We left Istanbul at 6am on Monday morning with a whopping two hours of sleep under our belts (and a few beers the night before), flew all the way back to Milan, and then caught our flight to Budapest. Despite being pretty exhausted by the time we arrived, we both really liked Budapest from the beginning. Driving in from the airport was kind of strange as it looked like we could have been anywhere in the Midwest - it's really flat with huge corn fields and hot, muggy weather. This geographic confusion continued as we arrived in the city, because everyone there looked and dressed like Americans. We weren’t necessarily expecting Budapest to feel so familiar or “normal,” but I suppose after Portugal and then Istanbul, a lot of places in Europe would.
We got to the Buda Base Hostel and met Gabor, the guy who runs it, who we think might actually be the nicest person in the whole world. The hostel is small, and we had booked the one double room, but he told us that he also had a small apartment down the street that we could have for the same price. So we ended up
with basically a studio apartment with a kitchenette and a sleeping loft, and even had cable TV and internet. It was pretty luxurious. We went to the beautiful covered market in town and bought yogurt, tea, and huge bags of cherries and raspberries for about 1/4 of the price you would pay in the states, and had really nice breakfasts at home in the mornings. The only problem with the place we stayed was that it was so nice that we were less motivated to go out and see things!
But we did manage to tear ourselves away and see some of the city. Budapest is actually two cities, Buda on one side of the Danube and Pest on the other. We were staying in Buda, right near the river, and most of the sights were in Pest, so we spent a lot of time walking along the paths by the river and crossing bridges. This was fine with us, as the city is beautiful along the river, especially at night - the buildings are lit up beautifully.
On our first full day we walked along Andrassy utca, a pretty street with lots of cafes and shops. We
stopped into the Opera House and managed to get tickets to an opera for that night. We saw The Magic Flute (Mozart), which was fun - sometimes it got a little boring since we obviously don't speak Hungarian, but every time it got slow, we entertained ourselves by looking around the Opera House. We were kind of surprised when at one point during the opera the plot involved a fire, and they brought out this huge flaming container on wheels that filled the whole theater with the smell of lighter fluid - hopefully that's not going to do any major damage to the ceiling!
On our second and last full day we walked up to Castle Hill, which has a great view over the city. We were feeling a little bit tired and also a little cheap so we skipped the museums, although we did go into the Matthias Church, which was very different from anything we'd seen before. In the afternoon, we headed to the Gellert Baths, one of the most famous sights in Budapest. We spent a couple of hours in the different warm and cold pools and thought about getting a massage, but since we only
got there a couple hours before it closed, we decided against it.
Overall, Budapest was great. The one complaint I have is that there is a lot of traffic, and although there is a big pedestrian and bike path on both sides of the river, you have a lot of cars and buses whizzing by you. Crossing the street was also a little stressful in some places... Other than that we had a great time - the city is beautiful, our hostel was great, there are way more sights to see than we could possibly have done in three days, and the food was good. I’m sure we’ll be back some day.
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