! The Broadway Hotel! Our room was an upscale apartment overlooking the city, and plastered with photos of Marilyn Monroe. Don’t know how I ended up staying there, but i’ll take it!
So we decided to experience the Hungarian nightlife… so went out and dropped THOUSANDS. of Hungarian forints that is. So far, Budapest is the most inexpensive city I’ve been to, but nothing was funnier than using their currency. 1 euro is roughly 275 forints, so you can just imagine how great we felt rollin’ with the 5000’s and 1000’s like it ain’t no thang.
For nightlife- Budapest continues winning. We celebrated St. Patty’s Day at a pub with green beers and ended the night dancing at a rooftop club under the stars. I loved the vibe of it all! The music was weird, the Hungarians twerk and dance at a speed 7x faster than anyone I’ve ever seen, and half the people there you couldn’t tell either their gender or their sexuality. Something different than the every day!
So Budapest isn’t a city… it’s actually two! Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube River, but united by ornate bridges, breathtaking expanses of architecture reflecting off the water, and a shared history. It is odd to think that most of the city was destroyed in World War 2, and it has only been 21 years since Hungary liberated itself from Communist control, yet it is one of the most aesthetically pleasing cities I have laid eyes on.
Touring the city I saw a wealth of enchanting structures, artwork and views:
- St. Stephen’s Basilica: named after the first king of Hungary, Stephen, who brought Catholicism to Hungary and was given the iconic double-cross by Pope Sylvester II. It houses the relic of his fist and is the most important church in a city where 70% of the population is Catholic. It truly was incredible to see the neo-classical facade and interior!
Castle Hill in Buda:
- Matthias Church: vibrant and colorful
- Fisherman’s Bastian: a terrace with an incredible lookout onto the Danube, the iconic Parliament building, St. Stephen’s, the Chain Bridge, and the rest of Pest.
- Buda Castle: where I distracted the guards. What is this madness, they’re supposed to be un-distractable! Let me call up Buckingham Palace and see what they have to say about this.
- Hero’s Square: commemorating the leaders of the 7 tribes that founded Hungary, it is impressive both by night and during the day.
- but the best part of it all… an afternoon spent relaxing at the Turkish Baths! Went to Szechenyi Bath, to take in the healing waters of the largest medicinal bath in Europe. It was a Sunday so many of the locals were out and enjoying the beautiful weather and warm springs. It was really nice seeing so many people so happy and relaxed- that along was a cultural experience- very different than the typical hustle and bustle people-watching.
Like the rest of Eastern Europe, I LOVED the food. Couldn’t leave without having traditional gulyas (goulash) and it was GOOD! I also enjoyed a pear and cottage cheese strudel, fried cheese and Hungarian sausage.
I checked out some of the outdoor markets and thought it was so incredibly funny because for some reason, to me all the cute little hand-painted Hungarian dolls looked like my adorable grandma! The cute little blonde figurines adorning salad tongs, wine corks, salt shakers- all reminded me of Nonna Giovaninna!
From the Turkish Baths to the dancing on rooftops to the castles overlooking the Daube- Budapest I am thoroughly enchanted by you, and have every intention of returning!
Til next time, viszlát.