Armed with the gift of the last of a book of 10 transit tickets from Japanese guy #1 and some amazing kebab from the Vienna Westbahnhof, I boarded the bus to Budapest (not using the ticket… the ticket is for intra-city travel only).
It wasn’t a very comfy ride, but hey, international buses aren’t supposed to be comfy. These are not the buses you take to be comfy. These are the buses you take because you need to go from one city to another, and you want to do it as cheaply as possible, and don’t want to be robbed on the way (that rules out hitchhiking).
At least I got a first row seat?
Sitting next to me was Unknown girl #1. Did not attempt to talk to her because she had earphones in most of the time (which is the internationally recognized personal door sign for “don’t talk to me”), and also she didn’t seem like a tourist. I didn’t know if she spoke German or Hungarian, but I don’t speak either anyways.
One thing I love about this kind of travel is that you can almost get away with not doing any planning at all. Hostel hosts are usually very friendly people, and can tell you all you will ever want to know about the place.
I usually just plan for getting to the hostel, and leave the rest till I get there.
I stayed at Budapest Bubble. If you read the reviews on HostelWorld, you’d notice that they all mention this mysterious woman by the name of Anna.
Anna is one of the 2 people running the hostel, and she is amazing.
As soon as I arrived, she sat me down, gave me a map, and spent about half an hour telling me all about the city – fun places to visit, cool things to see, etc, and drew a very very detailed overlay on the map – where to buy stuff, historical landmarks, historical stuff, where to eat, where the bath houses are… everything! No independent research necessary! I wish I had taken a picture of the map. Alas, I didn’t :(.
It was a very small hostel converted from an apartment. On this trip I have stayed in hostels with hundreds of beds, as well as very small hostels with only a few beds like this one. I can’t decide which kind I like more. Bigger hostels usually means better facilities, and more people available for meeting (so you can be more picky), whereas small hostels are usually cozier and you get to see the same people more often.
There were about 5 other people staying at the hostel at that time, and most of them decided to go pub crawling on my first night. I didn’t end up going because I wanted to actually get up early to explore the city… pubs are the same pretty much anywhere, right?
So I ended up staying behind, and just talked to Anna for a few hours. I love talking to hostel hosts. They are usually local, are knowledgeable about local stuff (because they are in the tourism “industry”), and speak English! It’s otherwise pretty difficult to get to know locals in cities like Budapest, where very few locals speak English (or any other language I understand… I need a C-3PO).
Apparently Hungarian is so hard to learn that knowing Hungarian is usually seen as a major accomplishment. Most European languages are from either the West Germanic family (German, Dutch, English), or the Romance family (Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, and Romanian), and they usually have enough common features or even vocabulary that if you know one language in the family, it’s relatively easy to guess stuff in other languages in the family. Hungarian is from a family known as Uralic languages (according to Wikipedia) which also includes Finnish and Estonian. It’s so different from English that although they also use Latin alphabet, I couldn’t guess a single word.
Anna had a t-shirt that says “I speak Hungarian. What’s your superpower?”
She was studying to be a kindergarten teacher, and shared a few stories from her practicum, mostly about kids fighting etc… and apparently running a hostel isn’t that much different from teaching in a kindergarten. Most of the time people are just drunk, but she said there’s one time a crazy Polish lady kept walking around the common area with a knife, and arguing with herself…
Next few days were all raining. Hard. I guess it wasn’t TOO bad that I didn’t get much rain till the final city on my trip? The rain sucked, though, and I didn’t end up getting to explore Budapest much.
Budapest used to be two cities on two banks of the river (the Danube) – Buda and Pest. Nowadays the hilly Buda side is mostly residential, and most of the touristy places are on the Pest side.
There’s a pretty cool Citadel on the Buda side – a fortress on a hill built by Austrians in the 1800s. Hungarians don’t like it because it was built using Hungarian forced labour. When the Austrians left the walls were destroyed, and it’s now a touristy area, offering a good view of the Pest side of the city… when it’s not incredibly rainy and foggy.
I didn’t have a map with me, so I had to rely on a picture of the very helpful diagram on a sign at the foot of the hill.
No idea what the words meant. Probably just something very important.
At the top of the hill. Good reward for an hour of climbing –
At this point it started raining hard, so I ran back towards civilization, while taking a shower. Food!
This is the Central Market Hall (“Nagyvásárcsarnok”). It is the biggest market in Budapest, and is actually frequented by locals (though there are also many tourists now).
Bottom floor has a lot of fresh produce, and top floor is almost like a very big food court.
It was incredibly crowded during feeding time, but the food is good and cheap!
Ok, it’s probably expensive by Hungarian standards, but still cheap by Western standards.
I had this –
It’s stuffed chicken/duck/something leg. No idea how they made it, but there’s mashed-potatoes-like stuff between the skin and the meat. It was awesome!
Another popular Hungarian dish is the beef goulash (beef soup/stew). There is a famous German dish with the same name, but it’s quite different from the Hungarian version from what I heard. The dish originated from Hungary way back in the days. No pictures because it was too yummy.
And that’s more or less it… unfortunately. There was a continuous torrential downpour for the next 2 days, so I just packed up, took the bus back to Vienna, and flew back.
It’s a bit sad that such an epic trip ended in such an un-epic way, but I guess not having any rain until this point was more than what I could have asked for already.
Until next time!