Trip Start Apr 01, 2012
Trip End Aug 31, 2013

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Flag of Hungary  ,
Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Steve is a planner and I guess I've had to adapt, becoming one by association. Thus, we pretty much planned the first 4 months of our summer travel around Europe. It was stress free in that we knew exactly were we'd be each day and had reservations set up. Most people backpacking tend to just go with the flow. If they like a place, they stay longer. If it's not up to par, too expensive or overbooked due to an event, they move on.

We met a couple that planned their RTW a bit differently. They were a recently married and a lot of their trip avoided the typical 'must see' sights. They wanted to go a bit more off the trail, hitchhiking and visiting places less expensive to go a bit longer. They reasoned that after they had kids, they'd visit the more well traveled paths. I can appreciate that view point. 

Knowing that there are no guarantees in life, Steve and I wanted to hit up as many of our bucket list places as possible. We quickly realized that a year is not nearly enough time so we had to scale back and pack things into a tight schedule. I had a professor who used to preach, "A failure to plan is a plan to fail." So plan we did! 

You are bound to have hiccups in planning and Budapest was our first road block. We knew we were checking in early but we're kinda dumbstruck when we realized that there was a locked iron gate to the entrance of our hostel. We realized that the hostel was in a private apartment building and we had to sneak in after a resident in order to use the intercom. We looked on the directory but the hostel wasn't labeled. I pulled out our reservation sheet and called up to the floor. It just kept ringing and no one answered. Maybe the number we had on our print out was wrong? Steve decided to try the neighbor. Neither of us speak Hungarian and gestures don't work over the telecom. The woman who answered finally blurted out something we could recognize, "Not there." How do we interpret that? Was the front desk person not in? (Some hostels don't have staff in the early morning hours.) Had the place closed down? Hmmm. After toying with the idea of calling her back, we decided to give up and find a backup hostel.

Luckily, there was a hostel down the street. We were checking their rates and then I started explaining our situation and the woman said she knew of our hostel and that they had moved! Ah ha! She was kind enough to give us their new address, which happened to be within walking distance! 

As we were checking in, we relayed our story to the staff. He said they had sent emails to those that had booked with them. Maybe because we had booked so early, they overlooked us but we never got the memo. It was all good though, mishap semi-avoided! 

Off to see the city! We quickly got in a routine of joining these tip based tours. Most hostels have flyers for free walking tours. They are a great way to get the lay of the land and learn some fun facts. The tours usually last around 3 hours and at the end of the tour, you give the guide a tip based on what you can afford and what you thought the tour was worth. Some of the guides are locals and others are not. I think it'd be wrong to discredit the non-locals. Foreigners sometimes can be more wide-eyed in seeing the differences in culture and highlight the aspects of a places that tourists might find interesting. Locals are great guides as they know the city like the back of their hand. Both are usually well versed in the history of the place. The free tours show you the basics of the city, sometimes offer discounts to places and then on your own free time you can go into the paid places of interest. Some guides offer additional paid tours to go more in depth or tour you around a paid venue. 

Budapest is rough around the edges, after all Hungary was a communist country until 1989. There are a fair share of run down buildings that are pretty boring and bare. Some innovative entrepreneurs have embraced what might have been a dilapidated building and turning them into hip 'ruin bars.' We checked out Szimpla (the oldest ruin pub in Budapest) and Instant. Basically, they are hollowed out spaces in old building which have been dressed up in some form of artistic way. They are the cool places to mingle in the city where you can sip on some palinka. 

Trying new things is one of the best aspects of traveling and I found a new treat for myself called Turo Rudi. They are small dark chocolate bars filled with various things but I like the traditional ones with curds. Sounds disgusting and Steve has not jumped on board. He was more willingly to try langos, apparently 'the communist pancake.' It's a kind of carnival type food and a sister to the elephant ear. You have some deep fried dough topped with unmelted cheese, sour cream and garlic sauce. Of course there are a ton of other varieties to choose from. Probably not the healthiest of snacks but we put in enough miles to shed any guilt of tasting the local fare. 

We never did get to tour the Parliament Building. Maybe the Parliament was in session but every day we tried to go, they guards told us, "Tomorrow." Forget getting any further explanation. Those guys are like blocks of ice. You definitely still feel the resonance of the communist era. 

While we were walking around sightseeing, we were told Bruce was in town filming Die Hard V. Then we noticed some film crew just down the street from where we were staying. When we got back to our room, I planked out our window to watch them. Although it was just down the street, I never saw BW. They kept filming a tank driving down the street and a bunch of people storming a building. We later heard that one of the buildings had caught fire and burned to the ground. Sheesh.

That there was our highlighted adventures in Buda and Pest.... 
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