At the end of the last post about the Great European Adventure, me and Beth were still in Poland. To get Budapest, which is in Hungary for you geography scholars, we had to get to the airport. There’s a train to the airport, so we packed up our stuff and made it to the railway station in plenty of time. And that’s when the fun started.
When we got to the railway station, we had no idea what train we needed to get other than the fact it went to the airport. So we duly went to the ticket office to ask for tickets to the airport. Turned out the woman working the desk was the first person we talked to in Warsaw who didn’t speak any English. She directed us, or so we thought, to a taxi help centre across the main concourse of the station. We hurry over, and ask the lovely people there if they could help us. They did speak English, and told us to go to the newsagents in the middle of the railway station. At this point, me and Beth were pretty sure something had got lost in translation, but we went across and lo and behold, to buy tickets to get to the airport you have to go to the newsagents. Perfect sense when there’s at least a dozen ticket desks… But the woman behind the counter was very lovely and helpful, even when I confused her. So yes, we eventually managed to get tickets and get on to the train and get to the airport and yes. The Polish section of the Great European Adventure had been successfully completed – onto Budapest!
The Hungarian parliament, side on.
When we got to Budapest, we picked up our Budapest cards. The Budapest card, for a mere 30 ish euros, let us use all public transport free for 72 hours, as well as get us into some of the museums and Baths for free/reduced rate. Basically, it was great. Definitely worth it. After we’d picked up our magic cards, we headed towards our hostel. We were staying at the Bebop Apartments and after thoroughly confusing the guy who checked us in because he couldn’t decide if me and Beth were a couple, we were in Budapest, in a beautiful hostel, which had the most ridiculous bunk beds.
Beth proving she could stand up on the top of the upper bunkbed and not hit her head.
With the rest of our day, we decided to head into the city centre, because any time you’re not exploring the new city you’re in is just wasted, right? And we were in Budapest centre for about, ooh, twenty minutes and decided we didn’t ever want to leave.
St Stephens, looking beautiful in the setting sun
We spent a long while wandering round the outside of St Stephens Basilica, which was beautiful and then we ended up at the Danube, listening to a band, which included a washboard, play jazz. As the sun started to set. It was just…pure magic. I swear there were sparkles in the air.
Music in the streets is the best.
We had a wander along the chain bridge, marvelled at the parliament building, and just generally soaked up the city. We ended up at a place called Lizt Square for food, which is an area that has roughly a bazillion and one restaurants. It’s right next to a hexagonal traffic light system. I know this, because we walked all round it until we found where we were looking for.
Me on the chain bridge. We did not cross it as many times as me and Maddie crossed the Charles Bridge in Prague.
The second day, the first thing we did was head for the Baths. Budapest is famous for its baths. My last experience of public baths was in Japan and that was segregated by gender and involved a lot of nudity. Budapest baths, on the other hand, are non segregated and swimming costumes are required. We went to the Lukacs Baths which we got into free thanks to our Budapest cards. Once inside, we headed straight for the thermal baths. If there’s a special order to which pools you go in, we didn’t crack it. It was really chill, just hanging out. There were a lot of OAPs there, but we weren’t the only young people. It was awesome.
Anywhere that signposts wifi is my kind of place.
Leaving was a wrench, but when you’ve basically become a prune, what’re you going to do? We headed back to the hostel to dump our stuff, before combing the streets to find somewhere to buy food. It took us longer than you would have thought, but we managed it, then headed to the Buda side of Budapest (we were staying in Pest). We hit up a park for a picnic and finally, when Beth persuaded me to move, we walked up to the castle.
Look at the pretties.
I am not the fittest of people. And I hate stairs. And I’m sure Beth will happily tell you just how long it took me to get up to the castle (Answer: far too long). But, it was worth it. Despite there being tons of roadworks going on within the castle complex, it was amazing. It looked like Hogwarts. And they had an icecream shop. And did I mention how beautiful it was?
That evening we ended up back at Lizt Square for food, because as I mentioned it has a billion restaurants. And after that we went to one of the coolest pubs I’ve ever been to.
Fairy lights, glitterballs and washing lines. An weirdly good mix.
Szimpla Kert is one of many ruin bars in Budapest. Essentially, it’s a pub in an abandoned warehouse. But it’s a warehouse strung with fairy lights, decorated with random furniture and junk. I mean, one of the seats was a bath. It was a lot of fun hanging out there.
And I thought trees were meant to grow upwards.
On the third day we decided we were gonna get up at a time that allowed us to outside while it was relatively cool, because with the temperature pushing 40 degrees, we were finding it a little difficult to function by the time midday hit. That’s 40 Celsius for anyone who’s think 40F doesn’t sound warm at all. So we headed to Heroes Square, a place that had been described to us as the most beautiful place in Budapest.
Heroes Square is perfectly fine.
No offense to whoever thinks that but I disagree. I mean, it’s not ugly, but if I wanted monuments and pillars I’d go to Trafalgar Square. And when the rest of Budapest is so beautiful, why pick Heroes Square as the best?
We had a wander, but our main purpose for being there was the art museum at the side. But when we got there, all exhibitions were closed except for the one you had to pay for. So we turned tail and headed to the other side of the city in search of the contemporary art gallery.
I have to take a moment here, and if Beth’s reading this, she knows what I’m about to rant about. The guide to the city we had was in Hungarian and English. Which was super useful as we don’t speak Hungarian. And it labelled this Gallery as being in the “Whale” shopping centre. Which we couldn’t find. Wandering in the midday heat had been exactly what we’d been hoping to avoid. And there we were. Searching for this gallery. It turns out that the Shopping centre is the “Balna” shopping centre. Which was prominently displayed on the outside. Balna means whale. Whatever translator thought translating the name of a shopping centre was a good idea, was wrong. So very wrong. Grrr.
Two very happy, slightly sunburnt, friends.
But we had a lovely time in the air conditioned gallery and then we headed to the Kiraly Baths, which were exponentially fancier than the Lukacs baths the day before. Of course, they weren’t free, but it was definitely worth the whole five ish pounds. There were the standard different heated pools, including the main one that was under a dome with holes in the ceiling so that through the steam (and my steamed up glasses) it looked like stars. Beth made me go in the cold pool. Word to the wise: don’t go from a 40 ish degree pool to a 15/25 isg degree pool. Don’t do it. There was also a hot tub and a Jacuzzi and at least two saunas. It was so good.
After lounging at the Baths for hours, we went back to the hostel, ‘cause thanks to the temperature pushing 40 degrees, we both felt a bit weird. So we hung out at the hostel till I got cooler and Beth learnt to juggle. And then we headed out for food. We ended up eating right next to St Stephans basilica and it was a lovely way to end our time in Budapest.
Budapest was amazing. Beth described it as “A city men would go to war for”, and I feel like that’s fairly accurate. I’ve yet to meet anyone who’s been and didn’t love it. It was amazing, and I’d really recommend going if you get the chance. Because it’s just…magical. And you’re basically obliged to lounge in warm water for long amounts of time – what could be better?
The next day we were meant to be undertaking a 13 hour train journey from Budapest to Ilmenau, via Dresden and Erfurt. Unfortunately, while we were on a train for over 13 hours, it was massively delayed and the first train that should have taken us 9 hours to get to Dresden, in fact took 13+. We managed to get on a train to Leipzig but that was where we had to stop because there were no more trains until the morning.
By the time we’d been on the train for 8 hours, we put all of the seats down to make a giant bed.
It wasn’t so bad. We had a compartment to ourselves, and even though for this train journey it was a second class compartment, it was actually a first class, so it was super comfortable. Staying in Leipzig wasn’t exactly my idea of ideal, but we found a hotel and the lady on the front desk complimented my German and we had a chat about Ilmenau because her best friend lives there.
Always time for one last Spaghetti Eis.
The next day we made it back to Ilmenau and had a wander. Then my Dad turned up to drive us back to the UK. Have I mentioned that my Dad’s lovely? And we didn’t go straight back to England though. We had a day in Brussels.
On my last night there, I made it to the Robot Bar in Ilmenau.
One thing I would say about Brussels is that their tourist attractions all have mascots. Who insist you have photos taken with them. It was a little unnerving. We went to the Atominum which was pretty cool, even if me and Beth can’t say it’s name. At all. If you’re at school in Brussels, or I assume anywhere, you can have a sleepover in one of the balls. Me and Beth were pretty sad to find out we weren’t eligible.
We also went to Mini Europe, which has mini representations of important landmarks of the members of the EU. That was pretty cool, especially when I got to see landmarks from the countries I’d been in the previous two weeks.
Mini Berlin! Complete with Berlin Wall…
The next day we walked to see the EU building, which is quite shiny. Unfortunately, we were a day early for the opening of the visitor’s centre, so we got in the car and finished the drive home. Which marked not only the end of the Great European Adventure but my Year Abroad as well. At the time I was too tired for that to really sink in. But now, writing this six months later, it seems so surreal to think that I lived in Germany for 9 months. It seems so long ago now! But that is a post for another time. Hope you enjoyed the Great European Adventure. I know I did.
We’re the coolest.