Once Upon a Time in Budapest

“We’re going to Budapest, and you’re coming with us.”

“Okay.”

That’s the conversation I had with two friends last Monday, and sure enough at 4.15 am that Thursday I found myself on a train to the Hungarian capital. Budapest was one of those European cities that I’d heard a lot about, but when faced with the prospect of going there, I realised that I knew absolutely nothing about the city. As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one, most of us knew little or nothing about the city itself. We’d all heard things like; ‘it’s really beautiful’ and ‘it has great night life’, but when you have three days in a city you want to know more. What can I do? Where can I go? What places are beautiful? Which clubs are the best?

On Tuesday I went into research mode, trying to find the best things to do in Budapest. When we left I was confident that I knew what I wanted to do. But as often happens, once you get to a place, you’re suddenly overwhelmed and struck with a case of indecisiveness. Thank goodness for the free walking tour we went on in the afternoon, it gave us a good orientation of the city and the guide was kind enough to mark some interesting places on our maps. It’s just a pity it was so cold and rainy, I could barely concentrate on what he was saying most of the time. I was trying too hard to make sure my feet didn’t get frozen (because I was a clever cookie, and hadn’t packed my slightly more waterproof shoes).

Luckily, the weather only got better. Which it to say more precisely, it didn’t rain on as much on Friday and Saturday. And that’s just as well, because the hop on hop off bus we took on Friday didn’t have a roof. On the upside, the bus tickets got us free goulash and a boat ride.

Budapest ended up being like every other European city I’ve visited. I didn’t have enough time to see everything I wanted and when I left, I knew that I would come back one day. We drove past so many sights on the bus, I would have loved to gotten out and explored each and every one of them, but that definitely would have taken more than the two days the bus ticket was valid for.

One thing we did manage to do, that I would recommend to anyone planning on going to Budapest, was paying a visit to Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion at night. They both get lit up and the view of the city is beautiful. You can also get an amazing view from the Citadel, but I’m guessing it’s better on a clearer day than when we went. We got an awesome photo with the statues though and looked like idiots while we did it, but that was half of the fun.

We tried to experience the Budpest nightlife too, but for me at least, it was not a successful mission. The first place we went was recommended to us by one of the workers at the hostel and we could not figure out why she thought it was a good idea. Without meaning to play on Eastern European stereotypes, it looked like the kind of place that people got murdered in. Also unsettling were the five or so large, bald, gangster looking men standing at the door and the fact that during the ten minutes we’d spent standing across the road debating whether or not to risk our lives we had seen no women enter or exit the place. Needless to say the decision was made to try our luck somewhere else. Cue a cosy little bar and a round of drinks. Then we were off again in search of a party. The third place we found ourselves at was one of the most well known night life places in Budapest, but for the life of me I can’t remember its name. We left after  short period of time, and I decided I was going to call it a night. So it was back to the nice, homely hostel for me.

All in all, I enjoyed Budapest. It was worthwhile the visit, to be able to see some really beautiful sights. However, the westernised part of me couldn’t help but observe the strange underlying tension that seemed to blanket the city. I don’t now if it was my imagination, but I really do feel there is a difference in atmosphere between western and eastern europe. It’s not a bad thing, in a strange way it really made me aware of the history of the city.

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