Coming to Prague, I had planned on traveling around Europe a bit. I just didn’t realize I be doing so this soon. The week after orientation, my friend planned out a trip to Budapest from the Airbnb to the transportation to the itinerary. I thought, why not, I’d simply tag along for the ride. I managed to probably see everything Budapest had to offer and squeeze a week’s worth of travel into less than 2 days all thanks to my friend's magical planning skills.
The group I traveled with was pretty big. There were 7 of us total. This helped cut down on Airbnb costs which came down to around $12 per person. I’m sure that the round-trip bus ride would have been cheaper if we didn’t buy the tickets the day before. But since we did, I spent around $70 on Flixbus. We left on a Thursday night so that we could arrive the morning after and save on Airbnb costs.
On Friday morning, we arrived on the Buda. Budapest is dissected by the River Danube. The Chain Bridge connects the hilly Buda district with flat Pest. After climbing a hill to watch the sunrise over the Danube River, we crossed over to Pest and visited the Shoes on the Danube Bank. It was created to honor the people who were killed in Budapest in World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. The sculpture represents the shoes left behind on the bank.
We were still slightly disheveled from the bus ride, and needless to mention, very hungry, so we searched for a good place to have brunch. After brunch, we stopped by the Parliament of Hungary, and our visit coincided with the changing of the guards.
On our way to Vörösmarty Square, we made a few pit stops to some other gorgeous places. Vörösmarty Square is a public square in the Budapest city center. We visited Central European University’s Library, which to my surprise was founded by George Soros.
We also got to admire St. Stephen’s Basilica. It was the first European Catholic church I ever visited, and the inside was ornately decorated. The ceiling was painted with such intricate detail. Smaller temples covered the walls with paintings from the Bible. The architecture was astounding.
And finally, because we saw a Ferris wheel, we had to get on it. It was called the Budapest Eye, a play on words named after the London Eye. Around $10, we got to experience the city from a bird’s eye view and take a lot of photos. It definitely came as fast as it went because of how much time we spent focusing on trying to get the perfect photo.
After a long morning, we headed off to our Airbnb, located in the Jewish Quarters and rested for a while. Later in the night, we headed to one of Budapest’s most famous and popular thermal baths: Szechenyi Thermal Baths. It is one of the biggest natural hot spring baths in Europe. Szechenyi Baths turned 100 years old in 2013, and throughout its century old history, about a 100 millions of bathers have enjoyed the warm medicinal waters and the fun pools. It’s a wonderful place to visit to experience how people in Budapest live and get together as a community.
The next day was our museum day among other things.The first thing we did was visit two museums: National Museum and the House of Terror. The Hungarian National Museum was founded in 1802 and is the national museum for the history, art and archaeology of Hungary. The House of Terror, on the other hand, contains exhibits related to the fascist and communist regimes in 20th-century Hungary and is also a memorial to the victims of these regimes, including those detained, interrogated, tortured or killed in the building. Going to these two museums back-to-back allowed for an contrasting view of how clean the Hungarian government wanted to portray its nation versus getting a glimpse of what truly happened from a museum solely dedicated to the tragic events of the past that were almost untouched by the national museum.
We climbed our way up toward Fisherman’s Bastion, which is one of the terraces on Castle Hill. At this point, I foresaw how many stairs I would be climbing throughout my time traveling around Europe. I thought having steps everywhere was unique to Prague, but they were all throughout Budapest too. But stairs no matter how tiring are worth it to get a good view of the city. I think having a lighter load would have made it easier to hike up, but it was my first time packing for a weekend trip, and I over prepared myself with items I never used. Lesson learned for next time.
The view was gorgeous, looking out across the Danube River over to Pest. I loved the color palette below of the city–the rustic oranges combined with the traditional whites of the cities contrasting against the vibrant blues of the skies.
Our exploration of Castle Hill ended in front of Matthias Church, located in front of Fisherman’s Bastion. My favorite part of the church was the colorful tiling on roof, not to mention the heaven-reaching spires. At first, we couldn’t enter the late-Gothic style church because mass was in session (plus we weren’t wearing proper attire). Even after mass ended, time was tight, because there was a concert happening right after, but we were lucky that the guards were kind enough give us a minute to look inside.
And that concluded our trip in Budapest, of which we toured exhaustively in the past two days–more than I have explored NYC in the past year that I have been there. We made our way back to Pest, and it was a lot easier and quicker going down than up, where we hung out by the Danube river until we had to go to our bus station.