I have recently been to Budapest which has not been on my travel list at the beginning of the year but which I added after getting to know someone who is spending some time there at the moment. It was relatively spontaneous and I just went for a weekend but it was an amazing trip.
It also was my first trip to an Eastern European country. Actually, it is quite sad that I have never been there before considering how close it is to the rest of Europe. From London, Budapest is just a 2 hour flight away as is Madrid for instance. Since I have never really been to Eastern Europe I have also not really thought about this part of Europe so much. I could not imagine how it would be like. The only kind of “Eastern” City I have seen is East Berlin if that counts… For some reason I had this weird feeling that I would travel back in time because I thought that Eastern Europe is so much far behind Western Europe. In the end, Budapest proofed me completely wrong here.
The friend I was visiting is living and working in a school which meant that I was living in a school for those two days as well. The school was really interesting and the room I was supposed to sleep in reminded me of the DDR (German Democratic Republic). Once I have been to the DDR Museum in Berlin which exhibits an example of a typical DDR flat. The room there in Budapest was about the same. So at first, I felt as if I had traveled back in time event thought the bright orange curtains and the simple furniture could also be considered as some form of retro style…
Saturday, we made our way up a big hill from which we had an amazing view over the city. It was a sunny day with around 20°C which made the walk up totally enjoyable to me as a person who loves the sun and the warmth that comes with it in spring and summer. From the top of the hill we could see all the old buildings, churches, the parliament, the castle and the Danube curling through the city. The first thing I learned was that Budapest once has been two cities: Buda and Pest and they were separated by the Danube river.
In the afternoon we were exploring the rest of the city such as the pedestrian zone, we saw the big impressive building of the parliament and we were relaxing a bit on the little island Margaret. After that we had a great Hungarian lunch in a little Hungarian restaurant which was not even expensive. For a dish with bread, potatoes and meat with tomatoes and melting cheese on top we paid around 6€ which is purely amazing compared to the prices here in London. And the food was really good as well! The Hungarian cuisine reminded me a lot of Southern German or Austrian dishes.
After this great lunch we continued our way exploring the city and traveled with the cutest “tube” I have ever seen! You probably cannot even call it tube because it is just a tiny yellow train with 3 little wagons. You take around 10 steps down from street level and you are already in the station which looks really lovely and old fashioned and when the train arrives a funny music is being played. With this train we went on to see the state opera house and then ended at the hero square which is a big square with a massive column in the middle. This square was used for parades in former times.
Behind the square, a big park commences in which you can find a lovely little castle as well as the oldest Hungarian bath. Hungary and especially Budapest are well known for their healthy thermal bathes and every year lots of tourists come there just for these bathes.
In the evening we made our way up another hill to visit Buda Castle. From there you also have an amazing view over the city and especially by night when all major buildings are lit, it gives you a spectacular skyline of this beautiful city.
The next day was unfortunately very grey but once again we went up the castle hill to have the same view that we already had by night and I could imagine how beautiful it must look like in the sunshine. In the afternoon we then decided to go and take a bath in the oldest Hungarian bath in the park where we’ve been before. The bath is inside an old castle kind of building. There are two massive outside pools in the inner courtyard of the castle and within the castle you can also find loads of smaller pools and saunas with different temperatures. We have spent most of the time in the outside pools which had around 38°C and considering how cold it was outside, it was great to sit in this warm water and just relax. Especially in the evening when it got dark and there where little lights everywhere and you could see the dust ascent from the hot water, it was an amazing picture!
Unfortunately, this was already my last evening there. I wish I had more time to see so much more of what this amazing and beautiful city has to offer. I would have loved to meet its people as well but there was just not enough time. The only thing that bothered me all the time was that I just did not understand the language at all! Hungarian is so different from all other languages I know that you can not even pick up a few words. Even though, I learned the most important worlds like Szia (Hello) and Köszönöm (Thank you), I still felt rude in shops and restaurants because I did not speak the language and because of that people had to speak English and/or German to me which was not a big problem because most Hungarians do speak either German or English or even both. I just usually try to learn more of the language of the country I travel to and therefor it was a really new experience for me to not being able to do that at all this time.
I really love Budapest and I think that I will definitely go back there again at some point. For this year, I have also two more trips planned to Eastern European cities which I now very much look forward to: Krakow in Poland and Sofia in Bulgaria…