Last weekend, I had the pleasure of travelling to Budapest, Hungary. The currency was Forint, and that meant cheap. A euro was equal to a little over 300 HUF.
It was my first Ryanair flight and I was a bit nervous after having read all of the negative reviews, but after getting to the airport which was about an hour outside of Brussels, I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly we got through security and onto the plane. About two hours later, after a series of ads and bright lights, we arrived in Budapest. Our hostel had airport pickup, so we were quickly on our way to where we would be staying for the next three nights. When we arrived, it was already quite dark so we didn’t really know where we had come from, or exactly where we were. We were greeted by the owner, who was incredibly sweet and gave us an hour long spiel on what we needed to do while in Budapest. The location we were in, as it turned out, couldn’t have been better. We were in the old Jewish corridor and our apartment was right across the street from Szimpla the number three bar in the world(according to Lonely Planet) and one of the best sandwich and soup places that I have ever gone to.
It was about 11 at night, so we decided to explore Szimpla, a ruins pub, basically a bar that is located in a somewhat dilapidated building filled with second hand furniture and a hodgepodge of other knickknacks. It was a pretty strange place, and it was difficult to know where to begin as there were many different stations. Finally, I settled on one of the bars which was serving a very typical Hungarian drink, pálinka, a fruit brandy. I asked the bartender what she recommended, and I finally chose the green apple flavor. It was served as a shot, and the first sip burned like nothing else, but what remained was a very pleasant after taste of green apple. I was quite tired from the flight, so I retired earlier than most of the group.
On Friday, we went in search of the free guided tour. We first stopped by a milk bar to get breakfast, and I got a chocolate snail(basically a chocolate version of a cinnamon role) and a glass of caramel milk. Both were delicious and made me feel like a kid.
The guided tour was everything we could have asked for. We got a brief history of Hungary, and what a history with both Nazi and Communist occupation. We started on the flat Pest side and made our way across the bridge over to the wealth and hilly Buda side.
Budapest has many statues, but they are not allowed to be representative of any events.
For lunch, we trekked back to our hostel to the sandwich and soup restaurant that had been so highly recommended to us. The whole group got the same thing: butternut squash soup with Thai chili peppers and a chicken, gouda and onion jam sandwich. We sat outside our hostel and quickly munched them both down. Although I tried to savor each bite, they were too delicious to resist. Next we visited the market, which seemed to be mainly geared towards tourists with all the paprika stands. We did stop by a pastry stand and I got this crazy marzipan ball thing that had cake and chocolate cream inside of it. I couldn’t even eat the whole thing because it was so rich.
Outside of market
We continued to explore, and came across a crowd of people watching a woman singing; we learned later that they were gearing up for a national holiday on Saturday. We continued to walk around, and some of the group stopped to get a coffee before we returned to the hostel. Before heading out to dinner, everyone took a quick nap; after all of the walking we were a bit tired. For dinner we went to a hummus bar, I guess that they are pretty popular in Budapest. I got the falafel and it was pretty good.
More people from our program were also in Budapest, so we decided to meet up with them for drinks. We went to Szimpla again and I got a glass of Hungarian red wine, which was not too shabby. We then headed to a second bar, Instant, another very strange bar filled with fake animals. The atmosphere was not as welcoming as Szimpla, as the clientele may have thought that they were a little too cool. Luckily, we did find a quiet lounge like area to enjoy our drinks in peace.
On Saturday, we had a very slow start. We had made plans for the day, but the longer it took us to get out of our apartment, the faster our plans unraveled. E and I didn’t have bathing suits, so we were going to briefly go shopping before heading over to the baths. Unfortunately, we took the wrong road, and instead of ending up on the shopping street, we walked down Budapest’s version of the Champs-Elysées where we encountered another gathering.
When we finally arrived at the largest bath in Budapest, the sky was already hinting at the impending rain. Thankfully, the bath house had a small swimsuit store where E and I quickly got our fancy Italian suits.
Before going into the pools, we got two other Hungarian treats, Langos (fried dough, with sour cream, garlic and cheese) and the hundog (basically just a very large sausage), you know, the perfect pre-swimsuit meal.
The Széchenyi thermal bath was incredible. It is located right in the City Park and was built in the neo-baroque style. It had 3 outdoor pools and 15 indoor pools, and we explored most of them. After about 4 hours of soaking, we realized that it was time to head back, especially because we were planning on eating at an all you can eat buffet that night.
When we finally got back to the hostel, some of the group showered, while others prepped for dinner. The place closed at 12, and there was a special discount if you went after 9. We left around 9, expecting it to be a fairly short walk to the restaurant. We couldn’t have been more wrong. About 40 minutes later, we arrived on the Buda side, wind blown and freezing and ready to just sit down. We got champagne, as the place was all you can drink as well, it wasn’t the greatest but we weren’t expecting much. The food was surprisingly good, and I filled up on a random assortment of Hungarian and European dishes, ranging from fish soup to foie gras. I also tried almost every one of their small desserts including the dobos torta and the floating island. By the end of the evening I was overly full, but in a pleasant way. The only downside was that we were rushed through the last 40 minutes or so of our meal. I have become so accustomed to the long and drawn out meals where you have to ask for the check, that I found it very rude when the waiter left it on our table while we were clearly still eating.
The walk back to the hostel was a long one, that by the time we returned, everyone just wanted to sleep.
On Sunday, we went to the a small organic market which is held in Szimpla every Sunday. The vendors were very friendly and gave us many samples, but none of us really had space in our luggage to buy anything. We then went in search of a breakfast spot, but because it was Sunday, and many places are closed, we ended up at a pretty crappy pastry place. The food that I got was underwhelming and left a lot to be desired after our previous meals. Luckily we came across a stand selling chimney cakes, a delicious pastries that is rolled in cinnamon sugar and then cooked over an open flame. The group split just one, and it ended up being plenty.
Because it was Sunday, we were severely limited in what we could do, but we did get a chance to visit the largest synagogue, although we didn’t end up going inside.
I apologize for the general lack of pictures, I hope to steal some from my other travelers soon. Done!