So we find ourselves on yet another train, even less magical than the last, on our way to Split, Croatia. Time seems to have flown by though, as we have found ourselves next to two Hvalskas (as Croatians apparently call themselves) who were happy to share about their homeland experiences. I guess that is the magic of the train...having such a long ride that you are forced to converse with those around you.
Our time in Budapest was wonderful. We did not know at all what to expect, but we left having had many great experiences and interactions during our stay. I think one of the reasons we enjoyed Budapest so much was our hostel, the Mandala Hostel. It felt like such a home, and everyone around us was helpful and friendly. They even had animals, which I obviously was thrilled about (see photo collage below). There was also a lovely outdoor courtyard to sit in and lofts for the beds instead of rickety bunk beds.
Since I mentioned animals, I have to add that when Conner and I arrived in the city, we were surprised by the number and variety of dogs in the area.There were TONS. I thought I had found my own personal heaven in city form until we found out that the World Dog Show was being held in Budapest that week. Momma Z, you would have loved it!
You can see a photo of me and one of the top Russian Toys (pretty much a chihuahua) below. A Russian girl, Nadia, owned Dalia (said dog) and brought him to the bar with us, ordering her a special meal which she carefully cut and cooled for her and also gave her bottled water. I'm not as much of a crazy dog lover as I once thought. Not in comparison.
One of the first things Conner and I did when we got to Budapest was visit their famous medicinal, thermal baths. We chose the Szechenyi Baths which had outdoor pools, as well as indoor saunas, steam rooms, and thermal baths. We were not very good at handling the saunas nor the steam rooms which suffocated you with what was supposed to be a soothing mint scent. We were not very soothed to say the least.
The baths were pretty amazing in structure. While there, we were surrounded by beautiful architecture and statues, along with hundreds of old men in speedos. Some of these features were more pleasing to the eye than others...
Speaking of a lack of clothing, Conner and I saw two full moons while in Budapest, and not in the night sky. It seems that its not all that uncommon for people to use the restroom, outside of a restroom. Lovely images to have burned into our brains. It didn't make very much sense, because unlike other cities, there was never a charge to use the restrooms. But if you gotta go, you gotta go...I guess.
In case anyone in our huge blog fan base is unaware, Budapest used to be two cities divided by the Danube River, Buda and Pest. Although they are now one city, they have two very different feelings to them. Pest, where we stayed, is much more modern and has a lot more life. Buda is beautiful, with old buildings, churches, and a palace. Things move much slower in Buda. Its very interesting to stand on one of the many bridges between the two sides and see the differences. We spent time exploring and enjoying both sides of the river.
Our final full day in Budapest, we were able to meet with a local boilermaker and Greyhouse friend, Mark. Mark is one of three Hungarians that goes to Purdue, all three of whom play tennis. It was great to once again meet up with a familiar face, have him take us around, and hear about his life in Hungary. He also had us try fresh Hungarian lemonade which is delicious!
Another favorite drink of ours was the sangria at an outdoor bar/restaurant called Fecske, or Sparrow in English. We went there by recommendation on our first night, choosing to eat the classic cheeseburger and Caesar salad before trying any local specialties. We couldn't help ourselves and it was so satisfying! When we got our bill we were amazed at the prices. Budapest is very cheap, which we obviously LOVED!
In reference to some unmentioned pictures provided below, when going out to a local ruin bar with some hostel staff and travelers we enjoyed trying a Hungarian beer called Pecs. It was a very cool outdoor bar with lights strung around and a large population of the local hipsters. While walking around the city we also came across a bar called Paris, Texas. Being the proud Texan that Conner is, we obviously had to return there for a drink later that evening. The place was decorated with old photos all over the walls. Cool place!
We did indulge in classic Hungarian food. We had an awesome traditional meal at a place called Blue Rose. Conner and I both had pork covered in a special goose liver and veggie sauce with sides of potatoes. Sounds gross, but it was delicious! At the city market we also tried a traditional lango, which nutritiously consists of fried bread, sour cream, cheese, pepperoni, and a few veggies. A few. It was was obviously delicious as all fried food is, but it was also a huge mess and embarrassing to eat in public. Within the first few bites both of our forks and knives were broken and we were out of napkins. Such tourists.
Conner and I learned a lot about Hungary and Budapest by taking a communism walking tour and visiting the Holocaust Memorial Museum. It was interesting to learn about the effects of World War II and communism both in the past and in the present. Obviously this was all very sad, but it definitely gave a deeper look at the country and how its current state has been effected by certain horrors and happenings, long or not so long ago. Be proud moms and dads! We really do want to learn!
That's the quick overview of our time in Budapest! There's so much more to share and we greatly look forward to doing so when we return to you all (I had to fight typing y'all, too much time with Conner). Once again, we love and miss you all, and you will continue to be in our prayers!
Until next week...