Budapest, Hungary (8.29.09 – 9.1.09)

So. Budapest.
I arrived and found the train station to be really confusing. I spent far too long trying to purchase a metro ticket and trying to find the metro system itself, which is slightly removed from the main rail station… it was just… a mess. I took the metro line to the stop where I needed to get off, and went to find the tram to get to the hostel. So, I found the tram, and took it three stops as instructed, but the weird thing was that NONE of the stops listed on the information for the line were the stop that my instructions told me to get off at. After getting really frustrated and feeling really dumb, I found someone who spoke English and asked her how to get to Corvin Mozy, a movie theater that was right by my hostel. It turned out that I had gone the wrong way on the tram, so I got back on and headed in the opposite direction, still totally confused as to why the line was not listing the stop I needed. So, we come up on the stop where I think I need to get off, and I realize that the names of the stops are marked differently on the physical stops than they are on all of the information on the trains and on the maps-VERY CONFUSING. Anyhow, I had found my stop and got off, feeling fairly exhausted after carting around my giant backpack for far too long. But, I was nearly there!! I got myself to the hostel without any more problems and was quickly impressed with the quality of the room for which I was paying only 7 Euro a night. I was in a room of three bunks, with surprisingly comfortable beds. There was a large common area, a TV, computers and a kitchen. If you’re ever in Budapest– Mandarin Hostel– I highly recommend it.
I took it easy that night and just went for a brief walk around the immediate area. I found a Mediterranean food joint and sat myself down to eat. I am to the point that I am completely comfortable eating by myself, which I could not be more thrilled about. For me, this represents an even higher level of independence, as it was the thing I found most daunting about being by myself when I arrived in Prague a little over a month ago. After eating, I went to the corner store to get some beers. I went back to the hostel, sat on a couch, drank said beers, and watched a football match while catching up with loved ones on the internet.
The next day, I took myself off to explore Budapest. I walked around Pest for a good while, soaking in the architecture and the sights and the general feel of the city. I walked across a bridge that crossed the Danube and made my way into Buda to see the Buda Castle. I walked around the grounds for some time, and ended up following a procession of costumed men and women who lead me to a main square where there was music, dancing, and a small Ren-Fest like ambiance.There was one man with a beautiful peregrine falcon, that I spent some time admiring. The view from the castle was spectacular, as you can see the whole city, as well as up and down the river. I next decided to go inside the King Matthias Church, which is part of the castle grounds. The church is breathtaking, both inside and out. Unfortunately, much of the outside is currently covered in scaffolding, but the feature that particularly caught my eye was the exquisite tiled roof. Both here, and throughout the city, there is a very East-meets-West feel to the architecture, due to the old Turkish rule.
After getting my fill of the castle, I headed off to the baths… another aspect of the Turkish culture that has been assimilated into Hungarian culture. I went to the Gellert baths, which, apparently are among the more expensive baths, but the only ones open on a Sunday… which it was. The changing rooms are well… nonexistent, unless you pay extra for a personal cabin, and well, the phrase “paying extra” is not one currently in my vernacular. So, I payed for a locker and changed there. There were Hungarian women striding up and down the halls in the nude, so I figured… when in Budapest? Not that I went striding around in the nude… but I decided that being bashful was just silly and to hell with inhibitions, so I stripped down and got into my swimsuit. I spent well over three hours lounging in luxurious thermal baths, and sun-bathing on the roof. I felt wonderfully relaxed and sleepy when it was all said and done. Before going to the baths, I had spotted a restaurant boasting traditional Hungarian food, and advertising “3 course Hungarian meal. 8 Euro.” I was sold… so after the baths, headed there for dinner for one, reading The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, which ohmy, am I am just loving. HOW HAVE I NOT READ THIS BEFORE? After finishing my meal, I went back to the hostel for a quiet night in.
The next day, Monday, I decided I was going to walk around some more, go and find a basilica that is supposed to be breathtaking, and go to explore some caves in the north of the city. I went and saw the basilica, and it was indeed very pretty, and then I began my hour long journey to go and explore the caves… to discover that they are closed on Mondays! I was so annoyed!!! And I later realized that it was no fault of my own, because their website said that English speaking tours are usually available on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I had to sit and wait for the bus to come, and while I waited, some cats befriended me. There were two kittens and a momma cat, and they were all so skinny! The bigger of the two kittens became my friend- I named him/her(?) James. Soon enough, the bus arrived, and kinda bummed, I headed back into the city to do some more aimless wandering. I found a giant bookstore with lots of English books, but nothing that caught my fancy, unfortunately. I made my way back to the hostel once more, with grand ambitions of doing laundry and reading more, but instead took a nap. I slept for several hours, so I guess I really needed it? You don’t always get the soundest night’s sleep in hostels, because everyone comes and goes at different hours of the day and night… some come stumbling in at 3 in the morning, and some leave to catch a train at 5 in the morning. After waking, I puttered around for a while and accompanied by two new roommates, went out to a bar in town called Godos and got a few beers.
The next morning, I awoke early to pack my things, check out, and head back up to the caves before catching my train to Zagreb. I was determined to see these caves!!! I thought I had remembered that the caves opened at 8:00, and a bit off schedule, I arrived at about 9:00… to discover that my memory had not served me correctly, and instead, they opened at 10:00. No big deal… I sat around and read my book, and another cat came trotting along, begging for my attention. I named this one Ronald Reagan… later to discover that it is a girl… whose name I can’t remember. It sounded like “Jonny,” but it was some Hungarian name… but apparently they had also given her a boys name! Ronald Reagan was sweet and I showered her with attention… she was still no match for my baby Puppy back home. 10:00 came and I got to explore the caves! They were cold and umm, just awesome– I was really glad that I made the effort to see them. Effort: see getting up early. They were complete with stalactites, stalagmites, whimsical names for all of the various caves and passages, and 14 million year old fossils. After finishing my journey through the caves, I returned to the hostel to collect my bags, and then to the train station to catch my 6 hour long train to Zagreb. We were stopped by some really intense and intimidating passport control officers, who spent what seemed like ages interrogating the passengers. Due to this and other delays, our train arrived 45 minutes late into Zagreb. Oh well, these things happen. Luckily, the tram system was one of the easiest I’ve used yet and it took mere minutes to get myself oriented and heading for my hostel.

budacastle

The Buda Castle! It’s very pretty and has the most breath-taking views.

kingmatthias

The King Matthias Church– you can see some of the magnificent tiled roof in this.

peregrine

A peregrine falcon!

budapest

Me plus Budapest… you can see the Danube and beyond that is Pest.

danube

A view of the river and the city from the castle

danubesunset

Sunset over the Danube

james

James!

ronaldreagen

This is Ronald Reagan; I love her.

fairycave

This was called the Fairy’s cave and lots of its features were named after stories and whimsical tales.

cave2

Another picture of the caves

traintraveling

Train traveling… for some reason we had stopped and the train was blaring its horn at something… so I poked my head out of the window to try and see what was going on, only to see that most everyone else was doing the exact same thing.

OK. I actually caught up like I said I would and as my reward I’m off to explore Zagreb. Take care,  babies.

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