May 28-31, 2013
Kayla and I had last minute decided that Budapest was one of the places we absolutely wanted to go to. Sure, it made our train rides longer and our time in the actual cities shorter, but we wanted to make it happen. And that we did. After a very long 16 hours of train rides, we finally made it to Budapest, Hungary. The language barrier was hard to deal with, but we made it through, and we decided to tour the entire city… with our backpack, of course, before we met up with our Couchsurfing host, Eduard.
We had a rough start at the train station trying to figure out the local transportation systems and how to get to the center of the city, all while using completely different currencies and languages and with lack of sleep. BUT Kayla and I were able to overcome all these issues, and we made it safely to a Starbucks (typical) and made a game plan for the day. It was the first day with good weather we had seen in weeks, so no matter what happened to us, we were going to be happy.
We walked from Pest to Buda over the Chain Bridge. We hiked up to the top of the Old Fortress, saw Parliament, saw the Gellert Baths, and walked over a few more beautiful bridges that cover the Danube river. We meandered through the Great Market and enjoyed a glass of wine at this cute cafe in the nicest area of Pest. There, we met the owner of the cafe, who was this eccentric Hungarian woman that talked about her “past” in NYC. She walked us all the way to the metro station and told us exactly how to get to the Hero’s Square. We were on the first and oldest subway in the entire world. How’s that for historic landmarks! After we saw Hero’s Square, we made our way to our Couchsurfing host’s apartment, where 1.) we got lost, and 2.) we almost didn’t stay at because the outside was so sketchy. Luckily, Eduard was very kind, and his apartment was awesome, so we decided to stay. He cooked us a great meal, and we got ready to go out in Budapest!
Eduard took us to Parliament at nighttime, which was absolutely stunning. Once we got to the downtown area, we sat on a terrace at an outdoor club, where hundreds of young people gathered around with friends. Eduard explained that young people use these beautiful parks at night to converse and enjoy each other’s company. Finally, we made it to Szimpla Kert. This is one of the oldest “ruin pubs” in Hungary. It was built from a decrepit apartment building decorated with eclectic pieces of art. And by eclectic I mean chandeliers of old Barbie dolls, license plate art, melted glass walls, etc. It was a huge bar with three stories, weird lighting, plants everywhere and culturally enriched conversations. It was possibly the weirdest and best night.
In the morning, we had a very early train to Prague. I was particularly excited for Prague because we were meeting up with Juliana and Katelyn! We all met at the train station, where Guttier, our CS host, was meeting us. After a 20 minute walk in the rain, we finally made it to his apartment. We were all so excited to be together though that we didn’t really care about the weather. We all got ready for the night ahead and went out to dinner in Old Town. On the way to dinner, we saw the Dancing House and the Castle (even though, yes, it was pouring rain.) In Old Town, we ate at this great mexican restaurant, and we got to see the Astronomical Clock dance.
In the morning, Jules and Katelyn had to leave for Munich, and Kayla and I got a rough start on our day. With the rain, lack of sleep, and lack of umbrella, we were in a pretty bad mood. But then, we remembered that we were in Prague, and nothing was going to bring us down. We made our way to the top of the Castle, and we got to see the changing of the guards, Parliament, the top of the city, the Charles Bridge, the three giant babies and eventuallllyyy the John Lennon Wall. It took us about an hour, 3 different directions, and an Aussie, who knew his way, for us to get there. It was so worth it though. We went back to Old Town, where saw the famous church, and found the food markets. At the food markets, we each bought traditional Czech food, which basically consists of potatoes, meat and cheese. I bought a potato dumpling, sauerkraut, beef and cheese concoction. It was delicious and tasted like a heart attack waiting to happen.
It was such a great day. We didn’t have a map at all. We literally stumbled our way through Prague and made it to every landmark we wanted to see. We had to make our way back to the train station for what could have been the ABSOLUTE worst overnight train ride in history… That is until we got to Austria, but that’s a different story.
17 hours, 3 different delays, 2 very expensive and uncomfortable “seats” and 1 fallen tree on the train track later, we made it to Basil, Switzerland, where it was windy and rainy. So there went our day in Basil, but we were able to hop on an earlier train back to Leysin, where we got to do laundry first, get some sleep and rest up for the night out in Top Pub.
All in all, AMAZING week in Budapest and Prague.