This place is enormous. And there’s so much old stuff. I love old stuff. This is fantastic!!!
The train ride was different from before, namely being that I had the room to myself (I’d paid for a shared room but was the only passenger in it, booyah). I played music and turned the lights off and changed clothes as I wished. Sleep was still elusive, of course, partially because of the general discomfort that is trying to sleep in a speeding trian on a hard bed with a miniscule pillow (get it together, Hungary) and partly because the pass control people do take their sweet time to peruse my passport. Are you looking at the pretty pictures? Are you TRYING to freak me out? What?! Just put a stamp in there and let me go back to sleep! Blah!
…anyway. The ride was fine. It’s an experience I can say I’ve had now, overnighting in a train.
I had to ask where the ATM was in the train station, but found it and, unsure of exactly how much Forint I would need or how much it would translate into dollars, only took out 5,000 (essentially, chop off two zeros and divide by two. 5,000 Forint = about 23 USD….yeah). I was spotted as a tourist and targeted almost immediately by someone asking for money, but throughout the rest of the day, three people came up to me asking questions in Hungarian without hesitation. Apparently, I either look Hungarian or look like I know what I’m doing. I gestured in helpless apology to them and continued in my way.
My hostel is NICE. A tad pricey, but NICE. The Wombat’s Hostel in Budapest has big, clean rooms and modern, well-functioning bathrooms. The wifi works, there’s a kitchen, laundry room, bar, and friendly lobby staff. I’m very pleased, all in all, and highly recommend the place.
My entire day after getting in and finding the hostel consisted of wandering. I feel like I covered a decent bit of ground, but in reality probably haven’t seen anything. I’ll go on a tour tomorrow and then really see the rest of the place. Part of wandering was accidental: I left my hostel with the intent of finding the National Museum before it closed, thinking, “oh, it’s pretty much just down this street here”…and about five minutes after leaving the hostel, managed to be turned around. So I didn’t get to the National Museum, but hopefully I’ll cram it in before I leave again on Wednesday.
I crossed the Chain Bridge and took pictures of all the big impressive things I saw up and down the Danube (which puts the Neckar to SHAME, by the way). The dome thing is the Library of Parliament, which I was awed by. If I can, I’d love to go inside.
Oh, and I found my college’s campus here! It’s one building and was closed, of course, on a Sunday. I’ll call them tomorrow and see if I can come poke around.
ALSO: CHIMNEY. CAKE. IT’S LIKE A VERTICAL CINNABON. AHHH.
Ooooof. My feet hurt. This is gonna be a fun stay.
Although overcast and windy, the day was promising. I joined the Free Walking Tour, as recommended by Katie after she went on the one in Paris. They were great, very informational, and we hit several of the sites I had wanted to see, anyway, including Castle Hill, St. Steven’s Basilica, and the Fisherman’s Bastion. I befriended an elderly Scottish couple, who were enthused to see the Children’s Railroad later. I had intended to get to Memento Park and see all the old Communist statues, but our tour guide told me it would take half a day and cost more than I had anticipated, so that didn’t happen. Next time!
I saw the Great Market and cruised, grabbing a bag of Hungarian spices (because it seems at least that I have found a European country that knows how to do spicy, huzzah!) and the Hungarian version of a strudel (called “rétes,” the one I ate had a kind of cottage cheese in it and was rather tasty). Later I rewarded myself for lots of walking and not getting lost again by ordering a langos (the pizza-like flatbread with garlic, sauce, and other toppings). It was super tasty. I took what I couldn’t eat back to the hostel for later.
Photos: me and my buddy Joseph the statue (you’re supposed to rub his belly if you want good food that day…hey, it worked!), the Basilica, the Great Market from outside, part of the Fisherman’s Bastion, and a view of the Pest side from Castle Hill.
My „enjoy life“ day. I woke up early enough to take my Romanian biscuits and a bottle of orange juice to Hero’s Square. The awesome monument struck out against everything around it, bold against the clear blue sky and triumphant in the glaring morning sunlight.
I ate my breakfast with that view. My life is incredible.
I didn’t stay long, though, as I had an appointment with one of the directors from the McDaniel Budapest Campus (my college’s European campus). On the walk, I had a mini-conversation in Turkish with a man standing by the gate of the Turkish embassy–because the morning wasn’t perfect enough already, haha!
I made it to the campus, which I had made a point to find back when I arrived a few days before. Immediately, my ears were greeted by several different languages including English, Hungarian, and German. I found the director’s office a few minutes past ten. He welcomed me and we sat down to chat about my travels, how I like studying in Germany, what if anything I wanted to know about Budapest and the campus, and my plans for the day. He advised me to make the most of the glorious weather and head to the Buda side, into the hills. I assured him that a climb up Gellért Hill was on my priority list. I told him I needed to pass greetings from my theatre professor on to a man named Janos, to whom I was directed. The tall art historian Hungarian was happy to meet me and we exchanged news from mutual contacts. He introduced me to his daughter and the International Students Office and encouraged me to look into taking another semester abroad in Budapest. I told him I’d love to, if I weren’t restricted by the remaining classes for my Education minor. As a parting tidbit of knowledge, he told me about the history of the building and how he helped restore it. How cool is it to have a functioning synagogue in your college center? Pretty darn cool, I think.
Bidding my hosts adieu and feeling like I’d accomplished something I’d had to do, I struck out again allllll the way back down across the bridge and towards the hill with the Lady Liberty on top. Gellért Hill, on the Buda side, with a view of the Danube and the Pest side.
I made it to the top, enjoyed the sun and 360 degree view and the hills further behind me before heading back down again for a long soak in a thermal bath. I caught the last boat ride and passed Margaret Island northwards on the Danube. I waved as I went by.
Unfortunately, my last goal of the day didn’t pan out: I had seen flyers for an organ concert in the basilica, and went to check the ticket prices about five minutes before it was supposed to start. Of course the cheapest seats were more than I could give out, so I shrugged, sat to a chai in a nearby cafe instead, and headed back to my room in hopes of a good–or at least, peaceful–night’s sleep before my next train to Prague in the morning.
It was incredibly easy to see how so many other McDanielites fell in love with this city. I really will have to come back someday.