I used to think that George Ezra’s song about giving up all his treasures, land, and belongings in Budapest to run after some unknown lover was romantic. I still think it’s romantic, but I also think he’s a bit crazy. Having visited Budapest for a few days, I think I’d find a way to convince said lover that they should give up their “golden grand piano” (Really, that’s just ostentatious. A Steinway would suffice.) and move their lives to be with me. I mean, who would want to give up a lovely city on the Danube, with beautiful architecture, lots of history, and surprisingly cheap eats? Maybe George Ezra was more than in love. Maybe he was a bit off his rocker too.
We took a trip to both Hungary and the Netherlands after discovering we had six days off and knew that we wanted to go somewhere a bit further east than we had in the past. We determined that since it was quite a break we’d hit two countries, and after some map-looking, finger-pointing, and loud-talking decided upon Budapest and Amsterdam.
After some more plane mishaps, we landed in Budapest and went on a little drive around the Pest side before getting to our flat. We stayed in a shared apartment with Pal’s Hostel, which was so centrally located that I could see St. Stephen’s Basilica from my bedroom window. Love it. We landed late, so opted to just take in a quick meal at a trattoria not far from our hostel and wake up early the next morning to visit everything Budapest had to offer.
Starting at St. Stephen’s Basilica, we did a quick walkthrough and “donated” a few euros to go up to the top of the rotunda, where you can see some cool views of Pest though they definitely don’t rival the views from the Fisherman’s Bastion. Walking back through the square and straight down leads you past Uncle Charlie, an old constable with quite the round belly. Rubbing it, according to local talk, is supposed to keep you skinny, so Food and I basically polished his brass stomach before heading over the Chain Bridge to the Buda side.
A lingering lunch of traditional Hungarian cuisine and then we were chatting our way up to Buda Castle, watching the ceremonial changing of the guard and filming Food singing the aforementioned song over and over again (maybe I’ll leak those clips at some point in time…). We meandered over to Matthias Church, and I spontaneously decided my future home is having a technicolored dream roof. The Fisherman’s Bastion, a fortress surrounding Matthias Church, has one of the best views of Budapest, so much time was spent there and, as we were getting a bit cold, Food insisted on some hot chocolate with a sunset view at the cafe in one of the turrets.
Our second full day was half spent at the Cat Cafe with me trying to befriend a Maine Coon and then giving up and deciding to love his friend more. Love being in the form of cat treats. The food at the cafe was not good at all, but the multiple puns, in the form of catpuccinos and pawninis, were appreciated.
Since I got my kitty time, Food got her gelato, even if it was close to freezing, and we headed to Gelarto Rosa, where the cuties behind the counter give you both ice cream and flowers. Take note, future boyfriends.
We walked down to the Hungarian Parliament building, stopping to take a few photos with my namesake and view the Soviet War Memorial in Freedom Square, then Food contemplated trying to get one of the guards to chase her by climbing on one of the statues in front of one of Europe’s oldest legislative buildings. I may have vaguely mentioned limiteless gelato if she was successful, but will plead the fifth if ever questioned about my involvement in her schenanigans.
We took a moment to view the Shoes on the Danube Promenade, a memorial to the hundreds of Jews who were forced, by the fascist Arrow Cross Party, to strip at the banks of the river before being shot at close range and washed away by the current. Later that evening we walked through the Jewish Quarter, stopping by multiple memorials that honor the Swedish, Spanish, and Swiss diplomats that were responsible for saving the lives of thousands of Hungarian Jews, and others that eternally mourn the lives lost.
Our final day was spent wandering around Budapest’s many parks, walking through Heroes Square, and partaking in the famed thermal baths at the Szechenyi Baths. We spent way longer than was necessary there, both because Food and I enjoy it when our fingers prune and because the building was a maze and contained 17 different pools and more than a few saunas. Clearly each needed to be tested. Joint decision is that the right outdoor pool was the best. A trip on the subway system and a nighttime walk down the Danube while Claude Debussy ran through my head on repeat ended our delightful time in Budapest, and while there were a few things we missed out on (silver lining: saved for next time), we loved every relaxing minute of it.
By the end of our time in Budapest we were glad we partook in Uncle Charlie’s magic! Hungarian food, while having lots of flavor, isn’t particularly healthy. During the course of our time in Budapest we had schnitzel, goulash, beef stew, pasta, and more pasta. However, the variety as far as restaurants go is great and the pricing was ridiculous. We got a whole meal at one of the best gyros places in town, Gyros Kerkyra Görög Ételbár, for the forint equivalent of five Euros. Not 5 Euros each. Five Euros total. One of my favorite meals of the trip was at the Hummus Bar, not only because the hummus, pita, and falafel were banging, but because it was literally 12 Euros. I’ve bought slices of pizza that cost more elsewhere.
Also, the beer was crazy cheap. Not quite as great as the lager we had in Berlin, but decent, and less than two Euros for a pint at many of the trendy and popular ruin bars interspersed throughout Budapest. Picture a run-down warehouse, and now fill it with your grandma’s furniture, random bits and pieces from every yard sale you’ve ever been to, and a ton of people – now you’ve got the scene of Budapest’s hottest nightlife. Szimpla Kert is the most infamous one, and the one we chose to visit, but Instant, Grandio Party Hotel and many others are also very busy. Szimpla had a biergarten, wine bar, hookah bar, cocktail lounge and more all in two floors of a huge “ruin” building. Quite the eclectic mix – both in people, activities, and decor.
Go to Budapest. You won’t regret it. Oh, and George Ezra, stay there. I’ll move for you.
If you want to hear about more adventures check out 24 Hours in Berlin or learn how to combat your boredom here. Subscribe to soon learn about how Food got high (off sugar, not any of the other legal substances) in Amsterdam. XoXx Fernweh & Food