The travel bug was strong in April, and instead of ending our trip in Vienna and flying back home, D and I decided to hop on a train and venture to Budapest! We did the research and purchased the tickets at home, so that was taken care of before our adventure began. The train ride was just 2.5 hours and cost only 19 Euros! We arrived at the Keleti railway station in Budapest which is still within walking distance of the more exciting part of the city. We walked about 15 minutes to our AirBnB which was on Utca Kazinczy, a street highlighted with small, funky restaurants and eclectic "ruin bars."
Budapest has a bit of a dark period in its past. Plaques on stone walls in the alleys and small streets commemorate the Jews who were trapped in the ghetto, which was formerly the area we were visiting, during World War II. Our AirBnB, in fact, was in a beautiful and tragic building. Beautiful because of the square green courtyard in the middle of the four apartment blocks; tragic because of the stories told by the bullet holes in the walls. The apartment itself was modern and told a completely different story of adventurers who were excited to explore the hotspots and hidden treasures of the Hungarian city.
In my previous post, I described the styles that characterize D's and my travel habits. In absolute, unabashed honesty, I was positively pooped after Vienna...I had gone home to Seattle for a week before our travels in Europe began and I was feeling a little worn down. So, we walked through Budapest to the beat of my drum, which just so happens to involve lots of coffee breaks and extensive amounts of people watching. We found this convenient restaurant on a major sidewalk next to the Danube river, on the Buda side of the city. Touristy it was but it had a view of the Pest Castle that just couldn't be beat. We went there on multiple occasions during our few days there.
D is a sucker for viewpoints. I mean, he will skip up (while I drag behind, barely surviving) a mountain on a Thai island while wearing flip-flops in 38 degree-heat just to see what it looks like on top of a huge rock. I'd rather stuff my face with pastries. In addition to lookout points, D likes old buildings and rooftops. So, we always make time to climb to the top of an old church to see the red rooftops below. Then we take pictures in front of said old churches to capture the moment (not usually pictured: the aching in my legs). D was fascinated with Szent István Bazilika (St. Stephen's Basilica), and I was possibly even more fascinated with the ice cream they were serving from a quaint little gelato shop nestled between two busy restaurants. Gelarto serves these gorgeous gelatos that the "scoopers" beautifully shape into delicate roses, and if you are ever in Budapest, I am telling you now, these babies are worth standing in a long, long, long line for. I mean, I would have climbed the stairs to the top of that church two, three, maayybe even four times, if I knew that these foodgasmic icy treats were waiting for me at the top (and bottom and halfway point).
Our AirBnB was located vis-a-vis from what is known as a "ruin bar", a bar that is built into a sort of tunnel. With funky-fresh and retro-kitch deco, I felt my bohemian spirit tingle. A place frequented by both locals and tourists, its old bicycle tire-rimmed tables and bottlecap mermaid welcoming women to the ladies' room made me think it was a great location for some laid-back drinking activities, which would only be enhanced by a stop at the food truck park next door.
Across from the ruin bar was our favorite breakfast place, Szimpla Háztaji. For 4 Euros each we purchased a fruit juice, coffee drink, granola and yogurt and baked good. They get bonus points because everything they create - their sandwiches, juice, salads - is made with the fruits and veggies they purchase at the Sunday farmers' market that pops up across the street every week. I mean, who doesn't love the sound of THAT!? Isn't the inner hippie inside you taking control of your own travel instincts and commandeering you to that part of the world. Yes, I believe it is.
Of course, between all this eating and coffee drinking, there was some actual sightseeing. We got lost in the streets, explored Pest and walked up to the castle, and enjoyed a piece of chocolate cake while we gazed upon Buda from above. We frequented little boutiques and wandered through a large indoor market place with dried meats and linen embroidered with traditional Hungarian patterns. We crossed the Chain Bridge in daylight and moonlight, ate dinner at a Jewish-Italian restaurant (Yiddishe Mamma Mia) and took numerous dips in the many, many pools at the Széchenyi thermal bath.
At the end of our quick trip, we made ourselves comfortable in the train, which with its faded mustard yellow-interiors and fringed curtains must have been considered decadent at the high point of its life, and journeyed from Eastern Europe back into the more familiar central part of the continent, our travel bugs satisfied, stuffed and sleepy. Until next time...