Easter break has been extremely stressful. I have an upcoming final exam for my accounting test so I find myself sitting in the kitchen – studying for long tortures hours. It was time to take a break and actually enjoy the ‘experience’ of being abroad, I was going to travel to Budapest, Hungary with Judith. Let’s take a more linear approach in this post…
Day 1: We reached Dortmund by bus at around 23:00 and walked to the nearby hostel, where I had previously reserved a room. It was a shared dorm, but luckily, there was only one guest. The name of the other guest was Adam, a 26-year old Hungarian, who is an international chess master, professional fuzzball coach, and operates his own academy. Ironically, he was going to be with us on the same plane to Budapest.
Day 2: Together with Adam, we took the bus to the airport and went on the plane. This was not a very enjoyable kind of flight, in fact, the lack of comfort in Wizz Air is beyond words. Wizz Air is a cheap airline that only does short-distance flights …and you can obviously see where they save the money – the seats are extremely close together, any kind of luggage bigger than a small backpack costs extra, and I also got a feeling that the pilot did not finish at the top of his class during his training….last but not least, the stinging pink/violet colour of the seats, the stewardesses’ uniforms, and the exteriors of the plane perfectly complete the image. Anyway, more about Wizz Air later: D.
So we arrived in Budapest and thanks to Adam, we did not even need a taxi or bus since his parents kindly offered us a lift to our location. The suburbs aren’t that pretty but the closer we came to the city center, the more beautiful the architecture became, many of it in the art-nouveau style of the late 19th century (something I randomly learned from Judith during the car ride). In our AirBnB, our host Istvan (which translates to Stephen, being a frequently used name in Hungary because it was also the name of the first Christian king of the country, something I randomly learned from Adam during the car ride) was already waiting and after a quick tour through the apartment (which was gorgeous, and a bargain!), Istvan left us to enjoy Little America. We took a quick nap and then decided to walk to Vaci Utca, the main shopping street and one of the oldest streets of the city. There was a food and handcraft market going on so we had our lunch there: a delicious Hungarian goulash, served in a loaf of bread and a pork roast sandwich similar to the Mexican carnitas. We then crossed the Danube to see the the Gellért monument- bishop of Italian origin who was killed by pagans in the 11th century (in a pretty cruel way: the poor guy was put into a barrel and thrown down a hill) and who, centuries later became a celebrated martyr; so many monuments are named after him. From the Gellért hill, where the monument was, we had a beautiful panoramic view of the city! Our first day in Budapest ended in a retro 70ies-style restaurant called Menza where we had a delicious dinner.
Day 3: It was awfully hard to get out of bed after traveling all day yesterday. Gladly the start of Day 3 was pretty relaxing: we went to one of Budapest’s many spas, the Gellért (see? Everything is named after that guy!) Spa, which is the biggest and most well-known. The spa has a main swimming pool, saunas and several thermal baths as well as a big swimming pool outside, which unfortunately, was closed due to the cold weather. Random fact about the building, it is in the art-nouveau style, which makes it a stunning piece of architecture. We spent a good two hours there and then met up with Adam and two of his friends/students to play basketball. Actually, I was the only one that played because Judith “didn’t bring the right shoes” (a VERY bad excuse if you ask me). I have not seen too many people in Europe play basketball so I was surprise when I saw a substantial amount of people playing a pick-up game. We decided to join their game and it was alright but I got the feeling that most of the guys didn’t put too much effort in; a pity because it had the potential to be a great game…after that, we sat and talked for a while before parting ways. Judith and I then went to the parliament, one of Budapest’s iconic buildings. Unfortunately, it was closed because of the holiday but the exterior was pretty stunning, too. After the match, I was starving so I convinced Judith to go to a middle-age style restaurant, it is called Sir Lancelot, which had been recommend to us by both Adam’s parents and our guidebook. Ironically, it was just across the street from our place, and thus, an easier argument to make because Judith tends to be lazy. In the Sir Lancelot, we had a feast for dinner (literally, because that’s what their three-course menu is called…I had the Blue Knight’s feast and Judith the Red Knight’s feast). Santa Maria, SO. MUCH. FOOD. It was delicious but we both couldn’t finish it.
Day 4: Our last day started on the other side of the river, in Buda’s old town (Pest and Buda, the two parts of Budapest divided by the river, actually used to be two separate cities). We visited the King’s palace and part of the Hungarian National Gallery, a huge art collection placed inside the palace. The gallery covers artwork (mainly Hungarian) from the middle ages to the 21st century- since we had limited time, I let Judith pick the exhibition and she opted for 19th and 20th century paintings. There was also a market in the palace’s courtyard where we had some traditional Hungarian food (again). Actually, now that I come to think of it, we almost exclusively had Hungarian food, so I should maybe say one our two words about it: the Hungarians sure love their meat, so pork, beef, veal, lamb and chicken come in all kinds of forms: roast, sausages, stew, soup, skewers and the list goes on. They also like cabbage and red pepper. And for dessert, poppy seed seems to be a favourite- we tried poppy-seed bread pudding in Menza and at Sir Lancelot, they were both really nice! Pastry-wise, there is the iconic Kürtőskalács, a sweet kind of spit cake which comes with different types of coatings: Cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa-powder or nuts. Apparently, Hungarian wines are also well-known and well-liked in Europe but we didn’t try any of it so I wouldn’t be able to confirm that.
Our next stop was the city park, where we took a quick stroll around the small fairy-tale castle and the market (yes, another market, and more food!). The finale of that evening was the opera, another pompous and beautiful art-nouveau building where we went to see Wagner’s play, Parsifal, a five-hour piece. Judith seemed to be really tired- she kept nodding off during the first act, which, to her defence, contained a lot of repetitive action. Anyways, we both enjoyed it a lot and felt culturally enlightened afterwards…. and hungry! Finding a place to eat after ten thirty at night wasn’t that easy but fortunately, a Tex-Mex restaurant called Iguana was still open- it was not Hungarian cuisine but still very nice.
Day 5: We had to rise early to catch the shuttle to the airport, where we got to enjoy the inexistent comfort of our beloved Wizz-Air. After we had passed the security check point and were looking for our gate, we figured that the Wizz-Air gates were actually separate from the rest of the airport. On our way there (down the stairs, out of the airport, approaching a separate building)- Judith said, jokingly, that she wouldn’t be surprised if the “gate” was going to be some sort of colourless storage room without seats…which turned out to be 100% true and we both had a good laugh about it. After landing in Frankfurt Hahn (no, not Frankfurt, but Frankfurt HAHN, which can be translated into Themiddleoffreakingnowhere) we had to take a bus to Mainz and then another train to Mannheim, a journey that added on another 3 or 4 hours. So when we arrived home, we were pretty exhausted.
I had a good day to “recover” from traveling, before my next trip, which starts tomorrow: Austria. I’ll be going with my room mate and we will first stop by Munich for a few hours, then make our way to Innsbruck; the trip is not that well planned out, which could turn out to be an advantage or a disadvantage, but we will see about that. I am excited about it anyway. Also, ab nach Österreich! 🙂