My train ride to Budapest was made all the better by a chance meeting with an American. Ukrainian by birth, this woman moved to the USA when she was 10 and now works as a teacher in Tacoma with at-risk children. We had an awesome conversation about making your job your ministry and the work that goes into teaching children with unique sets of challenges. She is a fellow lover of Pride and Prejudice and a healthy dose of adventure and so we quickly bonded over our short train ride. We swapped contact information so it will be interesting to see if we get the chance to meet up in the future once I’m back in Canada 🙂 After dumping my big backpack at the hostel I quickly set out to find some good eats. As it turns out, I didn’t need to go farther than a block to find some. I usually try my best to order food that is authentic to the area, but I caved on a burger because I was craving some creature comfort. Also directly down the block was one of the biggest ruin bars in Budapest. Budapest is famous for their ruin bars – bars built from abandoned buildings or lots. These bars are decorated with an eclectic mix of furniture and assorted ‘treasures.’ The Szimpla Kert Ruin Pub was within walking distance of my hostel and so I spent some time walking room to room to take in the unusual charm of such a unique pub phenomenon. The rest of my day was spent wandering the city and soaking in the sights and local colour. I was headed towards Fisherman’s Bastion, a castle-like terrace overlooking the city from the Buda side of the Danube river, but wasn’t exactly in a hurry to get there. The streets of Budapest have a lot to see, especially the colourful rooftops of the churches and palaces.Fisherman’s Bastion was a gorgeous slice of fairytale views, complete with a violinist playing the best of Sound of Music. Because I arrived on the cusp of evening, the sun was not as harsh as it had been during the day and there was a breeze soft enough to keep me cool. Budapest was definitely the hottest location of my travels and so exploring the city on foot was definitely more tiring than it had been in Vienna and Barcelona. Nevertheless, Fisherman’s Bastion in the evening was a highlight of my trip.I even managed to squeeze in a piece of Ring Cake ten minutes before the well-known little cake shop closed.At the recommendation of a Canadian friend, I spent my second day in pursuit of Castle Park. I’m a big believer in breakfast so I found myself some hot crepes before kicking off the journey.One of the funniest parts of traveling solo is having to ask strangers to take your picture if you want yourself in any of your travel photos. You never quite know what kind of quality you’re going to get when you hand your camera over to a stranger. I’ve had my fair share of blunders while traveling these past few weeks, but this gentlemen didn’t do a half bad job. I’m in the photo. Some scenery is in the photo. It’s not blurry. Kudos to this gentleman.Castle Park was a dream. It might have had something to do with the fact that I devoured the most decadent chocolate ice cream bar I’ve ever had, but it probably also had to do with the gorgeous surroundings. The park was shockingly quiet, with a smattering of lawn loungers and picnickers, but not a whole lot of other activity. I read my book for an hour or so, enjoying the shade of a big tree before slowly making my way through the park and out the other side.My biggest travel blunder happened not long after the idyllic Castle Park. I’d been riding the metro a bit over the course of my Budapest leg and so I was familiar with the fact that the metro tickets needed to be validated before hopping on the metro. I bought my ticket and headed down to the platform to find the train already waiting with its doors ajar. I jogged towards the train and passed right by the validation machines without much thought. No one had been checking tickets as far as I could see and so I figured it wasn’t such a big deal to miss validating one time. Wrong. At the next stop two uniformed men walked on the car and started collecting tickets. I handed over my unvalidated ticket, waiting to see if it would pose a problem.
“This is your stop. You get off here.”
Obviously there was a problem. I got off at the next stop with the two men and they explained to me in broken English that because I had not validated my ticket I would have to pay the fine. I tried to explain the situation but they maintained that it was my responsibility to know the rules of travel before using the metro. Fair enough. I coughed up the fine money, much to my chagrin, and resumed my journey. As far as fines go, it wasn’t the worst, but it definitely wasn’t cheap. I was low on cash and had planned to make a visit to a thermal bath house – a popular Budapest activity – that night. I trekked back to the hostel to assess the damage only to find that I’d misplaced my room card. That costs me another unbudgeted sum and just sealed the deal on my little unlucky streak.
Even though I’m a bit of a penny-pincher when I travel, I decided to suck it up and take out some extra cash so I could check out the thermal baths as planned. Travel doesn’t always go the way you planned. Well actually, travel never goes the way you planned. Regardless, I didn’t want to spend my last night sulking in the hostel so I trekked out again with a bathing suit and towel in tow and headed towards the Gellert baths.A quick stop at the Central Market meant a cheap dinner of fruit and bread before I hit the baths. I tried to take a few photos inside the baths, as was permissible, while also being considerate to all of the swimsuit-clad people enjoying their evening pool time. I felt as though I almost needed a tutorial to the baths because there were so many different pools with different temperatures and compositions. Some people clearly knew what they were doing and so I followed their lead, moving from pool to pool in the near-silence of the tiled walls. Though it was a quick stop, Budapest held a great deal of intrigue. I can’t quite put my thumb on the feel of the place, but there is definitely a reserved and quiet beauty to the city. It’s also a great place for budget travellers, as the exchange rate is great and the prices are pretty low.
While I loved traveling Barcelona, Vienna, and Budapest, I was definitely ready to head back to Italy to see my Italian family again. This time though, I’d be joining them at the seaside – their annual holiday spot. More to come.