My last stop was Budapest. It was cold. So cold. So cold and windy. Freezing. The Weeknd lyrics were going through my head the entire time I was there.
My previous post does a pretty solid job explaining how I got lost and eventually got to my hostel to if you want to catch up I’ll leave the link (Here). When I finally did get to my hostel I was pleasantly surprised at how small and empty it was. After I checked in I found a few people hanging out in the kitchen eating dinner and after a quick run to the store for a TWO DOLLAR frozen pizza, I was glad to join them. I was tired but I had a hard time falling asleep. I’m not sure why but this has been pretty common for me in the last year or so. On top of that I was woken up by a super early morning “call to prayer” from the mosque that was supposedly down the street. I never did end up seeing it. I guess I can’t complain though because my room, the India Room, was pretty cool. I had the whole loft to myself so I got to spread out a bunch. I also never locked my stuff up. There were only a few of us in the room and they all seemed nice enough (this isn’t foreshadowing. Everyone was nice and no one stole anything).
I spent my first morning walking along the river and through the Castle District. The city looked nothing like I expected and it was almost completely empty. It actually had a pretty eerie feeling. I stopped in a few cute little shops and bought a Christmas ornament in one of them. It was kind of strange (also magical) to be in these cute, cozy, warm stores and then all of the sudden be back out on a street of communist era buildings that seemed to be falling apart. You lose yourself in all the crafts and beautiful things and then you forget about the outside. I walked by the coolest wedding dress store and also went into a music history museum and an art gallery that I was rushed out of after the woman on duty received a phone call and then said she needed to close up.
I thought a lot about how lucky (blessed, mostly blessed) I had been the night before. I got to thinking about what could have happened if that man hadn’t been there. Not pretty. I went back to the hostel around lunch time and I went with some of the people I met to a cat café (slightly disappointing, I mean not really because I don’t like cats) and the “cat-pucchino” that I had was pretty amazing, mostly because it had peanut butter in it. From there we went to this secret tea house called “Altair”. It was amazing. There are no signs for it so you only hear about it from other people; this is me telling you to go. You have to take your shoes off when you go inside and it’s hard to describe but it’s kind of like a jungle gym and you just relax on the various levels/lofts and drink tea. We stayed for a while but I could have sat there all day. It also seemed to be a popular date spot. That night I cooked myself a huge pot of pasta and tucked myself into bed with Netflix and watched “Suits” for hours. I ended up staying away until almost 4 because I just couldn’t sleep.
The next day I lay in bed until after lunch watching Netflix. The guy that I traveled to Vienna with got to the hostel that afternoon and we walked around the city taking pretty much the same route that I did the day before. Instead of seeing the sun burning through the fog we were treated to the sunset and Budapest all lit up. It’s not a super impressive city during the day but it’s absolutely breathtaking at night. One of my biggest regrets is not seeing historical Prague at night! We stopped back at the hostel and met up with another girl who was staying there and the three of us went out to dinner at a traditional Hungarian place. I had potatoes and fried cheese with blueberry sauce (great combo with the carbs right?). I also had two beautiful glasses of Rosé that were less than 50 cents each. What. And I thought Spain was cheap! Our waiter was clearly not as impressed by the wine prices as I was because he gave “the look” when I ordered a second glass to go with my ice cream.
The next day James (the guy I met in Austria), Pedro (a guy who works at the hostel) and I all went caving. IT WAS SO FUN! I was nervous at first but I’m so glad I did it. It was great to do something more adventurous and it makes me want to go caving when I get back to Sweet Briar! The caves were wicked cool, literally and figuratively. There’s a natural stage down there and once a year they have Christmas concerts in the cave. At one point near the end the instructor had us turn off our lights and work our way through a tunnel by using each other’s voices and bodies as a guide. My favorite part though was when we were sitting in a big “room” and she had us turn off our lights and sit silently. Because you’re underground absolutely no light gets in so it’s complete darkness. It was amazing. Same goes with sound, all I could hear was my blood in my ears. I lay down on the clay. That’s what I need for a good night’s sleep- absolute silence and darkness and a clay floor. I was sore for days afterward from all the climbing and squeezing through tiny spaces, but I think I have a new hobby!
After lunch and a nap James and I went up to the Citadella to see the city from a birds eye view (well…). It was quite the workout, but also worth it…just take a look at my pictures! We went to this really nice Italian place for dinner after stopping for a yummy street food dessert thing. I got a pesto pasta dish for dinner and some surprisingly good Hungarian red wine. It occurred to me that that was the first time that I had gone out to a nice Italian place and ate like an adult (aka had wine with Italian food that wasn’t pizza). It was really nice having someone to walk around with and talk to. Budapest was the city I felt the least safe in by myself, though my perspective may have been biased for a variety of reasons given my recent experiences. I realized that when I’m not walking alone (in whatever city, even Sevilla) I’m always smiling and laughing but when I am alone I have my game face on. It sucks that that’s the way it has to be but I guess that’s what you get for being a woman.
On a lighter note, I found out exactly what happened my first night in the hostel in Grunau…apparently I had a bit more to drink than I remembered. It all made so much more sense! I’ll spare you the details.
My last day was pretty low-key. James left that morning so I walked around a bit by myself in the morning and ended up buying a ticket to see Romeo and Juliet at the opera house that night. I wanted to spend all the money I had withdrawn and I had a bunch left (aka 30 dollars) so I decided to spend it all in one place J That afternoon I went on a run down to an island that’s connected to the bridge by my hostel. The island had a 5(y pico)km track that was actually really nice.
The ballet was very…Eastern European. The dancers were great and I thought Romeo and Juliet did a great job showing just how young the couple is which I always think is important. There was a bit of a Hungarian flair to it and there were some surprisingly funny parts as well. My seat was in a box almost directly in the back of the theater and it was in the first row which meant my view was amazing. During intermission I was people watching and I saw several little girls dancing around pretending to be ballerinas. I want that to be my children and I want to dance around with them. It was actually heartbreaking seeing some of their parents on their phones! Oh, also, they do this really cool thing in Hungary where they all clap in unison at the end of a performance. It was so weird and unexpected and a bit creepy, but cool nevertheless. On the way home from the theater I walked by a bunch of cool cafes and bistros. I wish I took the time to eat out and explore Budapest a bit more. I’d love to see the city in the summer. I stopped at the metro station and spent the last of my money on a ticket to the airport for the morning and on a slice of pizza for dinner (my new post theater meal).
I left pretty early the next morning for my flight that was at nine. It took my about 12 hours to get home, there was a lot of waiting around for the train but I ended up buying “The Book Thief” so it wasn’t too bad. I was really glad to be back home. I was sad not to be traveling anymore but I was excited for my host mom’s food and my bed and being able to understand the language!
…that’s that! My first solo trip was a success! Lots of ups and downs but I learned plenty about myself, other people, everything. I also learned that being completely free to do whatever you want is the most exciting, though sometimes overwhelming, feeling in the entire world. This type of traveling is totally different than any traveling I’ve done before but I think it might be my favorite. You just can’t replicate how that freedom feels. Sorry to the folks at home but I think I’ve found my new drug! (Hi can we just appreciate how I just brought that right back to the title?)
**Stay tuned for my budget breakdown coming soon**