Trip Start Apr 28, 2009
Trip End Jun 01, 2009

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Flag of Hungary  ,
Wednesday, May 13, 2009

  Today I had plans to walk down Vaci Utca which is a pedestrian only shopping street. On this street is where there were still stores open during the Communist era. Here was the only McDonalds on this side of the "Iron Curtain". It was said that when it opened there was line ups around the block. I hope it was because it was a Western store that symbolized a hopeful change and not for the taste of the food. However out of a city of millions of people I run into the Brazilian girls, Claudia and Anne, who were waiting for a free walking tour to begin. I ended up joining the tour with them, along with 2 older Swedish couple, a guy from Transylvania and Adam who is from B.C.

The tour was interesting, our guide took us through parts of the old town, and explained lots of details of the statues and buildings. There are lots of statues in Budapest and many different squares that seem to pop out of nowhere. We walked over the Chain Bridge to the Buda side and walked up Castle Hill and explored around there. This part of Budapest is the oldest and parts of Castle Hill date from the 15th-16th century. Our guide explained to us that Hungary has been in the middle of many wars and most of the buildings were destroyed. It is rare to find anything that is really old here. He also told us that there are a lot of buildings that are still falling in disrepair as there isn't a lot of money to spend on fixing them up. Now that I know this, I have noticed that a lot of the buildings are crumbling apart. The tour guide is originally from Amsterdam and has been living in Budapest for 6 years. He speaks English fluently, but he has this thing were he always goes "uh,uh,uh" when he struggles to come up with a certain word. Then, I'm guessing, because of this he is a little self conscious and he starts getting these facial tics. I felt like I would be rude if I said aloud the appropriate word he was looking for as these facial tics are quite hard to watch, but I endured it.

There is this one statue that he showed us of a man riding a horse. The horses testicles are very shiny and it is said that if you rub them, you will have good luck with your relationship. I gave them a thorough rub! I did it for you Hartley! Haha. After about 10 minutes of that, kidding, we went to a cafeteria style Hungarian restaurant where we ended our tour. Here the guide showed us a good place to go out at night, so me, Claudia, Anne and Adam made plans to meet up and head to some of these places.

After the tour I went back to Vaci Utca and walked down towards the Great Market Hall. This is a building that is 2 levels and sells everything from souvenirs, meat, cheese, produce and food. I picked up some souvenirs and had some Hungarian Langos. I have read that this is very typical food and needed to give it a try. It was really tasty and very cheap (about 2 dollars) and very filling! Not particularly good for you though. It is like a pizza, but the bread is some sort of pastry, with sour cream spread all over it, and covered with cheese and ham. I am so craving a salad right now!!! Walking back to the hotel I ran into two people I met at my hostel in Prague on the street. Crazy small world! We chatted for a bit and they told me that they just ran into another person from that hostel.

I needed to book an overnight sleeper compartment to Brasov for Saturday and headed to the closest train station, Nyugati (Budapest has three). This train station was a flashback of the past! It looked like it hasn't been updated in the last 50 years. All the signs were faded and peeling off the walls. I managed to book my compartment and luckily I wrote down all the details as the attendant didn't speak English very well. I am a little nervous about this train ride as when I was pulling into Budapest, I saw the train from Brasov and it looked like the oldest, dirtiest train ever. There were a bunch of Roma (politically correct term for Gypsies), hanging out the windows smoking, and they didn't look like the cleanest people. I booked a three person compartment and they will put all females together.

Later on I met up with Claudia, Anne and Adam and we headed out to find this one bar called Instant. We ended up circling the block for awhile and when we found it, it was closed. So we found this other bar that had some guy playing the guitar of some really bad songs. He sang the Friends theme song need I say more....The drinks were very cheap and we ordered some Unicum which is a liquor that is a Hungarian specialty. It tasted like cough syrup! We washed it down with a beer and then a tequila shot. We were headed out to this other bar and stopped at a 24 hour mini market (which are everywhere) and got a half mickey of Palinka, another drink popular in these parts, and it was worse than the Unicum! It tasted like nail polish remover. Even in our drunken stupor we couldn't drink it straight. I picked up some Fanta and we mixed it and it was a little better. We walked to the girls hostel as one was going to stay back and we ended up hanging out there for a bit. After that I was pretty tired and I headed (well stumbled) back to my hotel.
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