travelogue: budapest

ohhhh budapest.  you deserved so much more of my time instead of a scant 28 hours! if only i hadn’t done some bookings while half-asleep, if only i hadn’t gotten lost and wandered around the city for a couple hours, if only i hadn’t had to hang out in my suite and do laundry–we would have become so much better-acquainted!   but, the suite i got to stay in was really cool and communist-looking.  maybe that doesn’t even make sense.  it had the world’s least comfortable couch (seat was 2.5 feet wide, back was maybe 6-8 inches high…), dark carpeting, wallpapers, 12 ft ceilings, and a set of incredibly beautiful 12ft tall doors!

not the building i stayed in, but nearby

budapest was different than the other former-communist places i’d been.  for one, there were sex shops everywhere.  bars open at 8 am, with people drinking.  slightly dingy buildings, not restored like prague and krakow (and some with bullet holes still!).   three train stations, instead of just one, which gave us the opportunity to pretend we were in the amazing race, when we went to buy tickets to zagreb at the wrong station, 25 minutes before departure.  we rushed down to the underground–budapest’s was the first in europe, in 1906–to ride the shakiest, oldest subway car i’ve ever seen, and made our other train by five minutes.  what a rush!


anyway, i digress.  budapest was full of stately old buildings, intriguing narrow streets, the second-largest synagogue in the world, the museum of terror, a giant opera house, bath houses left over from the 16th c. turkish invasion.   by this point, my travel partner and i were really into the euro cup, which happens every four years and had started while we were into poland.  we wandered the alleys near our hostel-apartment until we found a suitable place with a big screen and a seat for us.   wandering the narrow streets that evening, i felt so sad–this city deserved more than such a quick run-through!

budapest opera house

budapest synagogue

alas, my poor planning led to not enough time in an interesting place full of history, beautiful little nooks, interesting pubs and really great food.  one tourist brochure claimed that certain kinds of sausage were “hot enough to blow your ring piece out”.  if there is a visual i do not want to connect with eating, it’s having my asshole fall out after, but i digress.

st stephen’s basilica

sorry budapest.  next time i’ll give you more of a chance.

it’s totally worth paying for the upgrade from 6-person sleeper to 2-person. for real.

read about the rest of my trip: reykjavik pt 1pt 2, oslo, stockholm, copenhagen, berlin, prague, krakow.

66 thoughts on “travelogue: budapest

    1. jenanne explained that in hungarian, you need ‘sz’ to make the anglo sound of ‘s’. i guess it’s just an adopted word? like, probably the words they use to discuss sex are different, but ‘sex shop’ is probably an anglo post-communist thing so they just picked it up. but ALL the sex shops were called that!

  1. awesome. i’ve been to budapest and I absolutely loved it! it was so beautiful, such a great city….and nope, I haven’t been to the sex shops. anyways, budapest must be my favorite city in eastern europe! ever been to the fisherman’s bastion? ahh you should go there! check out my blog if you wish. love, INNA.

    1. ahhh hearing that you loved it so much makes me regret (even more) that i spent such a short time there! i would looove to check out the fisherman’s bastion. thanks for the recommendation!!

  2. I totally agree, Budapest deserves so much more time! I’ve had the opportunity to go there twice and it is still one of my most favourite of places I’ve visited.

  3. My father was from Budapest, so your travelog had special meaning for me. I love it that you went beyond the touristy stuff to some of the real and not-so-beautiful. I was there around 1987 and actually attended an opera in that opera house. You should see the inside! Thank you for sharing this delightful post. I look forward to seeing more of your travel adventures.

    1. thank you for such a thoughtful response to my post! did you ever learn hungarian, or spend much time in the country? do you have plans to return again to budapest? i would love to see inside the opera house! i bet it’s super beautiful (besides the fact that it would be so incredible to see an opera)!

    1. thanks so much for your kind comments!! i never thought i’d end up in budapest, but once i was there, it was a bit enchanting:)

  4. Oh wow. Only 28 hours?! You definitely need to come back and spend more time. Budapest has a special kind of charm. 🙂

    1. I KNOW! 28 hours was way, way too short. i made some planning mistakes and double booked us for a few nights and asked my travel-buddy where we should cut the slack–and budapest got a bit shafted! but i really would love to go back. will definitely return!

  5. Courtney – yes, this is how we spell sex in Hungarian; as Arinn pointed out, that’s how we write the English ‘s’ sound (and what is spelled ‘s’ is pronounced as ‘sh’).

    And you are right, Budapest is just too intriguing for 28 hours! I hope you have the chance to return (and possibly see the other side of the river as well). As a minute correction, the building on the picture is not the synagogue, but about a block up from that! This one is actually an apartment/store/office building – one of the exclusive rentals is the two-story penthouse inside the side turrets. (The synagogue is off to the right from where you were standing, just on the other “end” of the square).
    Thank you for the beautiful pics and memories – looks like my good ol’ hometown is still the same as before I left! 🙂

    1. oh my goodness, thank you for the correction! i’m a bit embarrassed that i got the synagogue wrong. less impressive for a photo, for sure!!

      so glad that you liked my post. such a compliment from a hungarian!<3

      1. hah, silly me! that looks so much more like a synagogue. and the silliest part is that i actually went up to the place and was looking in its holocaust memorial garden (if that’s what y ou could call it) through the fence!

        i will definitely be heading back to budapest. it was such a rad place and i want to go through eastern europe again!

      2. Well, with buildings at Budapest, you never know! :p
        Next time around, if you get a chance, be sure to check out Margaret Island – it’s a beautiful park with fountains, a water tower converted into art gallery, a small zoo/animal park thing, and the ruins of a 13th century Benedictine nun’s convent! And the funicular at the castle. And the chairlift in the hills, and the Children’s Railway (a must if you want to see some oddly well-preserved slices of the Soviet occupation). Also, there are visits inside the Parliament building – I’m not sure where you are from, but they are free to all EU citizens, and pretty cheap for non-EU folks, too.

  6. Loved this post! You managed to fill it perfectly with your short visit.
    My friend who travels to Europe frequently for long stays loved her time in Budapest. It’s been a few years since her visit but she still speaks quite fondly of it. It seems to me that you may leave Budapest but Budapest never leaves you.

    1. me too! such an interesting thing to see when one is coming from north america. at least where i’m from, there are no old buildings!

  7. I lived in Budapest for six month and you need definitely to give it another shot. It is really much more than ‘szex-shops’ everywhere (btw I think I only saw a couple of them in six months, maybe they are all in the same district?), you need to live the night, going to the margit island to dance or in a ruin pub for a drink. I will definitely check the rest of your travel, looks you had quite some fun 🙂

    1. hah, yes, budapest is more than szex shops (but i saw a tonne of them. i walked from keleti pályaudvar to my hostel, to another place to stay. just mapped it out, and it was a 10km walk!) . i really want to visit again and explore! such a shame to go there for one night. you were very fortunate to get to stay for six months! how did you deal with the language? it was really intimidating!

      1. haha, the magyar is indeed very intimidating 🙂 I attended a 40 hrs training in magyar but I can tell you this, it was not even enough to learn the numbers (just think at the market I asked for 150 grams of strawberry and got 1500 grams -_- ). In the end I was lucky, I was following an international internship programme and all the friends I found there were english speakers (even the hungarian ones ;)). So we managed to understand each other…and then when we all get drunk we all speak the same language…

      2. hah, what a mix-up! english as a common language definitely saves you in that situation:)

  8. love it! thx for sharing the info. i’m going to budapest next month, i’m so excited! how long did you stay in budapest that you said you didn’t have much time to explore more of the city?

    1. oh, you will probably have a great time! i was just there for one night. arrived at 8 am one day, left at 1pm the next day.

  9. You might like “Prague” by Arthur Phillips (contrary to what the title suggests, it’s mostly about Budapest). That view from the Citadel is killer, huh? When I was up there, downhill cyclists were running timed trials down the steps on the other side.

    1. thanks for the book suggestion! i’m always up for a new read. excuse me, do you mean downhill cyclists were riding down the steps? that is way too intense for me!

      1. You’re welcome. Yes, it was a bit surreal; I really didn’t know what to make of it.

  10. So now I need to find out where else you’ve been on your travels that received more attention than Budapest. I’m in no position to judge- I never made it there yet myself.

    1. hah, well, at the bottom of the budapest post you can see links to cities i went before i got there. afterward, i went to zagreb, ljubljana, vienna, istanbul, london and edinburgh. i just posted the zagreb travelogue and in the next few weeks there should be posts for the entire trip:)

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