Budapest Nights (Oh, and Days)

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Ah, Budapest, how I already miss thee! Despite the pouring rain the WHOLE time, we had a blast there. There’s so much to see, and the nightlife is as bumping as they say. Our first full day there (Monday), we got up early and got some food from the local supermarket for breakfast and lunch and started off with some good old-fashioned walking around. We crossed the river (the Danube) to the Buda side of the city (we stayed on the Pest side) and explored the castle, which offers some fantastic views of the whole city.

We stumbled upon a place for one to practice his archery skills if so desired, so Broseph paid a few Forints for five shots at some burlap sack targets – he was a pretty decent shot, and we got a photo with the ‘knight’ which I’ll put up when I can plug the camera in.

It was windy and cold and threatening rain, so we decided that we might as well not waste any time and get straight to the thermal spas/baths Budapest is famous for. There are lots of them, but we went to one we had read about and that is fairly popular with tourists. It was divided up into men’s and women’s baths with one co-ed pool. I ended up staying in the women’s pool mostly, because the co-ed pool was full of old dudes in Speedos and couples making out.

(Sidebar, I have never seen as much PDA as in Budapest. I think there actually might be a shortage of rooms and people are forced to get it on in public. If I thought it was bad on the streets, it was terrible in the baths!) The women’s pools were very mellow and it was nice to sit in the hot water and just muse on life, etc.

After a bit and because the bro and I weren’t meeting up for a while, I decided to go and get a cheap massage. It was, um, a new experience. Here’s the TMI alert, so skip the next paragraph if you’re squeamish about being nekkid. So, I go back into the women’s locker room and inquire about a massage. I pay for a 20-minute session and am ordered up the stairs with a Hungarian woman approximately 100 years of age. She takes me into a room with a massage table, and I just stand there while she gasses with her equally ancient lady-friend about some gossip magazine she’s holding.

After a minute or two she turns to me and says, “Take off, please.” I was in bathing suit with a towel wrapped around so I thought, no problem, and put the towel on the chair. She turns back around and says, “No, everything.” “Everything?” I said, and she nods so I think, ok, when in Rome, sort of thing. I strip off while she’s still gabbing with her buddy, and lie face-down on the table as instructed. The other woman left, and my old lady masseuse gets to work. It was a great massage, I have to say, but she left the door open the WHOLE time, and continued to shout to her mate through the door! I was only in the women’s part of the baths, but it was a little disconcerting at first! She did a top-notch job though, and after walking around with my massive backpack which is slowly destroying my back and shoulders it was much needed.

After the baths we went back to the hostel (Good Morning Budapest, very small and chill place:, grabbed some dinner and drank a few beers before heading out. We were playing a drinking game when some new guests showed up – Dave and Pete, brothers from North Carolina – so we asked them to join us, not knowing that we would soon become a partying foursome, the Tribe of Siblings. We played some cards and then went out to a crazy bar called Morrison’s which was absolutely bumping and it was only a Monday. We tore up the dance floor, singing along to all the American rap songs that the Hungarians love but I can’t imagine they understand for the most part.

We got a bit of a late start the next day after a long night of dancing, but decided to go on a walking tour that we hadn’t done the day before because of the rain. It was still raining, but there was no sign of it letting up so we decided to just go for it. The good thing was that in the bad weather, the group was small so we could really get to know our tour guide and had the opportunity to ask him lots of questions.

His name is Adam, and he’s LOVELY- absolutely fabulous and he gave us an excellent tour. I highly recommend his tours if you go, which are free. I’ll put some info up about it. We walked the castle again, but this time we had Adam telling us all sorts of interesting facts and tidbits, and pointing out things we had missed before. It was a three-hour tour, so we really felt both exercised and educated once it was over!

Afterwards, we went back to the hostel to make some dinner, and had some cheap pasta and sauce and even cheaper Hungarian wine with the brothers. Then we geared up to go out and went to explore more of Budapest’s notoriously bizarre bars and clubs. Apparently there’s a law in Hungary that if a building/commercial space stays abandoned for long enough, anyone can start a business there, so there are lots of derelict bus stations and things that have now become these crazy drinking holes, in some cases run by teenagers.

First we went to Instant, which was a sort of covered courtyard between two buildings and had hundreds of black fish hanging from the ceiling. We then tried to go to a club we’d read about called Kuplung, but was closed so we ended up at a place called Szimpla, which was totally loony. We sat in old car seats, and there were lots of old computer monitors on the wall and screens with kaleidoscopic images fading in and out. It was a trip, and as Broseph said, it would never work in the states because the fire hazards were too many to count!

Wednesday was another late start after another late night. First, the bro and I went to the main train station to get our tickets to Croatia the next day (where I am now), as we’d heard it can be a bit of a nightmare. It was actually fairly easy to do, though the ticket office was a bit sketchy and desolate, and it was nice not to have to be doing it with all our luggage etc. After that, it was still raining but we wanted to see Heroes Square which has some cool monuments and whatnot.

On our way we came across some sort of festival, which turned out to be a horseback riding expo of some kind. Alongside it though, they were serving all sorts of traditional Hungarian food and offering wine-tasting. Yes please! Bro and I got to taste some great wine, a major step up from the grocery store variety the night before, and learned a bit about wine making in Hungary. Then we went to the square and walked back to the hostel through city park.We put some laundry on, took naps etc., and the brothers watched The Watchmen (I tried to follow, it was a lost cause).

Joseph and I were planning on doing a bar crawl that we’d heard was pretty good, so we left around 10 to do that, but the weather must have been keeping people away because it was actually a bust. After trying out a few places on our own, we ended up back at Morrisons from the first night. This time, however, we ventured downstairs and found not one, not two, but THREE crazy cave-like dancefloors packed with Hungarian ravers. We had a great time dancing to American jams as well as what sounded like Hungarian folk music set to a techno beat. Result.

This morning we got up late again, but had to pack up to head to Zagreb. It took us about six and a half hours on the train which wasn’t bad as we didn’t have to change, and about 30-45 minutes of that is the train sitting at the border between Hungary and Croatia and customs officials checking everyone’s passports.

Anyway, Zagreb is really just a stop-over for us, and we’re seriously keen to get down the Dalmatian coast for some sun after all this rain (it’s raining here too) but it’s a 10-hour bus ride- no trains go there. Apparently it’s a very scenic drive, but we have to get up pretty early to get going. We’ll explore Zagreb next time.

Speaking of next time…until then!

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