Budapest, Hungary: Day 3

Day 3 in Budapest began with Orsi and I going to breakfast at the same cafe we had gone to the previous morning. This time, I had a something called pogácsa which is a cheesy/salty fluffy biscuit. I do not have a picture unfortunately as my stomach was begging to be fed quickly.

After breakfast, Orsi and I hopped onto a tram to go to Margit Island. There, we walked through the park enjoying the sun and peace that came with the surrounding trees. In the park, there is a mini zoo, hostel, and a beautiful Japanese garden. Orsi told me the park looks much prettier in summer, but I still found Margit Island to be quite nice even in the winter.

Once Orsi and I had our fill of the park, we took a bus and tram and headed towards heroes square. When we arrived at the square, Orsi walked me through the history behind each historical figure. All of the sculptures are of significant men who helped shape Hungary into the country it is today. I enjoyed hearing all about Hungary’s history!

After learning about Hungary’s history, Orsi and I walked to Vajdahunyad castle. Here, we admired the architecture and rubbed the pencil of the anonymous statue.

Next, Orsi took me to see the most famous bath of Budapest, Szechenyi. We did not go in to bathe, but looked at the fountain and interior, which were stunning!

Budapest is known for its thermal baths, which are natural. During my time in the city, I did not go to one. Orsi looked at the prices to bathe at Szechenyi and said it was very expensive.

After seeing the lobby of Szechenyi, Orsi and I hopped on a train to head to the Museum of Terror. The Museum of Terror covers the history of communism in Hungary through WWII and Soviet Occupation. There are four different levels to the museum and all the information in the exhibits are written in Hungarian. Since I would be unable to read the signs, I opted for an audio guide for an additional fee. If I would have known that there would be handouts in each room with English translations explaining the exhibit, I would not have gotten the audio guide.

The basement is the portion of the Museum of Terror I will never forget. During Soviet occupation, those who opposed communism or accused of being anti-communist were tortured, killed, and imprisoned in the basement of the building. The replicas of the cells, torture devices, and noose still to this moment stick out in my mind. I had chills walking through each cell.

Unfortunately, pictures cannot be taken in the museum so an exterior photo of the building will have to suffice. If you find yourself in Budapest, I highly recommend the Museum of Terror!

The Museum of Terror

Orsi and I felt very depressed, sad, and hungry after the museum so we walked to a street stall to have another Hungarian dish: lángos. Basically, dough is fried (like a funnel cake or elephant ear) and topped with cheese and sour cream. Meats and vegetables can be added, but I opted for the traditional Hungarian way.

Lángos

After eating our lángos, Orsi took me to a printing store so I could print my boarding pass. Thus far, I have been okay with using a virtual boarding pass for my flights. However, WizzAir required me to get my visa checked when I flew to Hungary and when flying back to England, which required a printout.

Once I had my boarding pass, Orsi and I walked to the river Danube to watch the sunset and look at the funny statues along the river. The lights and river were just beautiful!

Orsi and I took a lot of photos and then hopped on the tram to head back to her flat. We made a pit stop at Aldi to pick up some snacks some of which were new to me: peach juice and Kinder pingui bars. Our night ended with watching the new movie “Isn’t it Romantic” together…well Orsi watched the whole thing while I managed to fall asleep.

On Sunday morning, I woke up at 3:30 am to catch my 6:00 am flight back to London. Orsi walked me to the bus stop to make sure I hopped onto the correct bus, which luckily was a direct ride to the airport.

One of the WizzAir flight attendants happened to be cracking down on bag size. My backpack will not fit in the bag checker, but will fit under the seat. Every time the attendant walked near me, I made sure my backpack happened to be facing away from her. During the stressful 10 minutes, the lady behind me in line and I bonded as we both turned back and forth following the path of the attendant. We both made it through without paying the baggage fee. Score!

When I arrived to England, the weather happened to be rainy. I decided that I would arrange for a cab to take me back to the manor instead of walking the 3 miles. However, there were no cabs available! So, I ended up walking back in the rain to the manor. Along the sidewalk, there happened to be standing water on the road. A couple of cars skirted the edges of the water when they drove by this stretch of road. After making the observation that drivers do have souls and would not go through the water on purpose, I decided to start walking. As soon as I reached the first area where the water was located on the road, two cars drove right through the water and the whole right side of my body became drenched. I laughed at how absurd the whole situation happened to be. Another memory for the books!

Thank you Orsi for letting me visit and for being a fabulous tour guide! I cannot wait to come back again!

Is Budapest on your bucket list, now? If not, I really think it should be! Maybe I am slightly biased?

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Budapest, Hungary: Day 2

During my second day in Budapest, Orsi and I covered a lot of ground…10.9 miles to be exact! Grab a snack and sit back and relax because there is a long blog post with lots of pictures ahead!

Orsi and I started off our day by grabbing breakfast at a nearby cafe. I had a
kakaós csiga or cocoa-y snail. This breakfast food item is similar to a cinnamon roll and just lacks the frosting.

Cocoa-y-snail

After breakfast, Orsi and I walked back towards her flat and I noticed some amazing buildings along the way.

On Thursday, Orsi had pointed out a library. Me being the book nerd that I am, asked if we could go inside. She had never actually been inside the library before but had seen pictures of the interior from her friends who go and study there. When we arrived, we learned you had to pay to enter the library. Since the price happened to be minimal, around $2 USD, we both got library cards! With library cards in hand, we set out to explore and found the beautiful part of the library known as the Palace. Orsi kept laughing at me because I could not stop saying how unreal the Palace seemed in the library.

After finishing up at the Palace aka the library, Orsi and I walked towards the Great Market Hall, which is a popular tourist destination. The market truly lives up to its name of being ‘great.’ I have never seen so many stalls in one place at one time. On the first floor, fresh meats, fruits, and bread can be purchased while upstairs has Hungarian souvenirs for purchase like embroidered tablecloths or clothing which are traditional to Hungary. Orsi and I went in search of a Christmas ornament upstairs and found a hand-painted Easter egg (also traditional to Hungary) for my ornament collection. I enjoyed my time at the Great Market and I highly recommend spending some time here looking around if you are ever in Budapest!

The Great Market

When we had our fill of the Great Market, Orsi and I headed back outside. Orsi pointed out here University and then we walked across the Liberty Bridge again to head to Buda where we would hike up the hill to the Liberty Statue.

Then began the trek up the hill via the stairs to the Liberty Statue. At the time of its construction, the statue commemorated the Soviet liberation of Hungary from Germany following WWII for which the Hungarian people were ‘thankful.’ However, Soviet support dissipated in the following years and the statue inscription was changed once the Russians were forced out and now honors the Hungarians that sacrificed their lives for the prosperity, independence, and freedom of Hungary. The hike is an absolute must, in my opinion, because it provides some amazing panoramic views of the city!

After Orsi and I had our fill of the beautiful view, we headed back down to the street level and walked to the Buda Castle which is located on top of Castle Hill. The Buda Castle property is free to wander, but there are museums available to go into for a small entry fee if you desire. We opted to walk around and admire the view.

When we finished at Buda Castle, Orsi and I hopped onto a tram to Matthias Church which is also in the Buda Castle complex located in an area called Fisherman’s Bastion. The bastion is composed of seven different towers, which represent the seven different Magyar tribes that settled in the basin. In the center of the bastion are St. Matthias Church and a green statue of Saint Stephen I of Hungary, the first king of Hungary. Orsi and I walked around the square taking photos for a while and once again admired the beautiful view.

Then, the weather took a turn and started to rain. Orsi gave me the option of going into the church or not (you had to purchase tickets.) This semester, I am of the mentality of ‘you only live once’ when traveling (who knows when I will get back here again!) Needless to say, Orsi and I bought tickets to go inside the church which were around $5 USD.

Once again, I found myself blown away by the beauty of a church. I told Orsi St. Matthias was not comparable to any churches I have seen in Europe. The walls and ceilings were handpainted and stunning. At one point, I touched the wall just to make sure the walls were not wallpaper. The amount of time and detail that went into St. Matthias is hard for me to fathom. Another must if you are in Budapest!

After I picked my jaw up off the floor and took a zillion pictures, Orsi and I headed out to catch a tram to head to our lunch destination. The previous evening Orsi spent her time researching the best restaurant to go to for Hungarian food that is reasonably priced. She decided on the Blue Rose Restaurant and we were both starved by the time we arrived at 2:00 pm. Despite the Blue Rose being busy, Orsi and I were seated quickly and our food came out soon after Orsi ordered our food. We both had a traditional Hungarian dish of chicken paprikas. The dish contains chicken, a paprika sauce with a sour cream garnish, and dumplings. I highly recommend this dish if you are in Hungary!

Chicken Paprikas

Once we stuff ourselves with chicken paprikas, Orsi and I walked to Budapest Cathedral. Like St. Matthias, this church was unlike any I had ever seen while in Europe. Amazing architecture and free admission!

Next, we walked to the Opera House which happened to be undergoing renovations so I could not see the beautiful exterior. Orsi and I walked inside to have a look and then left soon after to go to Liberty Square. At the square, there are several memorials/statues along with the United States Embassy and the Hungarian National Bank. A peaceful protest happened to be occurring with the German Occupation Statue. Some feel the memorial distorts Hungary’s role in the Holocaust of sending more than 450,000 Jews to their deaths during the occupation. A protest organizer hung a cardboard sign up while Orsi and I were there with a message in Hungarian on it. Additionally, laminated sheets explaining the protest in 10+ languages were in front of the memorial along with mementos of the Jewish community. Seeing a peaceful protest firsthand is something I will never forget. I encourage you to read up about the monument online!

After Liberty Square, Orsi and I walked back to the river Danube to see the Holocaust shoes and Parliament up close. The setting sun accentuated both the bronze shoes and the architecture of the Parliament.

The bronze shoes memorialize the Jews killed by the Arrow Cross men in Budapest during WWII. They were ordered to remove their shoes and were then shot at the edge of the water so their bodies would be swept away by the river. Truly a moving memorial to see in person especially when you notice the shoes of varying sizes.

Once Orsi and I finished at the Parliament, we hopped onto a tram to go back to her flat to rest for a bit and freshen up before meeting her friends for drinks at a ruin pub.

At 7:00 pm, we caught a tram and walked to the ruin pub. Budapest is known for its ruin pubs, which I did not know.

Basically, abandoned buildings are transformed into bars. On the interior of the pubs, the rooms are ‘ruined’ with graffiti, junk, and whatever else you find. This creates an eclectic and unique atmosphere! The ruin pub we went to was a bit of a maze. There were several different areas where different drinks could be purchased.

Of course, Orsi and I wrote our names on one of the walls. I truly enjoyed sitting and having a beer with her friends. I had no idea what was being said most of the time, but I had SO much fun!

We all eventually left this ruin pub and went to a different bar to do shots of pálinka, which is traditional Hungarian alcohol similar to moonshine. Hungarians make it in their homes which leads the final proof to vary from batch to batch. Orsi told me I could not leave Hungary without trying pálinka. When in Hungary, do as the Hungarians do! Am I right?

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Budapest, Hungary: Day 1

Before I delve into my first evening in Budapest, Hungary, I need to provide a little bit of backstory.

Flashback to August 2014 when I first met my dear friend Orsi (Or-shee).

She and I were both exchange students through Rotary Youth Exchange and her first host family happened to be my friend Sophie’s family. I believe I spent one day with Orsi prior to leaving for Australia. We went out to Steak and Shake and a movie and the following Monday I left for Australia.

As both of our exchange years progressed, my mom happened to convince my cousins to host Orsi. Upon coming back to the United States from my exchange year, Orsi and I spent some time together at the lake during family get-togethers before she went back home to Hungary.

Rotary Youth Exchange flashback: Me, Orsi, and my friend Maggie

When Orsi visited last summer, I told her that I hoped to visit while in England, which is what I did last weekend.

On Thursday, I took the early school shuttle into school. I boarded my train and arrived at the airport around 1:00 pm, which left plenty of time to make my way through security and my gate.

Eventually, I boarded my flight. I read for a little while and chatted with my seatmate during the 2-hour flight. We chatted about his decision to quit his job at Oxford working in a lab and moving back to his native Hungary after living in England for 10+ years. His decision stemmed to make the move back home stemmed from his job no longer holding his interest and also BREXIT. With so much uncertainty with how the United Kingdom will exit the European Union at the end of the month, people working the in Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England who are not U.K. citizens do not know what will happen regarding their visas or workplace. If I were not living in England and traveling during this tumultuous time, I do not think I would understand the severity of the situation and BREXIT’s far-reaching impact in Europe.

Finally, I landed in Budapest, Hungary, and found Orsi greeting me at the airport. We hugged and made our way to the ticket distributor. Orsi had me buy a student pass for public transport because the ticket happened to be significantly cheaper than purchasing a city pass for 48 hours. With this ticket, I could ride as many forms of public transport throughout Budapest.

After a combined 1-hour bus ride and metro ride, we arrived at Orsi’s flat. I dropped my bag off and we set out together to see Budapest at night.

The first thing I learned from Orsi is the proper pronunciation for Budapest, which is Buda-pesht. In Hungarian, the ‘s’ makes a ‘sh’ sound just like her name. Additionally, Budapest is actually composed of two different areas: Buda and Pest. Buda is curvier, while Pest is flatter. Orsi lives on the Pest side of the city.

Orsi took me across the Liberty Bridge first, which is green. Many people will climb on the bridge to sit and drink at night, which I saw as we crossed into Buda.

When we arrived at the Buda side, Orsi and I walked along the River Danube and she pointed out the other bridges that are also famous: Margit Bridge and the Chain Bridge. I learned about the history of other significant landmarks, which I would see the following day like the Liberty Statue, Buda Castle, and the Hungarian Parliament.

The Hungarian Parliament (located in Pest)

Eventually, we arrived at the Chain Bridge at which point we crossed back to Pest. The Chain Bridge is the oldest bridge spanning the river Danube.

When we were traversing Pest, Orsi and I came across a statue of Colombo. I had NO idea who Colombo was the main character of an American television series.

Columbo and dog

At this point, Orsi asked me if I happened to be hungry. With my response being “just a little bit,” she took me to a street cart where she ordered a chimney cake for us to split together. Basically, this dessert is a spiral cone of dough coated with sugar flavor. We had a cocoa-flavored chimney cake, which I thoroughly enjoyed! Orsi informed me they tasted better when warm (ours was cold.)

The Chimney Cake featuring the Comedy Theater in the background

As we ate the chimney cake, Orsi continued to point out more landmarks and facts about Budapest.

The Budapest Train Station

She took me to the “fanciest McDonald’s.” I will say the fast-food location was pretty fancy.

The fancy McDonald’s

After walking around for a while, we called it a night and headed back to Orsi’s flat to get some sleep before a full day of sightseeing on Friday.

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo