Ever since watching “Anastasia” for the first time I have wanted to go to Russia.
Now, I’m aware that Hungry is not Russia and that they really aren’t even too close to each other. Regardless, when I stepped out of my taxi on Friday evening I was struck by a distinctly Eastern European wind. I may be completely generalizing but what I experienced this past weekend is everything that I could have hoped for and more. Although Budapest stands on its own and can be proud about that, my Russia/former USSR taste-buds were wettened and I can’t wait until I get to go back to explore more Eastern European countries.
My hostel was located in the perfect location in front of the metro, right beside the river and next to the main touristy shopping area. When I arrived at my hostel, I had to go through three large gates before I could get inside. It was dark, empty and quite a big area and my mind immediately went to “Anastasia” when Anya is walking through the palace to find Dimitri when it is all dark and old looking. With similar architecture, it really did look like that. The hostel proved to be excellent and the staff were very helpful but I didn’t spend much time there. Unlike my trip to Reykjavik, in Budapest I had a very limited time schedule and I wanted to fit in as much as possible.
My favourite part about Budapest was taking in all the history it has to offer. It is no secret that one of my passions in life is history. More specifically, WWII and Soviet era history. While I was in Budapest I did two extensive walking tours, one focusing on the Jewish quarter of the city. I also went to a place called “The House of Terror” which was a building on one of the main streets in Budapest that housed that Nazi Party of Hungary during the war and then played home to the communist party up until the mid-1950’s. By taking these tours and learning so much about the buildings, streets and cities I was walking through I could better appreciate the past and then understand why Budapest is the way it is now.
Many people have asked me what the people were like in Budapest. Well, it is really difficult to say for sure. Because I stayed mostly in the touristy area, the people were generally helpful and nice – the majority of them understanding and speaking English as well. When I passed people on the street or saw people waiting for buses, I did notice a sort of ticked off look about them. Very stern as well. What I did like about being in Hungary is also exactly what I like about being in Iceland: the people were a NORMAL height. Everyone in Italy is quite short and so in Budapest I felt at home. People didn’t stare at me like they do in Italy!
Going to Budapest satisfied my craving of the west. The pastries and food in general was similar, they had Starbucks and Starbucks-like coffee shops, the movies were in English (I saw Taken 2 while I was there – actually not frightening at all and completely irrelevant to my current situation as a traveller unlike the first one), the people – like I mentioned earlier – looked similar to me, the weather was familiar, the Christmas market made feel at home…I could go on. Don’t get me wrong, I am learning to appreciate Italy and all it has to offer, but there are some things you miss and Budapest helped me get my fill for a bit.
Travelling alone for the weekend was great as well. At first I thought that I would be lonely but because I was constantly moving, seeing and doing, I never felt alone. What I like about travelling alone is that I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. I woke up early, took two long walking tours, went to a small orchestra in a church, visited a museum, debated about going to an opera but then decided not to go when I found out the price, went to a movie, shopped a bit, ate a lot of delicious Hungarian specialities – by myself I was able to do all these things and it was just a great, great thing to do. Just what I needed.
I could go on but I think I’ll end this post now. Clearly I enjoyed my weekend. To any of you who have thought about visiting Hungary – I would HIGHLY suggest it. I would even like to go back – there is so much I didn’t get the chance to see!
Thanks for reading.