Travel Tuesday – Budapest

Travel Tuesday – Budapest

When I watched The Grand Budapest Hotel, I was hoping it would be about Budapest since that’s one of my favorite European cities.  Alas, I was disappointed in the subject matter – so this blog post will have to suffice as my stroll back into travel nostalgia.

Budapest at dusk
Budapest at dusk

Fun fact, did you know Budapest is actually two different cities separated by a river?  It’s really Buda and Pest.

The Danube
The Danube

Tim and I went together in 2008 right after Christmas as part of an Eastern Europe trip.  The sky was drizzly and gray almost the entire time we were there, and it was cold.

Yes, that's an ice rink in front of a castle
Yes, that’s an ice rink in front of a castle

Besides having gray pictures, the cold didn’t bother me.  There was lots to see!

Hotel lit up with Christmas lights
Hotel lit up with Christmas lights

One of my biggest regrets in Budapest is that we didn’t go to the Marzipan Museum.  I think it cost something like $6 American dollars per person, and we thought that was too expensive.  Durrr.

Marzipan cake taken through the Marzipan museum window.  They had a life size Snow White that I couldn't photograph
Marzipan cake taken through the Marzipan museum window. They had a life size Snow White that I couldn’t photograph

The funniest part about Budapest was the hostel apartment we rented.  I apologize, because I tell this story much better in person… but I’ll try to paint the scene for you.

Fisherman's Bastion
Fisherman’s Bastion

We arrived in Budapest on New Year’s eve by train.  When we got off into the train station, teenagers were throwing firecrackers at tourists (aka us) and laughing hysterically.  Half the subway was closed due to the holiday, and the bus routes were all in Hungarian (aka terrifying).  Usually I’m a fairly relaxed traveler, but I stomped my feet and demanded we take a cab to the hostel.

Matthias Church
Matthias Church
Budapest
Budapest

So after the cab driver meanders around the city in a wayward way, we’re dropped off at the hostel.  It’s about six flights of stairs up to the main office, and I should point out that this was the first and last trip of my life where I “back packed” it… and by flight 4 I was hating my life.

Tile in front of St. Stephen's Basilica
Tile in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica
Fisherman's Bastion
Fisherman’s Bastion

After we get up to the hostel office to get the key to our apartment, we’re greeting by a teenage worker.  He’s super high.  Like, barely functioning high (travel tip:  this is normal for the youth of Budapest) and hands us the key to the apartment with a Polaroid photo of a door, the door to our apartment.  He draws a map on a napkin, and sends us on our way to the streets of Budapest on New Year’s Eve.

Christmas nativity scene at an altar
Christmas nativity scene at an altar
I have this labeled as 'ice rink' but I have no idea
I have this labeled as ‘ice rink’ but I have no idea

While the hostel building was off of a main tourist street, our apartment was not.  It was like walking down a sketchy alley off a sketchy alley into another sketchy alley and well off the main street.  Everything was dark except for a small convenience store with the glowing light of a Hungarian Coca-Cola sign.  We went through the building’s entry to the courtyard of the apartment building.

St. Stephen's Basilica
St. Stephen’s Basilica
Happy horse is happy
Happy horse is happy

Imagine looking in a courtyard straight up about 10 stories, and seeing only about 3 lights on.  Half the place was abandoned.  We cautiously walked up to each semi-used looking door, and held the Polaroid photo up to compare it.  Was this our apartment?  Was this our apartment?

Millenium Monument
Millenium Monument
Cave Church
Cave Church

When we did finally find ours, to the immediate left was a stairway that was never constructed.  My guess is building ended at the same time Communism did.  It was marked off with police tape, which was dusted over.  I was convinced at any moment we were going to get stabbed.

Royal Palace
Royal Palace
Liberty Bridge
Liberty Bridge

Spoiler alert – we didn’t.  In fact, we got into our room, put our stuff down and then bought two bottles of champagne to drink on the street.  To celebrate New Years, everyone was partying in the street.  There was a random Hungarian pop star set up with a small stage, fireworks shooting off everywhere (in crowds) and just tons of happy people.  Even though our start was sketchy, it was fantastic.

Liberty Bridge
Liberty Bridge
Parliament building
Parliament building

We stayed in Budapest for about four nights, and each day a different light bulb burnt out in the apartment.  Have you shopped for international light bulbs in a city where you don’t know the language?  I have, and very unsuccessfully.  By the end of our trip, the only light that was on the apartment was in the kitchen.

Fisherman's Bastion
Fisherman’s Bastion
Bath house, driven by natural hot springs
Bath house, driven by natural hot springs

Still, we had a fabulous time.  Budapest, you’re kinda scary… but I love you.  Have you had any hair brained travels like that?

15 thoughts on “Travel Tuesday – Budapest

  1. When I was 16 I was part of a state band that got to tour Europe for two weeks. The first part of our trip was going to be spent in London so we flew in, spent the day at Windsor Castle and then went to our hotel for the afternoon, dinner and sleep.

    I was feeling fine all day (jet lag didn’t bother me as much as everyone else) only the moment we got settled in our room I started feeling AWFUL. One of my room mates was sick so I figured I was just coming down with her cold. I had a runny nose, found it hard to breath, sneezing, achey, miserable. I felt like I had been swimming in a chlorine pool which is not something I do very often as I am allergic to the chlorine. Well, with the help of some powerful sleep aids, I finally fell asleep only to be woken up around 2 in the morning with the fire alarm going off! Everyone else in my room was panicking and about to run out the door in their pajamas. I managed to convince them to put their shoes on, grab a sweatshirt and their passport before we all tramped out into the street to find our group leaders and wait.

    There didn’t seem to be a fire but they also weren’t letting us back in the hotel. I didn’t mind so much because I was actually feeling a lot better being out in the open air. We were out there for four hours before we finally learned what was going on: there had been some sort of chlorine leak in the hotel. Huh, well that explained it! Not the first night in London I was expecting but it certainly makes for a great story!

  2. What a great story! You are much more brave than me! I would have thrown my best veruca salt impression and demanded a hotel!

  3. During one of my trips to Germany we somehow ended up in a hotel that had a brothel in the basement. Yep. And I think I was around the age of 13. My poor parents and having to have that conversation with me and my brother.

  4. You’ve been following us for at least a little while so you know we LOVE to travel. The weirder the trip, the more exciting the stories. :0) We love it when oddball things happen; we always take it in stride and laugh even while it’s happening. There’s nothing better than international travel. We’ll be in Portugal next summer!

  5. Oh jeez. Quite the story! I’ve traveled a lot but with the exception of one skeezy all inclusive in the Dominican, it’s been okay…

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