Written by: Laurence Cote-Pitre
The final chapter in the travel blog series – Last but not Least: Budapest
Budapest is such an amazing city! It is definitely one of my favorites in Europe!
My first impression of the Hungarian capital was rather unusual and a little bizarre, but it was representative of the typical, everyday, Hungarian life.
A lot of young people in Hungary, specifically in Budapest, rent flats at cheap rates in old apartments built during the communist period. Immediately after arriving in Budapest, we visited a friend living in one of these buildings. When we went inside, I felt like I was in an old movie! It looked exactly as depicted in the communist films of the 60s and 70s. It had a long and wide hallway with a flashing light at its end, and an old elevator. The elevator stood out to me because at first glance, it didn’t look like an elevator and it made so much mechanical noise ( I must admit, I was scared)!
When we finally got to the apartment itself, I was surprised by the smallness of the rooms. It looked old and not very functional – exactly how I imagined a typical communist apartment!
Thankfully, I didn’t spend too much time in there. The place where I actually stayed during my stay in Budapest was totally different. It was a more modern building that was originally intended to be a hotel. However, this studio-apartment was even smaller than the old ‘communist’ one, but much cozier! And we had the best view of the Buda Castle!
I experienced the city’s nightlife on my first night in Budapest. With a small group of friends, I walked from Buda to Pest –the Chain Bridge looked gorgeous at night with all the lights! My friends took me to the beautiful Cathedral before going to what is called a “ruin pub”. Ruin pubs are outdoor bars that are located in a few private courtyards downtown. Often, many bars share the same courtyard, which makes the atmosphere even better! We went to different pubs throughout the night, which allowed us to experience the diverse atmospheres.
During the next day, we went up to the Mátyás Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion. The walk there is quite tiring, because it is a steep cobblestoned hill, but it is totally worth it: you get an INCREDIBLY GOOD view of Pest!
In the afternoon, I walked through the city with a friend to do some more sightseeing. We saw: Heroes Square, Andrássy Boulevard, the Parliament building, the monuments to Imre Nagy and Lájos Kossuth, and the city park. It was a very long, but interesting walk. I also got to taste Túró Rudi that day and I have missed it every single day since then!
That evening, we took part in a “quiz night”. Teams play against each other every week throughout the whole year. Over 1700 people take part in these quizzes every week. These “quiz nights” are a truly a European affair. The same sets of questions are asked in 3 countries, 13 cities, and in 27 different locations. I had the chance to join a team earlier in Graz (Austria) and it was really interesting to take part in the Hungarian version this time!
Budapest is such a nice city and I had a really good time there. Since leaving, all I want to do is go back! There are still so many things to do in the city!
I am very lucky to have been able to experience Hungary in this way. I was immersed in Hungarian culture and everyday life in a non-touristy way. During the five days I spent in this beautiful country with people who, no matter what happened in the past, truly love their culture and their country, I felt closer to the people than I ever did before. It was such a great feeling and experience. I learned so much from it!
I want to thank all my Hungarian friends and their families who helped me remember all the details of this trip, but most of all, for taking me into their country and their homes, for allowing me to have such a wonderful experience, and for sharing all these great moments.
Checkout Part I: Nagykanizsa and Cserfő
Checkout Part II: Pilisszentlászló and Szentendre