We escaped the darkness Prague engulfed us in to sunshine and semi-warmer weather in Budapest. After getting off our bus, a 7 hour ride with Student Agency, we got a little lost until we were given directions in very broken English. Our hostel was called Astoria City Hostel located in Astoria Square, which is one of Budapest's places to go. We checked into the quaint 3rd floor hostel and put our bags in our dorm room. Before even getting to the dorm room, the hostel felt comfy and cozy; kind of like home. The dorm room was one of the nicer dorm rooms I have stayed in and there were only two other people in the room with us. Let me tell you, by the end of the trip I would recommend this hostel to anyone traveling to Budapest- it's cheap, the staff is super helpful and friendly, they are interested in what you have done thus far in Budapest, they offer information on where to go out and what you must see, the beds are semi-comfortable and you are in an apartment so you feel somewhat at home. Also, the breakfast consists of bread, jams, butter, a Nutella-like spread and cereal but you are more than welcome to buy your own breakfast items and store them in the fridge. One morning we were there, the staff made pancakes for the guests to eat. We missed it but I bet they were delicious. All in all, this was one of the best hostels I have ever stayed in and if I ever go back to Budapest, I will definitely stay at Astoria City Hostel again.
With our cameras, cute outfits, sunglasses and open eyes, we left the hostel for the afternoon in search of somewhere to eat. Just across from the hostel at a restaurant called Bali Cafe we got a free beer (our hostel gave us a coupon) and lunched on seafood, salad and chicken. The prices threw us off at first but then we remembered their currency appears high in price but in reality is quite cheap! For example, my meal, if I remember correctly was about 1990 forints, meaning it was about $8.72 in U.S. dollars. A pretty standard price for a full plate of food? Well, depends on where you get it, but you get the point.
After eating, we decided to explore the 'pest' side of Budapest. Before we ventured off though we were on the quest to find Budapest's "best coffee shop". We didn't end up finding it but we did come across daily life in the back streets of Budapest. My best friend and I were quite confused as to why there was furniture and other miscellaneous objects just thrown onto the side of the streets; we later found out, from a worker at the hostel, that about every 10 or 15 years the basements of apartment buildings because they store old furniture down there that the residents no longer wanted. So, after 10-15 years, movers come to move the furniture out of the basements and put them on the streets for either someone to find beauty in the item and take it home or for it to be trashed. Before the pieces of furniture and other small objects are either taken to a new home or trashed, the homeless sleep or lounge on the pieces for the weekend. We even saw a family of gypsies make good use of the furniture and create a set-up similar to a dining/living room. The family was sitting around the table eating bread and drinking out of very old, plastic cups. I wanted to take a picture because I have never seen anything like it before but decided to respect their privacy and simply keep the memory in my head. We also saw some homeless folk try to sell the furniture or small items to tourists and people passing by; I never saw someone buy anything but I did see some haggling for a lower price until a police officer came over and broke it up.
Enough of the furniture talk and on to the food, exploring and shenanigans part of our Budapest trip! After wandering into unknown streets, we turned around in fear of getting hopelessly lost in the wrong part of town. I was on a mission for coffee and that was what I was going to get. We stumbled upon a coffee shop in an alley called Aztec Choxolat. I decided to be gutsy and order a spicy hot chocolate but I mixed too much of the wrong ingredients and had a funky tasting drink...that I ended up tossing because I just couldn't drink it. However, as a whole, the coffee shop seemed like one of those cute, cozy places where you can curl up and read a book or sit outside with friends and enjoy the silence of an alleyway cafe. The one thing I will comment on is that there was a rude worker that day, looking at me as if I was some intruder because I spoke English; I get the whole being proud of where you are from and therefore preserving the language, etc, etc, but seeing as this cafe was actually listed on TripAdvisor for tourists to go to when visiting Budapest, I would have expected someone who was at least a little bit friendly.
The sun was starting to descend so we headed towards the Chain Bridge. On our way there, we stopped in a thrift store with some cute skirts and shorts for cheap. After about 30 minutes trying on different items, my friend ended up buying a pair of floral shorts and we stopped in a coffee shop just down the street. Here, we experienced friendlier staff and amazing coffee. Unfortunately I forget the name of the place and cannot find it online anywhere! But if you are on the Pest side, walking down a little street with several thrift stores, a massive wall with a parking lot, you are in the right place! The inside of this coffee shop sort of looks like a cave and there's always multiple people there either reading or furiously typing away on their laptops.
After a refreshing coffee break, we wandered through the streets of Budapest into the evening when we went to a little Italian restaurant for a late dinner. We went back to the hostel and got some much needed rest for the upcoming day. On Saturday, we woke up early, ate some breakfast and set out for day of being tourists. Between Saturday and Sunday afternoon when we boarded the bus back to Prague, we walked across the Chain Bridge, randomly stumbled upon City Park where there was a festival, went up close and personal to the Vajdahunyad Castle (I was asked there if I was Australian...compliment!), walked a-ways to the Liberty Statue and Heroes Square, stood outside the House of Terror, took goofy pictures in front and by the St. Stephen's Basilica, stare at the beautiful roof of the Dohany Street Synagogue and Matthias Church, visited the Hungarian House of Parliament (which was under construction :[ ), attempted to just look inside the Szechenyi thermal bath (will definitely go in and relax next time) and take a look at the Hungarian National Bank.
Unfortunately, we did not get to go up to the Hungarian Castle even though we were on the Buda side of Budapest Sunday morning. I would also like to visit the Fisherman's Bastion and the Hungarian State Opera House next time I am in Budapest.
On Friday evening we set off to the shopping district to compare fashions and maybe do a little shopping; again, the prices really set me off so I didn't buy anything. We did see a rather strange event outside one of the stores though...a man was dressed up as a cow and collected money from people who wanted to throw eggs at him as he stood against a wall. The police broke it up later but it was still pretty odd yet hilarious at the same time. On Saturday, while taking Budapest by storm- literally by storm- we walked in the POURING rain in a massive circle which we figured out after we were soaking wet and the sun decided to finally come back out. We warmed ourselves up with another cup of coffee from the lovely place we went on Friday afternoon.
I also bought myself a corny Budapest t-shirt in the design of a Jack Daniel's bottle. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what you are thinking but I never buy myself t-shirts when I travel because I tend to buy postcards or art of the city so I decided it was time to buy a t-shirt. Whenever I see it, I laugh a little because I remember how long it took me to decide which shirt I wanted in the store (about 30 minutes total). Later on Saturday we wandered back to the shopping district and decided to see what an underground market place had to offer...uh, don't go there. Pretty sketchy and creepy, not lit well and we were being followed by one of the store owners throughout the market. We walked to the end of the market decided we need to get out of there ASAP, so we did. No more shopping underground for us. Sunday morning, before boarding the bus, was spent mainly on the Buda side and again, in the shopping district. After a few hours of this, we decided to go back to the hostel, grab our bags and make our way to the bus station.
We got there a little early and stayed in the metro (p.s. you MUST buy a metro ticket here because ticket control is standing at the entrance to the metro- don't buy a 24 hour because you will waste money and most likely NOT use it unless you are staying in the outskirts of the city) when a homeless woman came up to me and asked me for money, I shook my head no and she muttered something and walked away. What scared me was what happened next: a booming, shaking crack of lightning and thunder...I was sitting there thinking "oh my god she just cursed me!!!" haha of course she didn't but it was slightly ironic the situation. About 20 minutes later the bus came and we boarded back to Prague for a few days. All in all, Budapest was lovely and not as cheap as I thought it was going to be (still cheap though) and will definitely look forward to my next trip there. Oh, oh, oh! You have to get some marzipan there, it is delishhhh.
Travel on wanderlusters!