A Travellerspoint blog

Happy 22nd Birthday to Me!

First stop: Budapest, Hungary

sunny 80 °F

“Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.” -Joseph Pulitzer

What better place to spend your 22nd birthday than in Budapest? Just a second.. that's not even the best part.. we'll get to that eventually.

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It sure was nice to finally stretch my legs and get out of Prague. We've been slaving away over lesson plans and silly interviews for over a month now and my backpack was gathering a nice film of dust from lack of use. So on August 7th, we moseyed on over to Florec bus station and Student Agency dropped Michelle, Libby and myself off at a dark metro stop in Budapest. The first adventure of a trip is always the frantic search for the hostel, especially when 30 lbs is weighing down on your back in the middle of the night! After a few metro stops and a couple helpful Hungarians later, we found the All-Central Hostel, made friends with some friendly Brits and started off to Szimpla bar. Old ruin pubs, widely popular in Hungary, are formerly abandoned buildings, usually from the communist era. Thank goodness for old drunkards turning these nearly condemned joints into bars because good lord are they interesting! If you think of the most random assortment of things, I'd be willing to bet money that it is posted up on the wall somewhere. I went to two during my stay in Budapest and each one was weirdly unique to its own potential. This first bar must have been well-known, given that Michelle had already been there two years ago during her last visit to Budapest! No matter, we still made some interesting friends and.. well, as for me, I never fail to magnetize the creepers. Lucky me gets snagged by a youngyin Australian by the name of Shannon, a nice boy from the city of Melbourne, who apparently lacks the ability to take a hint! Too soon, I show a great sign of relief when he finally detaches from my hip to go back to his own hostel, but instead he stumbles back in about 30 minutes later claiming he doesn't remember what his hostel is called. Long story short, he follows us back to ours and finds himself standing by my bunk in our room of 10 beds (I'm on the top bunk, mind you). This incredulously dense fellow finds it to be a good idea to crash on our floor.. poor roommates, having to deal with my incredulous misfortunes. But never mind him, he sleeps (passes out) on the floor like a baby and continues to be a nuisance well into the morning even after we've left the room to go be good tourists. As we are waiting for our failure of a hop-on/hop-off bus tour arrives, who do we see none other than the stud himself!.. walking down the road like a champ, still in his clothes from the night before, making his "wish this was a walk of shame" walk of shame right past us. All I can do is laugh.. laugh at the smallness of the world that is Courtney O'Sullivan. But it wouldn’t be half as exciting if I didn’t have these frequent awkward encounters with people so I’d have to conclude my first night in Budapest as a success.

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Budapest is massive, much more so than my little Prague. We'll describe it as a more sophisticated, older sister of Praha. I'd certainly call Budapest more cosmopolitan than Prague, but that's still not saying much. The architectural history of Budapest is mind blowing, about half mirroring that of its darker years in the communist era, whilst the other half is a more modern, vibrant 21st century feel. We woke up on day two with every intention to be good tourists. We invested an unnecessary amount of money to do a hop-on/hop-off bus tour, that we no sooner discovered that is was going to be an ultimate fail. After two stops, we hopped off for good and decided to roam the city on our own. After a frantic search for a public bathroom and non-carbonated water, we found ourselves at the Central Market Hall. It was a gigantic market, the bottom floor filled with so many colors from the ample varieties of produce, meats, spices, meats, pastries and so much more. The top floor was standard Hungarian souvenirs like purses, lock boxes, apparel.. it truly a tourist's playground! We snagged a few Christmas gifts and postcards and bee-lined for the riverfront. Along the Danube we walked. After a while of some aimless wandering, a brewski seemed to be in order, so we found ourselves a docked restaurant for some quick R&R. It was the perfect setting.. there was a beautiful view of the palace and the chain bridge in the distance. We walked halfway across the bridge to, naturally, takes hundreds of pictures. We were very lucky, the weather was absolutely perfect.

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The one thing we did benefit from with the hop on/hop off was the included boat tour along the river. It pretty much made the entire package worth it. Budapest by night is probably even more beautiful than by day. We cruised down the Danube in a filled up pedestrian ferry-type boat. The guide explained everything along the river on our right, until we turned to go in the opposite direction, when it continued to speak of our current right. It was a magnificent sight to see, especially since we caught the 8pm tour, just as the sun was beginning to set. Budapest is lit by yellow lights around every building on the waterfront. Afterwards, we moseyed back to the hostel to prepare for birthday shenanigans. The Brits were still there, so we had a little bit of company before our night out.. too bad the night out didn't begin until around 1:30am! Whoops.. But if it weren't such a late start, Libby would not have met the love of her life! Naturally, some gorgeous, 6'3, blonde hair, blue eyed Norweigen fellas would also be out wandering in the middle of the morning. No matter, they helped us find some nightlife on a Thursday night.

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YAY BIRTHDAY! With such a late night/early morning, its safe to say that our original plans to get up early and keep playing tourist was a complete and utter failure. So naturally, we agreed to do the most relaxing option that Budapest had to offer.. and the best part of spending your birthday in Budapest in general.. thermal bathhouses! And not just any bathhouse, we went all out to the largest in Budapest, the Széchenyi thermal bathhouse. It was like a fantasy. The buildings surrounding the pools were GORGEOUS. I could spend every day of my life there. Every pool was exceptionally warm. There were several pools and Jacuzzis inside as well. We stuck around outside to try to catch some rays and took full advantage of the whirl pool, which was very cool! Another instance where my world is incredibly small, I met a family from Durham, North Carolina! It was so awesome to interact with someone from so close to home.. most Americans I have met overseas are from the western side of the country or in the New England area.. no Southern folk to speak of. So naturally, I showed my unveiled excitement! Overall, this was the best experience from my Budapest adventure. This must be at the top of people's bucket lists who are traveling there. However, if old men is shriveled up speedos make you queezy, you might want to reconsider your visit!

Birthday dinner was equally a success. If travelling to Budapest, make sure you go to the restaurant district, right past the central market.. just a few blocks down. It is literally a long strip of a variety of different cuisines, as well as some authentic Hungarian dishes, which we ended up settling for. You can never go wrong with a bowl of goulash to start, grilled duck and some red wine! Because, little did I know, Hungary very well known for its wineries around the country. Apparently they do a poor job of exporting, so everything is relatively local. Relatively local = cheap. GO BUY HUNGARIAN WINE AND GIVE IT AWAY AS GIFTS. These wines should not be $3 (600 Forints) as they are sold there.. they are worth (judging by the taste) much more than that.

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“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” — Martin Buber

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August 10th.. my lonesome adventures begin! Michelle made her way to Bangkok and Libby headed back to Praha.. and I still had one more day in Budapest to burn before the next leg of my trip. I figured, with it being day three, I could finally be a good tourist. Free tours are always the way to go ya'll, especially if you are travelling alone. You will ALWAYS meet people, most of them lonesome travelers just as yourselves, looking for new friends all the same! So I did just that. The only fail with my new friend was that he was 1. American and 2. from California. Luckily, he was a conservative Californian, so at least we could come to some agreements throughout our conversations! But really, he was a really awesome guy. Name was Kenny and we shared a large bottle of that previously discussed cheap wine in a nearby park in the city center. That's the beauty of me and new friends. I've always seemed to be able to carry on conversation better with people I've just met as opposed to people I've known for a long period of time. Regardless, we talked about everything under the sun over that bottle of wine. I was supposed to meet my couch surfing host at a certain time, so we all opted to meet at a club called Instant. Referring back to my discussion of ruin pubs, this one took the cake for absolute weirdness. All I can remember is rabbits floating in the air and pictures of people with animal heads on them all over the walls. Very strange, check it out. So, Kenny, myself, my host Gabor, new friends Sofiya and others hung out around a table til about 4:30am (I had to catch a bus to Krakow at 6:30am.. that I eventually never even made.. whoops.. you'll have to read my next post to find out how that actually turned out to be a GOOD thing). This is the beauty of travelling alone. Your options and adventures are endless. You never know how one misfortune or event can alter the next. Whether its good or bad, you have no one else to blame or rely on for direction. Individuality outshines itself in regards to travel and that's how you learn so much about yourself and your place in the world. Challenges come in all shapes and sizes and how you tackle them represents your strengths and weaknesses as a person. So deep, but I love it. Always rise to the occasion.

Stay tuned for the rest of my eastern European trip! There are some good reads coming ya'll way..

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Posted by Courtster 13:00 Archived in Hungary Tagged budapest_bathhouse_instant_hung

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