Exploring Budapest

Trip Start Apr 20, 2009
Trip End Jul 20, 2009

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Where I stayed
Julie & Irene's House (couchsurfers)

Flag of Hungary  ,
Saturday, May 23, 2009

I had an amazing time in Budapest! It is still pretty early in the morning, so everyone else is still sleeping, so I thought I would use my time productively...
This first night I got here, Julie and Irene (the couchsurfers that I am staying with) were going out to a last-minute work party, so I headed out to explore the city, which is supposed to be really pretty with all the lights of the monuments and such lit up along the river that runs through the middle of the city - Buda is on the west (tons of green hills) of the Danube and Pest is on the east of the river (completely flat); so that is kinda a strange natural phenomenon. Unfortunately I got quite a bit lost and found myself in the completely wrong direction, so I missed watching the sunset on the river, but I eventually made it back to where I was headed and saw all the lights, which look magical at night. I knew everything would look so much different during the day, so it was nice to see it all lit up.
The next morning I went over to Margret Island in the middle of the river, which is like their version of Central Park. They have so much there: a dancing fountain that plays music, a pool, a mini zoo, a track/sport center, some church ruins, cafes, a playground, botanical gardens, tons of open spaces to lie down in, and even a water park with slides (which wasn't open, but still...) After that I headed over to the train station to pick up Brittany, one of my college friends from sorority!! She is in Germany on a Fullbright fellowship and since some of her plans changed last minute, she decided to come join me, even though I am going up to visit her in Dresden next week. It was so exciting to pick her up, especially since I hadn't seen her in over 6 months or something like that. And in Budapest of all places! So we walked around exploring the historical sights of the Buda side - Fisherman's Bastion (which has a great view overlooking the city) and the Buda castle area on top of the main hill - Hello leg muscles! Then we headed over the river to the Museum of Fine Arts on the Pest side. Turned out to be more of a Bible lesson than anything else... which is fine if that's the kind of art you want to see, but we didn't think there would be so much in the Fine Arts museum, but oh well... We went back to the house to meet up with Julie and Irene - having quite an adventure on the metro along the way! Their system can be very confusing if you don't understand it! Amazingly enough, a lady overheard Brittany yelling (talking very loudly) to one of the station attendants in German and came to help us out; otherwise we never would have made it back to the train station to get her backpack before the luggage room closed for the day!
Irene took us up to the top of Gellert hill to see the city from another vantage point at night, where we were just in time to watch the sunset and see the lights come up on the bridge and all along the river. By this time, Brittany and I had gotten pretty hungry, so we drove back into town to get some food. We got some gyros and each ended up getting a piece of baklava also. Neither of us had eaten baklava before and since we had gotten different ones, we got to sample both. (Mine was pistachio and Brittany's was with nuts.) SOOOO amazingly good!! Her's was the better one of the two, but it didn't matter because they were both so yummy. Irene headed back to the house and we continued to walk around for a bit, stopping for more baklava on the way since it had been so good...

Today Brittany and I checked out some of the sights of Budapest by day that we had missed the day before and decided that since it was so warm we didn't want to go to hot Turkish baths, so we just walked around all day... Kinda boring I guess, but whatever... We had some traditional Hungarian foods, which I've already forgotten the names of, but one is a fried bread topped with cream cheese and cheese - very messy! Then we also later had some vegetable soup, sausage in a thick tomato sauce/soup, and a potato dish with paprika. (Well I had the sausage, Brittany is vegetarian...) Can you tell that I am enjoying all these new foods?! hahahaha
Afterwards we split up and she went to visit Margaret Island while I went splunking in the caves under the hills of Buda - so much FUN! I got filthy dirty of course, but thankfully they had given us overalls that covered out clothes. There was one girl who managed to get into the caves and then discovered that she has some mild claustrophobia - not good timing! So our guide left us there to take her out, promising to be back within 15 minutes to take us on the rest of our tour. Talk about having to have some trust! After he left, we all turned off our headlamps, just to see how dark it was and you could not see a thing, not even the inside of your eyelids it was so dark! : )  He actually came back for us and we continued on through the caves, squeezing ourselves through holes that should not be humanly possible. Sometimes on our bellys, sometimes on our backs, occasionally having to move sideways or twist - over/under, headfirst or feet-first, depending on the way you had to manuever. I had a blast! Definately a must do if you make it over to Hungary!!
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