Andrew and I took the Hungarian cheap flight through Wizzair.com. Honestly when we got to the Rome airport and had to walk to the back of the building, down some steps, then outside, I was a little scared that we had gotten ripped off and were going to end our wild goose chase at the dumpsters of the airport. Luckily, we found our terminal just in time. Once on the plane it was small and a little cramped but it got us there just the same. I mentioned the guy the kept elbowing me; I should be fair and tell you that part of that time he was holding his little girl, so the elbows were excusable. I even got to hear him singing Hungarian little kid songs; I imagine something comparable to patty-cake, but it was Hungarian so I have really no idea. It was adorable though. My first run in with the Hungarian language...and the fact that I have not even the SLIGHTEST clue what it's trying to say to me. Arpi was there at the airport waiting to pick us up (bless his heart, he had worked all day and then picked us up at midnight only to take a wrong turn and turn a 10 minute drive into a 30 minute drive back to his apartment). He drove us to his flat which is right, litterally, right in the center of Budapest on the "Pest" side of the river right up the road from their famous Parliment buliding. Arpi and his girlfriend Sara were nice enough to move in with their friend for the week and allow Andrew and I to have the flat all to ourselves, what hospitality!! Arpi left us with the keys and Andrew and I set out to find some sort of food since by this time we were starving! First we had to have a 24 hour ATM so we could get some Hungarian Forints. Andrew found a Kebab place still open and tried his best Hungarian pronunciation...luckily they understood English. I found some snacks at the 24 hour Tabacco/convience store to tide me over until morning.
Day two, Nov 3rd: We started our morning just walking around to discover the area. The buildings alone, including Arpi's apartment complex which was a historic buliding full of people who worked in the Parliment, were an amazing site to see. First we walked to the Parliment buliding and tried to get tickets to see it. The people there were kind of rude to us and told us we had to wait. So we waited, then they said there were no more tickets for today, so I asked *this whole conversation is in broken English* if we could buy tickets for tomorrow and he said no and then turned away and pretended he didn't see us. So we left and walked down to the Danube riverside where were saw lots of iron-coated shoes lining the sidewalk. At the time I didn't know what they were, but they were beautiful so I took pictures. Arpi later explained to me that they are the shoes left behind by the Hungarian Jews that were shot there and pushed off into the river by the Germans in WWII. So that's pretty darn sad. From here we walked across one of the four bridges that cross the Danube between Buda and Pest. Each brigde is unique and one is even downright ugly because it was destroyed during WWII and then rebulit by the Communist rule and is just a basic white concret looking bridge. We walked across the Chain bridge which is said to be the most beautiful. I liked it because of the lions. On the other side was a very steep hill and a tram that lead to the top where there was a Castle with great views. We skipped the tram and opted for the stairs, which could've been a bad idea. By the time we reached the top, we needed the rest. We stopped in a little bar which was hands-down the most "typical" bar or restaurant we've been in. We walked into a little counter that looked like a mini-cold counter with soup taureens labled with different wines. Andrew was able to order a beer in Hungarian but I failed when I tried to say Bor and ended up using English. The guy behind the counter filled my glass from one of the soup taureens with a soup ladel and Andrew and I took a seat in a wooden booth in the tiny seating area next to the table of older Hungarian men who were obvioiusly having their daily meeting and talking about politics and their nagging wives. My first Hungarian wine was a dry white wine that smelled of lemons and apricots and a small spicey aftertaste. Don't ask me the name, I couldn't prounce it and didn't write it down. When we left we walked past a Chinese restaurant that sold Tiramisu...hmmmm Chinese food in Hungary and they sell an Italian dessert....something tells me that's a stomach ache waiting to happen. We didn't stop, I only took a picture. We walked around to the side of the Castle but not all the way to it as we needed to go back to the Parliment buliding to meet Arpi so he coudl come from work to translate for us. Apparently to see the buliding you can onlz make online reservations. So Apri would take care of it and let us know. Arpi walked us to a grocery store bz the flat and gave me some suggestion for Hungarian wines. A red Portugieser that was the color of a Merlot, had the raspberry fruits of a Rosé and the bodaz of a lighter style Cabernet with a slight spice of a Tempernillo. A Rosé sparkling that was a typical sweet sparkling Rosé with strawberry nose and a light cheery added to the flavor. Apri also convinced me to buy some typical Hungarian candy bars, filled with cottage cheese. I tried a milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and darkchocolte with marmalade all with cottage cheese filling...nooot so much my thing, but glad I tried it. Apri then gave us an itenerary for the next day and headed back to work.
Day 3, Nov 4: I wanted my day to start with a run down on the river walk, what I got was a wrong turn down a road I thought went through to the river, lots of construction blocks, and 15 minutes added to my run to make up for the fact that I ended up two bridges down from where I should've been. Luckily for me you can always see the Parliment buidling and Arpi's flat is about 3 minutes walk from there. After making it back and showering, Andrew and I walked down the main street in Budapest with all the shops and attractions. We stopped at the Terror House which we thought was full of the torcher devises the Nazis used for the Jews and later the Commies for the Nazis but really was a regular museum full of papers to read about the war history of Hungary. This little country has been thorough a lot, and you can see it in the buildings and even in the people, and they just got out of communist control in the 1990s! We then walked to Hero's square which is a huge momument to Arpad, the founder of Hungary. From here we found our Turkish bath which simply put, is a series of hot tubs ranging in temperatures heated by the Earth's natural gases. This particular bath had a huuuuge outdoor section. Andrew and I spent about two hours going around to the different tubs and then landed in the outside pool for lots of poeple watching. We stay there the longest because it was waaaaaaay too cold to get out, and when we finally got out we ran straight to the hottest sauna room to warm back up. Then it was off to find Menza to find the best goulash in Budapest for Andrew. When we found it, to my surprise, it was not what I expected goulash to look like. This goulash has no noodles, no ground beef, and no spaghetti sauce...but that's what Momma told me goulash was! In fact, goulash, Hungarian goulash, is a soup with a beef broth and chunks of beef steak and veggies. Huh, who knew?
Day 4: My morning started off with a trip to the Parliment buliding. This time I didn't have any hold ups because Arpi brought me the paper that had our reservations and times on it so all I had to do was show it to anyone who tried to stop me on the way to the ticket door which was on the other side of the chain link fence. I made it and took my first official "guided tour" of my whole Europe trip. I was happy to see the inside of the buliding and I must say that the tour guide was nice to fill me in on little facts about where stuff came from and just why it was so special. I got to see the first Hungarian Royal crown that had a bent cross on top because it was dropped in an escape. Also the cigar holders outside of the meeting room that served to hold the cigars of the members of congress while they went inside the room to listen to the speakers. You could tell how good the speaker was based on how long the ashes on the cigars were. They have a saying about speakers/lectures, "It was as good as a Cuban cigar." After this Andrew and I took the Metro to the part of town that housed their large central market. The metro in Budapest had the FASTEST escalators I have ever seen. It literally made me dizzy to watch them and you felt the need to hang on when you rode them. At this market I found my souvineer ring, an Amber and Silver ring and the Amber was mined in Poland. Not necessarily Hungarian, but I felt that trying to bring back goulash could get kind of messy. After the market Andrew and I headed home and got ready for a night out. I drank my Hungarian Rosé and got all dressed up for going to a club to dance. But when we went out in search of the club we first found a packed little place that was blaring live Latin music. It reminded us of Costa Rica and we were sucked in. We ended up staying there for the evening, ordering Hungarian pizza which tasted a lot like Tony's frozen pizza and coming home around 1am.
Day 5, Nov6: Day 5 was supposed to be a trip to the Hungarian countryside, but at 12:30 the night before Arpi's car got broken into and a lot of things stolen out of it. So he needed to spend his morning taking care of all the little annoying things, like canceling credit cards, changing locks, calling car companies...The funny thing is when we got the call Andrew decided he needed to protect us from whomever had the keys to the apartment so he grabbed...a cheese knife. It cracked me up. So rather than go off to the Hungarian country-side I spent my morning journaling about just how worried I was about my next stop in my trip, Paris. I hadn't heard from anyone on finding a place to stay but had already bought my ticket based on the fact that I had so many people looking for me. I didn't have a computer at the time to check, and I hadn't had a computer in three days. I was a little more than a little worried. Then I flipped to the front of my journal and saw the verse that Kristin had written for me, "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough worries of its own." It helped, I had to do a mentality check and realize that there's a reason I've been safe this far. And there's a reason I haven't run out of money yet. I sent up my Thank yous, and felt better. Arpi showed up not much later with his computer and calmed my nervous even more to know that friends were still waiting on answers. Arpi and Sara decided that if they couldn't take us to the Hungarian country-side then we would go to the next best thing. A life-size museum of all the different areas of Hungary and the typical housing found back in the day in the different regions. It was interesting to see the differences between the houses in the north and the houses in the south as well as the size of the furniture and the way they lived their everyday lives. We even went inside of a typical winemakers house and got to see all the wine making tools. We also saw typical wine serving tools, including the ladel I saw on Day 1. The most interesting of the tools was a glass container with a long glass pipe coming out the bottom and a shorter glass pipe on top. Arpi explained that servers would suck wine into the container and then put their finger over the bottom of the tube and carry the whole thing on their shoulder as they walked around serving wine to customers. The glass is a more modern version as this device used to be made from a particular squash that just happened to grow in that shape. After we left our "Hungarian country side" we went to a typical Hungarian restaurant. This wasn't just a typical restaurant that is set up for tourists, but a typical restaurant with typical Hungarian cuisine, and real Hungarians out for the special dinners of the week. I had a traditional Catfish and Paprika soup served over a flame. I also had a dry Hungarian riesling and tasted some of Sara's lighter bodied red wine. Arpi also let me try his catfish dish that was a catfish fillet with noodles and a red sauce on one side with a creamy sour-creamish and cottage cheese sauce on the other. It was pretty tastey, but I loved my soup more. For dessert we all shared crepes with an apricot jam and strudel with a cottage cheese filling. I didn't care for the cottage cheese, but the crepes were delicious! After dinner picked up Arpi's friend Chubo and drove up to Cittadella to have an amazing night view of Budapest. We were going to go to another set of Turkish baths for the rest of the evening but unfortunetly there was a special "foam" event that cost the equvilant of €80 to enter not including food or drink. We skipped that in favor of staying at the house for a while, enjoying snacks, drinks, and a sunglasses party that sprung from the fact that Arpi and Sara collectively own at least 20 pairs of sunglasses. We got ready to go out and go dancing, but I didn't make it past the couch.
Day 6, Nov 7: Sunday was an easy day. Everyone slept in late, and in the afternoon Arpi took Andrew to the airport. It was weird to say my goodbyes to someone I'd been traveling with since Rome. Before this trip Andrew and I hadn't seen each other since Costa Rica about a year and a half ago(it had been even longer since Arpi and I had seen each other in Nicaragua!). How long will it be before Andrew and I see each other again? So I gave him an extra hug, thanked him for being my travel buddy, tried to convince him to come to Paris with me and skip school, and sent him on his way. After Arpi got back we all headed to Chubo's for the evening. Arpi cooked us Indian food and I especially enjoyed the addition of raisins to my sticky rice. I spent the most of my evening in a bad mood trying to find a hostel to stay in for mz nights in Paris. I was freaking out. I apologized for my anti-socialness but still couldn't get my mind off of the fact that I had no where to stay. I finally put the computer away and joined in a game or 10 of hearts. Then everyone went off to bed becauase they all had towork in the morning. I laid down but couldn't sleep. I went back through the hostel choices one more time. Watched the videos, checked things over and over again. I wrote down directions and prepaired myself for the worst possible scenario...if the hostel was horrible I would find the nearest Holiday Inn. Finally at 2am I slept, or laid down. I think I slept at 4am.
Last Day, Nov 8: I woke up with the rest of the house and Apri took me back to his flat on his way to work. I got in one last workout, some hand washed laundry...ohh I forgot to mention that I ruined more clothes in the laundry. I spilled Hungarian Rosé on my blue t-shirt and when it dried, it dried clear so I thought it didn't stain and didn't spray it before washing it with other clothes. A few things came out a pinkish color, the blue shirt had spots, and my stocking hat was crusted up into a baby-size. I can't win with laundry here. So I tried to wash the t-shirt and hat by hand before leaving. I packed up my stuff, once again relieved that it all still fits in my bag. I then I made time to take a shower and get ready for my plane. As I watched myself putting on mascara in the mirror all fresh and clean with wet hair just starting to curl, I couldn't hlelp but feel like I was preparing myself for a date. I had showered, shaved, done my make-up, and spritzed on an extra spray of perfume. I even had the jitters and butterflies in my stomach like today, I could possibly find my soulmate. Not my person soulmate, but my city soulmate. The thing I've realized I've been searching for all along. Could today be the day I meet my city? Will I fall in love with stinky French cheeses, crusty baggette, French wines like the deep Bordeaux and bubbly Champagne? Will I finally find it here? The one city on the Earth that can keep me forever? Forse (maybe). Arpi showed up to call me a cab at 12:15pm. I tried to make converstaion with the cab driver, but we had limited options due to vocabularies of the other's language. I had plenty of time to roam around the EasyJet's tiny area of the airport trying to figure out the best way to spend my Forints without getting ripped off and without keeping any change. I chose some gum, a banana, and come chocolates. Now I should mention my love/hate relationship with budget airlines. We waited in the boarding line for 30 minutes for a person who played "dumb tourist" and refused to put one bag inside of another bag so that he would only have 1 carry on. I saw about three other people try to hide their extra bags after this incident. Once through the boarding point all passengers were put into two buses. One really really packed full bus and one barely full. Then they shuttled us the whole 500 ft or so to the airplane where we got corraled onto the plane from the front and the back entrances, people pushing and hitting you with luggage...oh well, it didn't matter. I had a plane, I was one it, and I was going to Paris, France.
Random Hungarian Tidbits:
While in Hungary, my allergies flared up. I woke up one morning with a matted shut eyeball only to wash it off and discover that it was completely blood shoot. I was first worried I had caught something but realized it wasn't itching and my throat felt dry so it was allergies. So I took my pills and eventually my eye cleared up, but the snot, the snot is never ending.
Hungary is the first country I have been in that I haven't been able to understand ANYTHING of their language. Not a single word. Even French looks vaguely familar to me because of the connections of the Romance languages. This lead to a complete insecure feeling since I wasn't able to say anything, even as small as "Hello" "Goodbye" "Please" and "Thank you."