If I asked you to list off 5 popular European cities off the top of your head, what would they be? Paris? London? Rome? What about Budapest? It seems like Budapest is a city that often gets overlooked, and after this weekend, I can’t quite understand why. I know I have yet to see many more European cities, but Budapest has set the bar remarkably high.
On Saturday morning, we ventured out of our hostel to see what the city had to offer. Our hostel was on the Pest side, so we had to cross over to the Buda side for the major sites (Fun fact that I just learned: Buda and Pest were two separate cities until they combined later in the 19th century to form Budapest). As we crossed the Danube River, we had an excellent view of both sides of the city, with the Parliament Building on one side and the hills and Budapest castle on the other. Little did we know at the time that the views were going to get even better! We walked along the river and took more pictures with the Parliament Building before heading deeper into Buda.
Finally we came upon the Fisherman’s Bastion, a tall fortress-like structure with
seven towers that resemble the ones from Cinderella’s castle. We climbed to the top of the towers to get a breathtaking view of the city with the river. Right behind the Fisherman’s Bastion sits Matthias Church. Out of the churches we have seen so far, this one was the most unique. The arrangement of the orange and turquoise ceramic tiles on the roof, along with the intricately painted walls in the inside, make it unlike any other church I’ve seen.
After the church, we continued further along the river where we found the Budapest Castle. While it was a beautiful building, with turquoise domes and statues surrounded by lush gardens, I was expecting something more medieval. I think when I hear the word “castle”, I immediately picture something from a Disney movie. I’m starting to realize that castles here don’t quite fit my archetype!
For the rest of the afternoon, we spent a few hours at the thermal baths, which have become a popular tourist destination in Budapest. The one we went to had 5 different baths, ranging in temperatures from 16 to 42 degrees celsius, and a sauna. The baths were very relaxing after a long day of walking. We had fun jumping from bath to bath, getting super hot in one and then jumping back into the coldest one for a refreshing cool down.
We worked up quite the appetite with our busy day, so our next stop was a traditional Hungarian restaurant. I appreciated the restaurant not only for the food and atmosphere, but also for the clever name, “Hung(a)ry?” I’m glad the Hungarians like to make jokes. Their only bad joke was the currency. We had a rough time figuring out the “huffs” when we had to pay our bill altogether (Europeans hate when you pay separately). I can’t wait for our field trip and spring break when we’re in the EuroZone for 2 whole weeks! It makes dealing with money a whole lot easier.
After dinner, we hurried to pick up our tickets for a wine cruise on the Danube River. Hands down, that was one of the most exciting things I’ve done so far while being in Europe. And no, it wasn’t just for the wine! 😉 We were seated at a table in the inside of the boat around 19:00 when the sun was just about to set. Throughout our 2 hour cruise, we were given 7 Hungarian wines to try along with
complimentary breadsticks. About halfway through, we decided to check out the top of the boat. By this time, the sun had set and we had an amazing view of the city on both sides of the river, with all of the buildings lit up. I can’t even begin to explain the feeling I had, right then and there, breathing in the fresh air and taking it all in. How did I get so lucky to see this amazing world we have? I am beyond grateful for getting the chance to do something most people only dream about. It was a moment I will never forget and I hope I will continue to feel this way with the more places I see. After awhile, we went back to our seats and enjoyed a lovely performance by a string quartet. They came right up to our table and played a pleasant classical tune. I felt so fancy and sophisticated, like I was in a scene from the Titanic!
Sadly the cruise couldn’t last forever, so we headed back to our hostel. We took the long way, admiring the lights of the city reflecting on the river, knowing we had to get up early the next morning to catch a bus back to Olomouc. It was also in this moment that another thought occurred to me. These places we are seeing are beyond anything I could every imagine, but what makes the experiences so wonderful are the people I get to share it with. There were just seven of us girls on this weekend excursion, most of us not knowing one another before this whole trip began. Now after our trip to Budapest, I can honestly say these are some of the best people I’ve met and I’m so glad I can call each one of them a friend. I can’t wait for the many more adventures we’ll have together!
Cheers to Budapest!