Saturday, 29 October 2011

Hungry in Hungary

 I wasn't actually hungry.....but I loved the play on words, and when travelling solo you need to make some lame jokes.

It all started on Monday night. That was when I realised that I was going to Eastern Europe alone....and actually that I was travelling alone. You see, it all seems like fun and adventure when I start daydreaming about places that I'm going to visit, but when reality kicks in so does fear. I just decided to ignore 'fear' and I forced myself to get on the plane to Budapest....with nobody waiting for me there.

Why did I decide to come to Hungary? Well - I wanted to go somewhere interesting, somewhere different, somewhere a bit 'out of the ordinary' and somewhere beautiful. My dad came to Budapest when I was a young child and has been raving about it my whole life. As I knew that Russia was out of the question as it was too dangerous to go alone...I thought, what the hey? I'll just nick off to Budapest and see what all the fuss is about. So here I am!
My time here went as follows ~

T U E S D A Y 

2 pm - Arrival
        I changed some money and then boarded a bus to take me to the metro station. The bus resembled something from the soviet era (which it probably was from). As it jolted and revved along the freeway I looked into industrial neighbourhoods...and even saw a communist tank (I felt far away from Melbourne at this point), IT WAS COOL....and very foreign. I then took the metro for 12 stations, which I counted on my fingers because I could not understand a single thing that was going on...which seemed rather scary considering that the metro didn't seem as if it had been upgraded since it's opening (Budapest's metro is the oldest in Europe, just so you know). It looks like this

And this photo doesn't do it any justice. It seems way older and way more foreign than the picture depicts it to be. Anyhoo. I made it to the hostel and then an hour or so later I went for a walk in the middle of town...I walked....I walked....I walked...and I didn't see anything but a big boulevard, so I came home. Then I decided to go out for dinner. I walked....I walked.....I walked.....and didn't find anything, so I bought some pasta, came back to the hostel and made friendly conversation with some elderly Chinese folks who are also here on holiday. A couple of them used to live in Balwyn. Funny how small the world is. 

W E D N E S D A Y 

Micha's friend Chistina told me about a 'hop on, hop off' bus tour of Budapest that you could do (which was inexpensive), so that's what I thought would be best. That way I could have an overview of the city, see all the important sights, learn a little history etc. In the morning after having breakfast I went to the city's Opera house to take the bus. A scary lady with short grey hair and lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnggggggggggggg sharp, pink, pointy, gliterry nails sold me a ticket and then barked (yes barked) and people who got on, saying 'THERE'S NO MORE ROOM IN TOP' in a thick, Eastern European accent (think Rasputin's female form from the animated movie 'Anastasia'...that was her. She even refused people to get on the bus in the afternoon even though there was room. She let me on? Go figure). From there I went to Fisherman's Bastian. I wasn't originally planning to get off, but it seemed so intriguing that I couldn't fight the urge. Behind it is Mathius church, which I thought was stunning. I think I spent a good  45 minutes looking at it and walking around.

Fisherman's Bastian

Stupid American comment of the day: 'I'm not going inside the church. It's not even that old.'

(clearly this guy has NO appreciation for Art Nouveau)

From the church I moved on to a hill (and I've forgotten the was on the Buda side of the city still) where I was able to see a panoramic view of the city. The weather was a little overcast, but it was pretty cool all the same.
To the left is Buda, then there's the iconic 'Chain Bridge' and the right side of the city is Pest

From here I went wondering...(I took the bus back down to Pest first) and I walked down the city's main shopping strip in the centre of town. That was where I settled down for lunch, a table for one...and had some Hungarian soup.

From here I continued to walk right up until I saw a sweet train station and a nice bridge. After the Second World War the bridges of Budapest had to be they were completely destroyed. Actually what I found really surprising was that 80% of the city's building were completely wrecked during the war...but when I arrived here what I noticed was that there were several more older buildings here than I could usually see in France. The architecture here is just stunning..

The Market Hall
                                  One of the city's bridges connecting Buda and Pest
                                                 Cute little buildings

I then made my way back to the hotel...of course getting lost on the way and then having an interesting encounter with the lady at the supermarket....(we couldn't understand each other and she snapped at me).  I had then intended to spend my night reading the uh 'fascinating' play that needs to be read for my French class - which tells the story of a guy who buys a blank canvas - but then spent time looking at my photos and talking to Chloé on skype....

T H U R S D A Y 

Thursday morning I was up on time again and went back to the bus. I jumped off at 'Heros' Square', a square with statues of...guess....Hungarian heroes! The weather was a little kinder today.

From here I proceeded to the park behind. The autumn leaves there looked spectacular. I strolled around, saw a couple of castle-like buildings, saw the outside of the Hungarian Agricultural Museum....'tempting', but I didn't go in. I saw a squirrel for the first time! And saw a strange statue. The city is full of odd statues and statues of heroes...

I jumped back on the bus and went over the bridge to try and see the castle...I walked around for a little along the Danube River and soaked in the view of the city..then climbed up to the top of the castle, saw this and had lunch for $15 AUD over the entire city.

The enormous building is the building of the Hungarian Parliament.  It was opened in the early 20th century and is of neo-gothic style. It has 365 turrets (which represent every day of the year) and 40 kg of gold were used on it. It's Hungary's largest building. After lunch I took a picture of a couple of smiling American guys and then went back over to the other side of town to stroll along the other half of the main pedestrian street in the heart of town. I wondered down to the famous Chain Bridge and took some shots of it and Buda castle, then continued my stroll down the Danube River until I reached the parliament building.

Nature called, so I followed the signs to the WC...and was confronted with this. I laughed to myself, as it looked like a dungeon. I walked away confused - but when I saw a couple of other people walking there I turned around as well to check whether or not there was actually someone there - and soon enough the toilet troll appeared (the lady looked like a troll) - yeah, so I thought that was funny but I had nobody to laugh about it with.

Stupid American comment of the day: 'So this bridge seems kind of well known'

(Noooooo, dear American, it's NOT the city's icon - NOT AT ALL!)

The banks of the Danube

Another statue (you can see the Chain Bridge behind it)

The parliament building

This is me in Budapest


Today was pretty unlucky. I spent some time at breakfast talking to Bernard from Germany who is here to perform in a dance festival (he was definitely gay). I complained about how poor France's public education system is (vented). I also met a couple of Australian girls who stayed here last night. I was more excited to see them than they were to see me...and they were rather cold/immature (they were 18). I then went to the bus I'd decided to take the yellow line (there are 2 lines that go to different places and I had been taking the red line the last couple of days). I waited for the red bus that would take me to the yellow bus. I got off at the right stop and then realised that it would be an hour wait for the yellow bus - so I walked around town killing time for a bit. I finally got on the bus (by this time it was 12:15). 

This is a lady I saw waiting at the bus stop. When I'm 60 I can only wish that I'll look half as elegant as she does. Just look at her ensemble! 

I was intending to get off at Margaret Island (a little island on the Danube) but missed the stop because I was so distracted by the commentary: "The bridge was reconstructed, as in 1944 it was blown up during peak hour traffic on a Saturday and hundreds of people were killed." Thanks, commentary. That was fantastic to hear. So I carried on and decided to get off at the market hall which I thought sounded exciting....when I got off I realised that I'd been there that morning while I was filling in time. Frustrated and hungry I went to a nearby café, where I ate the smallest, most expensive sandwich in the world (with terrible service) and then went to the  market while I waited another hour for the bus. 

Here I saw the world's most hobble woman. She was begging... I gave her some change.

Hungarian girls doing an Indian dance. Why not?

Inside the market hall

From the market I moved back to the bus stop (having 10 minutes to wait which I thought was manageable). I waited for 45 minutes at the bus stop. Feeling frustrated and anxious to see the world's second largest Jewish synagogue, I eventually boarded the bus. It was only 2 stops till the synagogue. The bus, however stopped at the next station for half an hour (by this time it was 3.30 pm) and I eventually arrived at the synagogue just after 4pm. The synagogue was closed and I was heart-broken. Of course it as closed. Here's what I saw from the outside.

This is what I SHOULD have seen inside -

Stupid American comment of the day: 'I just LOVE me!'

Afterwards I bought a pastry and then felt guilty all the way home (I've gained a few kilos since my arrival in Europe) and then took the metro back to the hostel. Tonight I need to read that stupid play for uni and start organising thoughts/trying to get into a study mode....pasta again tonight.

S A T U R D A Y 

Firstly, a word on youth hostels. This one is small (I think it was originally an apartment). The guy sleeping opposite me (with purple hair) was still in the room this morning when I woke up and I was not ready to face him with my 'I just got out of bed face', dressed in pyjamas. I chose to wait until he'd left the room - I rolled onto the floor, searched for my clothes and then pondered my 2 options. The first was to walk to the bathroom and get changed (but this would involve walking through the kitchen) or I could get changed in the 40cm sq toilet. I chose option 2 (which resulted in an angry knock at the door). I hurried and ran back to my room with pyjamas in hand (no privacy here).

Today I met up with some Australian folk from Melbourne uni....coincidentally studying in Lyon...coincidentally in Budapest. We first went to a flea market. Elise (one of the girls) walked out carrying some old boots, decked with rabbit fur trim, and half the market, whereas the others bought scarves, shirts and jewellery.

It's a busy day at the market...

 I found this necklace. It's ivory (apparently) and only cost me around 15 Australian dollars. 

From the flea market, we walked back up past 'Hero's Square' through the autumn leaves and found a café (that the others already knew) called Eco Coffee. We had nice sandwiches there. We then went to a tea house...the most awesome tea house you could possibly imagine. On the way we saw this funny car that had only 3 wheels and one seat. I thought about my dad...look at it! It's crazy.

So the tea house was really cool. There were several different rooms (some of which you needed to climb up ladders to, others crawl along the floor to). There was a corridor full of mirrors and there were tea cups everywhere. Oh, and it was below street level...really cool. 

                                             Elise in the corridor with all the mirrors

Tea, anyone?

After tea I headed back to the hostel. I had to organise the airport shuttle bus for the morning and it was growing late by that stage. I had a great conversation with Agnes (a girl who works at the hostel) and we talked about Budapest and I told her about Melbourne. She thinks that Hungary is a poorer country and that the buildings are beginning to collapse. Apparently some of the buildings along this street once had balconies that have, through time worn away and fallen down. She said that people in the city are seeking new buildings...modernity, things that aren't so old-fashioned. I think I can try to understand that, but for me old things are just far too intriguing. I suppose what you don't have at home..the unknown, is what's interesting.

Time to pack up, time to read this stupid play that I've been avoiding the last few days and get ready to head back to Copenhagen (I AM SO EXCITED) and then to Paris on Monday evening. I can't wait to see Chloé again. Goodbye hungry Hungary - Csia (pasta again tonight)

1 comment:

BennyLance said...

To see 3-wheeled cars you can go to England. They have quite a few of them (maybe not in London but in all other cities). Anyway, you didn't get to see the inside of the synagogue (what a shame :( ) so here are 2 pictures I took there : and
Also, you missed the Hand of Stephen I of Hungary which is kept in a church. And the parliament building was the biggest parliament building of the world when it got built and it still is the biggest of Europe (maybe 2nd of the world now...).
Anyway, Hungary's good and if you get a chance, go back during spring or summer and try the traditional Turkish baths (there are lot's of them) and visit Margaret Island with all the flowers, it's really beautiful (you say you missed the stop when you wanted to go, but did you still go back there?).
Anyway, Hungary's good, and don't be afraid to visit Central/Eastern Europe on your own, it's often safer than Western Europe and people are sooo friendly :)