Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The day I fell in love (with Budapest)

Friday morning we got up bright and early to head to BUDAPEST! I had been looking forward to this trip for a long time, especially because one of my parent’s closest friends, Steve,  is there and definitely has the intel on what to do in the city. However, I otherwise knew nothing about Hungary and was very curious to see what it would be like. The bus down was actually really nice. I had plenty of space and snacks and a great view, for a while we just passed fields and fields of sunflowers! I was thrilled to be in Bratislava for 10 minutes, now I can say I have been to Slovakia J Upon arrival, we checked in to an amazing hostel (I recommend the Wombats brand to anyone, easily as nice as a hotel and only $25 per night). It worked out perfectly because our six person room was only us five. We got ready in our American gear – Happy 4th!- and headed down Kiraly Utca, or King street, the main bar and restaurant area where we were staying. We found a great place for a celebratory drink before heading to Iguana, one of Steve’s ex pat friend’s restaurant. What better way to celebrate the 4th than with Mexican food right? The meal was more than delicious, and again a solid recommendation I would give to future visitors. Mo, the owner, was extremely hospitable, providing the first round as well as a list of the best nightlife locations. 
We headed back to Wombats, stopping along the way to find a wonderful park where people were watching the World Cup as well as a place calls Froccstersz. This outdoor bar area is set up every summer right near the ferris wheel in a large, beautiful park. We ordered a round of the infamous Hungarian summer drink, which is essentially a white wine spritzer, and for a split second I regretted not studying abroad in Budapest. The weather was perfect, the drink was delicious, and we sat in the grass with the locals and hung out until it got dark, twinkling lights of the bar and the spinning ferris wheel in the background. This was the first of many times that I fell in love with Budapest. 
After this, we later ventured out to Szimpla Kert, the most famous of Budapest’s ruin bars. A ruin bar is essentially a big warehouse that has been transformed into a massive drinking area. While I am not the biggest clubbing fan, I was excited to see this “cultural” sight but was not sure how much I would like it. I was totally wrong. Szimpla was set up with all kinds of absurd furniture and decorations. Partially open air, this two story set up was like nothing I had ever seen before, and pictures definitely do not do it justice. While there was plenty of great music, everyone was just hanging and chatting, and it was easily one of, if not the, best bar I have ever been to. 
View from the top of Szimpla
We had a great time mingling with other travellers, especially a group of French and Belgian rugby players who were in town for a match. Julie was especially in her element and so excited to be able to speak with them. Lesson of the day: Learn another language! It completely enhances going abroad. This entire experience made me realize the benefits of speaking multiple languages, something I had been thinking about but fully culminated in this moment. I had always loved languages as a kid, but with the Spanish class from hell in high school had been extremely turned off and never looked back. However, now I am inspired to take the time to learn at least one… we will see. Regardless, it was a fantastic first day and I completely fell in love with the city. While similar to Prague, Budapest is cleaner, a bit flatter, more spacious and regal seeming, with beautiful architecture, friendly people, and great restaurants and bars. If I could study abroad for a semester, this would definitely be the place I would choose. But more on that later! 

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