Thursday, 20 February 2014

BUDAPEST Dec 20-23rd (so long ago sorry!)

I have to start off with an apology, because it is SO NOT OKAY that I have neglected this blog for well over a month. Coming back to the castle in January, I was so so so ready (at least I thought) to completely have a better semester and be more on top of all of my commitments, including this blog. (This is mostly an apology to my mom for not showing her enough pictures of my travels.)

Unfortunately, even our best intentions are sometimes blindsided by the cruel reality that is life. It'd be silly to divulge into really personal matters on this blog and there is not much excuse other than laziness that I've just pushed aside writing about my trips... but I have had a bit of a difficult time the past few weeks trying to sort out some of the problems I've recently encountered.

With that said, I've just come back from my midterm trip with my school to Normandy and PARIS. FRANCE! Honestly, I really adored Paris and this will be explained in so much more detail once I get to posting about that experience... (Hopefully this time it's not two months after the actual trip).

So, here goes! Budapest, Hungary! Honestly, this was my favourite city of Europe that I've seen so far. AND IT WAS FREEZING. I miss winter and snow so much (oh Canada I REALLY REALLY miss you/why did I miss such an incredible winter), but having gone through Barcelona and Rome the week before this trip, actual winter-y cold temperatures was a little overwhelming. Also, for the sheeeer amount of stuff I need to post (hopefully all within this reading week), each city will get one post. This is a warning: this post will be ridiculously long.

BUDAPEST DAY ONE: December 20th 2013 

  • Please don't be stupid and book your flights for ridiculous hours of the night if you are on a budget and might need to figure out transportation from the airport to the city/your hostel. I got to Budapest at like 1am, and kind of panicked about how I would get to the city. 
  • THANKFULLY Budapest airport has a airport to hotel service that takes you directly to where you're staying. It's not too expensive and was extremely convenient. I stayed at Black Sheep Budapest hostel and it was such a fantastic place to stay! 9/10 would recommend.
OKAY, now for the actual day!

I started off by just wandering around the city/PEST. Honestly, I found it so captivating and lovely. 

I went to Heroes Square in the morning.

Then to City Park (Varosliget) which has the largest artificial ice surface. asjkhdfksd I wanted to skate, but I decided against it because (pretentious me) didn't really want to rent awful skates. (I went skating in Amsterdam though haha so... should have gone in Budapest too).

And then there's a cool castle looking like thing in the park, as well as the Szechenyi Spa and Baths.

The SZECHENYI (which I have never spelt correctly in one go) baths! I didn't go in right then but I did later on, which was so worthwhile.

Can we just take this in? So pretty. Much fog!

Anyway, more wandering around the city. There's a lot of cool history like this monument for the Iron Curtain.

Christmas markets were nice in Barcelona and in Rome, but Budapest's were spectacular. Completely blown away. More pictures further down!

Went on a free walking tour with around Pest! Learnt lots about the communist regime here.

Like this statue thing is fenced so people don't graffiti it up or ruin it...

Woo Parliament building! (I have so many pictures of this, but so pretty especially at night!)

I then saw the Nutcracker at the Hungarian Opera House! GUYS, tickets were SO CHEAP. I got two tickets (for the Nutcracker this night and La Boheme the next day) for under 2000HUF which is like $9.74. They were AWFUL seats, but honestly, even just being able to go inside to see the building and listen to the music was so so worthwhile.

Incredible production of the Nutcracker!

Walked around a little afterwards... This picture shows the Buda side of the city at night.

I went to a ruin pub that night with some of the girls in the hostel. AMAZING. I love them so much. This one is Szimpla! We had some palinka in the small bottles, kind of vodka like. Ruin pubs just have such a cool atmosphere about them and are just so unique.

DAY TWO: DEC 21st, 2013 

I checked out Central Market Hall (Nagy Vasarosarnok) and bought some fruit. Markets are interesting to check out and see the produce/foods/culture. Then more walking around, went back to the Opera House to see La Boheme! Even though I didn't understand the plot line much (subtitles are in hungarian and the opera is in italian so), it was still a good show. I'd recommend that you buy tickets to a ballet / have some way like a smart phone or something to understand any plays or operas if you're dead-set on seeing one.

Time to finally go to Buda! Cool how the river divides the two parts of the city. I started off by trekking up to the Castle District, though there is a short funicular railway that you can use to get up the hill instead of doing a quite steep hike upwards.

OH HEY so these treats are amazing. TRDELNIK! I actually could not get over how tasty they were. Here's a google images link (yes click this) so you too can see how cool they are; they're made interestingly too!

The church on top of the Castle District is beautiful. Just take in that ceiling, okay? Okay.

And the view from up here, beautiful.

Always a fan of the perfect sunset shot.

After that, I went back to my hostel area to have dinner. Super cute vegetarian place called Maksha  which means "cat" in Hungarian because of the dozens of cat related statues and art in this restaurant/bar.

I then went out with some guys I met at the hostel to Instant, another ruin pub! Before I go on, I'd like to talk about one of the guys I met! The four guys were from Malaysia, and one of them, Nick Chan, has the greatest blog. It is quite what my blog aspires to be one day! Check it out:

Anyway! Instant! Super super cool! Bigger than Szimpla was and not as chill of a vibe, but there are dance floors too.

DAY THREE: DEC 22nd, 2013

So yes, back to Szimpla because of the famers market! I didn't take pictures of what I bought, but such good bread pastry breakfast-y things and dark chocolate covered dried apple slices. I love famers' markets and this one was all the better for being in such a cool place.

Back to the Buda side afterwards and up Gellert Hill! Such pretty views of the city (albeit a little cloudier and foggier than I would have liked) from up there.

And back down...

And back up Castle District...

...down to Christmas markets!

And hey look, ROTARY? Having had many friends be part of Rotary/Interact in high school, I decided to make conversation with the lady (Szonja!) at the booth. We got off really well and after some talking, she invited me to dinner with her & her husband after their shift was over.

Instead of just waiting around, I headed off to the Szechenyi Baths! Cheaper on weekdays or early mornings or late weekend nights.

And back to the market to meet Szonja (and Peter).

We went to the popular chain, 'The Hummus Bar'. I had so much amazing falafel and hummus during my stay in Budapest. Cheap falafel wraps/pitas were so easy to find (in the Shwarma? eateries). But anyway, Szonja and Peter were such lovely company and I'm so glad to have met them during my stay. Locals yay! I wish I could have spent more time with them but I was leaving the next morning, so alas...

DAY FOUR: DEC 23rd, 2013

My train was around 1pm ish, so I wandered around in the morning, soaking up as much of Budapest as I possibly could.

There was a beautiful 'Shoes on the Danube' memorial. There was construction actually right behind it but I tried to get as good of a picture as I could...

And that ends off my stay in Budapest! Munich is next (CHRISTMAS WOAH). Thanks for reading. Lots of love!

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