The next stop on our spring break tour de force was Budapest. Why Budapest, you may ask? It’s true that I had heard great things about this city, and that it was one to hit if you were heading to Central/Eastern Europe. The real reason, though, was that I found a flight from Venice to Budapest for 4 euro. Done and done.
A funny note about that flight: It was supposed to take us an hour and a half to get there, and somehow we arrived in just 40 minutes. I have no idea what airstream we hit, but perhaps we should have taken a little bit more time. We arrived to find that they had, er, “misplaced” half of our plane’s luggage. Was it still in Venice? Maybe…they weren’t too sure. As all of us crowded around the Lost Luggage desk to fill out paperwork, we learned of Ryanair’s “lost-luggage-compensation-policy-or-lackthereof.” Luckily, in the midst of the chaos, a new stream of suitcases appeared on the conveyer belt. Phew.
The first thing we had to deal with upon entering Hungary was changing our currency. To give you an idea about how complicated this was, one US dollar equals about 216.50 Hungarian forints. We were rolling deep in hufs (as we affectionately dubbed them) once we hit the ATM.
I really enjoyed the ambiance of Budapest. We took a free walking tour with a great guide our first full day there, and she really got us excited to explore the city. Budapest itself is still in the process of rebuilding itself, as Hungary is a young democratic nation still trying to find its place in the world.
Everyone that we met was so friendly, and despite the dark history of their nation, had a great sense of humor. While describing the end of World War II, our tour guide asked us if we knew who had liberated Hungary. “Russia did, of course,” she said, “They liberated us for 42 years!”
We spent a lot of time wandering in Budapest, exploring both the Buda and Pest sides, which are separated by the Danube River. Among the sites we saw were the Castle District, Parliament, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Heroes’ Square, City Park and Vajdahunyad Castle (Try to say it. Your guess is as good as mine.)
Everything about Budapest was so vastly different from anywhere else that I’ve traveled- currency, language, food, etc. The language was not such a big deal, because nearly everyone we met spoke English (and usually a couple other languages as well). One person who did not speak English was the older woman working at the grocery store where I tried purchasing cold medicine. I acted out coughing and blowing my nose, hoping she would understand what I needed. Looking like she had had a lightbulb moment of understanding, she came around the counter and led me to the pharmacy aisle…oh wait. She led me to a bottle of Unicum, a Hungarian digestive liquor containing 22 supposedly medicinal herbs. At first I thought she didn’t understand, or it was that Hungarian sense of humor shining through once more. More I think about it, though, I think she understood me perfectly.
Enough of my ramblings. I’ll try to upload some pictures on here soon, though it has not been very cooperative lately. And there is still Prague and Berlin to go!