** Quick Note: This trip was taken in 2007, photographed with an 8 megapixel point and shoot camera, and written from the perspective of a 22 year old who had never blogged before. Enjoy :) **
Budapest was the halfway point of my trip. (I have been blogging about everything out of order, just kind of based on the pictures that I have looked at most recently, so after I start getting everything up here I am going to try to rearrange the entries to go in order, but that will have to wait.) My godparents are missionaries in Budapest and generously allowed us to stay with them while we were in town. It was the perfect rest in the middle of the trip. We were able to do laundry (for free!) enjoy private showers and sleep in our own rooms! (My room used to be a closet- but still… I had a door!!!) It was heaven!
I had not heard much about Budapest before we went, but I have to say that it was the most underrated city we visited. I have heard it referred to as the Paris of the East many times since my visit and I have to agree. There is something so beautiful and romantic about this gorgeous city, covered in lights, and nestled along the famed, somewhat-blue Danube. As wonderful a everything was, I have to admit- I did waste a day while I was there. It was the only time during the trip that I took a down-day, but after four weeks of keeping a crazy pace, I needed a day of rest! I sat on the front porch, reading, writing and drinking tea. I’m pretty sure that day is what kept me going the rest of the time.
The next morning, rested and refreshed, I headed out to explore. I had read about this tour that was meeting in Heroes Square, so we showed up and there was no one else there! The guide’s name was Adina, and though she did not have quite the same energy as a “New Europe” tour guide, she was great! After we spent quite a while in Heroes Square and she explained the Millennial Monument, (in great detail,) we moved on to St. Stephen’s Basilica, which still houses the right hand of its namesake, Stephen I, the first King of Hungary.
Next we went on to the Hungarian State Opera House, obviously known for their operas- they also house the national ballet company. Next was Gellert Hill and bathhouse. I love Hungarian bath houses. We visited, but did not go in to any of them, and it’s an absolute must do for my next trip. They are hot baths from the 17th century that are still in working condition- though I’m quite sure there has been a great deal of maintenance over the years. The houses built around these hot springs are elaborately beautiful. In fact, I would liken it to bathing inside a cathedral- and who hasn’t wanted to do that?
We continued our tour crossing the bridge in to Buda. Quick note: Budapest is actually two cities divided by the Danube. Buda is on the western side and Pest is on the eastern side. How is that for trivia? Once over in Buda we saw the Funicular Railway that leads up to Buda Castle. This is where you will find Fishermen’s Bastion (the sandcastle-like building in a lot of the pictures below). Our four hour tour ended here, right before sunset so we were able to watch the shadows slowly creep up the Pest skyline as the light disappeared behind us. While we were watching, lights illuminated the Chain Bridge like it had caught fire and the Parliament Building began to shine. I got chills while I watched the city light up, building by building. This is the experience I think of every time someone asks me why I found Budapest so magical.
After watching Pest turned into the *City of Light* we walked back down the zillion stairs, past the gorgeous mosaic crest on the side of the mountain, and crossed the Chain Bridge by foot. Back in Pest, we settled down at a riverfront cafe for big steaming bowls of goulash. It was a perfect end to the day. Both Matt and I said that it was one of the most romantic “non-dates” of our lives. We were both not-so-secretly wishing that we were getting to experience it with a love interest, but as far as travel buddies go, I think (hope) that we would both say now that we lucked out big time.
I wish I had notes from this tour the way I do from the one we took in Amsterdam. Adina told so many interesting stories, not to mention all the history Ellis and Helen shared with us, but my journal entries from this city leave much to be desired! One of the stories that I do remember is that the engineer who built the bridge was so proud that he challenged the city to find fault with his masterpiece. When some school children remarked that the lions on either side of the bridge were missing tongues, he was so mortified that he killed himself. After looking in to this story a little bit, I can say with some certainty that this is all just a fable. But the story stuck with me, so I figured, why not pass on the lies!
In 2013, I quit my job and bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. After four months of backpacking I returned to the States and fell in love with a guy whose job sent us straight back to Asia. Nothing has gone according to plan... and it's been absolutely magical.