My experience of Budapest was a heady mix of aching feet and awe at the beauty of the city.
- Effect of large quantity of dairy on Cam’s stomach.
Admittedly, the latter problem was my own fault and I can’t really blame the city.
Every day I wake up and tell myself “this is the first day of the rest of my life.” When I woke up on a sunny morning in Budapest, I could have believed it.
Following Eddie, our slightly-scary tour guide (wearing a symbolic fedora of power), we orientated ourselves within the city. Or, more accurately, cities (Buda and Pest being separate cities on either side of the Danube river). I empathised with Budapest. I, too, am split in half sometimes, the sides weakly joined by centuries worth of architecture.
Anyway, it was hot, and vibrant, and everything we saw seemed to be in HD. The thing about the city seemed to be that despite its bustling, busy air, it wasn’t crowded, or uncomfortable. There’s no oppressive blocks of high-rise offices, or crowds of angry commuters. It’s chilled-out. *
*Apart from the taxi-drivers, who are insane. We saw one actually go round a corner on TWO WHEELS. They also treat pedestrian crossings as more of a suggestion than a law, resulting a neat collection of near-death experiences when crossing the road.
That night we ordered 1.5 litres of sangria and went to a bar built in “some ruins”, which was strung up with multi-coloured lights and weirdly, a folk band. The next morning was made slightly tense due to the effect of sangria on my alcohol-starved body.
But we ate in a vintage café which had huge trees with fake blossom and we took a polaroid picture and I drank two very (dairy) milky coffees. On top of the sangria, my poor stomach flipped out. It tied itself in a derisive knot and gave me gyp for the rest of the day. Stick to veganism, Cam. Or maybe don’t drink two cups of milk without warming up your stomach.
Having seen it from a distance, we decided to be proper tourists and ride the Budapest Eye. Oh my God, that thing is terrifying! It whirls you round at such a speed that the city fades in and out of view in a thoroughly alarming manner. Bleurgh.
We tried to visit the museum of ethnography*, but discovered it was closed – not just during our visit, but until 2020. Oops.
*What is ethnography and why were we interested? It’s an anthropological term used to describe culture from the “insider”, or, local, point of view. Oh come on, I’ve just spent 3 years studying the damn subject, I might as well get some use from my degree…
We also went on a boat tour of the Danube, during which we received two complimentary cocktails each and I tried not to throw up.
The final day, I woke up a new woman and returned to the vegan way of life. We decided once again to find somewhere we could “brunch” – oh yeah. We’re people who brunch.
This is so funny okay. So. The brunch place we went to had amazing reviews. And yeah, the food was super pretty and tasty. BUT. The café was so outrageously hipster that you couldn’t order coffee and food from the same shop – because, get this, because, coffee and food-making are two different art forms and one shop cannot cater both to “perfection”!!!! There were signs ordering customers not to ask for changes to the menu, as each hand-crafted dish was so ecstatic in itself that it could not be modified. At all.
That’s cool, that’s fine. There was a vegan option of some kind of corn-cake-bread thing which was nice but a bit weird texturally. Popping across the road to order my coffee, I discovered a blanket ban on:
- Anything fun
Real coffee, you see, needs nothing else with which to express itself. Hmm.
It was super cheap though, if this was in the UK it’s the kind of pretentious hipster café that would charge you extortionate prices for a snide look and a judgemental comment about your food. We couldn’t stop laughing after that.
Margaret’s Island was easily the highlight of the trip for me. IT’S SO FUN! We hired a stupid shopping trolley thing with pedals and took turns steering. Turns out we were driving it in pedestrian zones the whole time, but nobody noticed and we didn’t really hit anybody.
During our stay, we visited both the Szecheyni and the Gellert baths. The Szechenyi baths were wonderful but completely incomprehensible. Man, we walked in CIRCLES before we could find anything like a shower, let alone a bath. It was very fun and a very new experience, if a bit full of couples who all of us wanted to poke in the eye. There was also a weird ritual where you rub ice cubes all over your body in public.
The Gellert baths were not only cheaper, but grander, if on a smaller scale. It’s an amazing Art Deco hotel, and the scenery is stunning. Also, the outdoor pool has a wave machine which is brutal and hilarious at the same time, and the lifeguard looked like John Torode. *
* Life hack – don’t rent a towel, just loiter creepily outside the pools until you’re dry.
Take home messages
- City of MANY DOGGOS (everyone has a dog and it’s amazing)
- Goooooood food (chimney cakewas a favourite of mine – just a massive pastry cylinder rolled in sugar. Also a café devoted entirely to HUMMUS)
- So much to do! I would say a good, full, 3 days worth of sightseeing and exploring. Maybe 4 because we are exhausted.
- Oh, one final important thing, IT’S A LOT OF WALKING. We walked 30,000 steps that first day. I would totally say it’s worth it, though. Just make sure to take comfy shoes and eat LOADS of food whilst you’re there to make up for it.
I probably have a lot more to say, I dunno. I think I missed bits. But today I am so tired and grumpety (it’s word ok) that I just want to craaaaaawl into bed and watch Brooklyn 99 until I fall asleep.
What a wonderful, jam-packed trip. If you get the chance – GO!