After the long train ride, I arrived in Budapest. I walked 30 minutes to my hostel, climbed up four flights of stairs in a residential building, and found The Loft – my home for the next few days.
There are some hostels that feel like hotels and others that feel like home. This one felt like a cabin in the woods and was exactly what I needed. The guy working at the hostel asked me if I’d like anything to drink and I asked for a water. He brought it over and we sat down at the table in the kitchen.
Usually at this point the employee of the hostel tells you how much you owe, gives you your keys, tells you when to check out, and might give you some additional info on things to see, walking tours, etc.
This guy didn’t even mention the money. He literally took out a map, and started circling everything he recommended seeing, while giving me the history of the city. It used to be two cities – on one side of the river was Buda and on the other side was Pest. One thing lead to another and they combined to create Budapest (pronounced Buda-pesht, not pest!).
I was having a hard time paying attention since the only thing on my mind was food, but it was a great start to my stay in Budapest. After twenty minutes he was done with the history lesson and city overview and I paid for the room and put my things down. I had only eaten a banana all day and it was about 5:30pm at this point.
I asked for a recommendation on where to eat and started to head out, but I met some British guys on the way out who said there were going to the same spot in about 20 minutes if I wanted to wait. I’d waited this long so another 20 minutes wouldn’t matter.
Finally we got to the restaurant and I ordered duck and mashed potatoes. It was an amazing meal and only cost me about $8. This place was cheap, and I loved it. The food was delicious and we were told by the guy that works at the hostel that it was a traditional Hungarian restaurant.
As we sat there I saw this short, heavyset, older Hungarian guy pull out some sticks, take a cloth off what I suppose was a double decker xylophone, and start playing some music. Every time I looked over there he was smiling and it felt like he was looking right at me. It was kind of creepy since we were the only people in the restaurant, but it was funny and we enjoyed the music. After he was done with a few songs he stopped playing, said something that made us all laugh, and then we clapped for him as he took a bow.
We finished our meal, paid the bill, and headed to the ruin bars. I’d never heard of ruin bars before arriving, but they were really cool! There were some residential buildings that had been deteriorating over the years. Some smart business men decided that instead of fixing the places up and making them inhabitable again, they would just throw some decorations up and install a bar. Very smart!
The walls were crumbling, the roofs were nonexistent or only partially there, and the decorations in the bar we were in included old tv sets, bicycles hanging from the ceilings, random wires, and random paintings. We ordered a few inexpensive beers and hung out for a bit before walking around to the other bars and checking them out as well. I headed back and went to sleep.
The next day I awoke and went on the walking tour of the city. If you couldn’t tell by now… I love the walking tours! Its such a great way to get a feel for the city, learn about the history, and meet some fellow travelers along the way.
Today was hot. It was about 90 degrees, which we were told is unusual for the city. We walked around the city saw various churches, the castle, and other interesting sites along the way.
We then went to the top of one of the hills where there was some official buildings and really cool church with a colorful tile roof. I walked around a bit, got some selfies, and then headed back to get some food.
I ended up trying Budapest’s version of beef goulash, which happens to be more of a soup than a stew. It was delicious, but once again an awkward eating experience. I was one of the only people eating and about 4 employees just standing around watching me.
I went back to the hostel to plan out the next few legs of my journey before deciding to hike up a nearby hill for another view of the city. After about 20 minutes I arrived at the top where there was a massive statue and a citadel. Of course the views of the city were amazing.
Afterwards I headed to the Jewish district. It seems like every major city in Europe has a Jewish district. I had some delicious Thai food and then walked along the river to appreciate the city’s beauty at night.
I woke up the next morning knowing I had a train to catch around 2pm. I wanted to check out Budapest’s famous bath houses before I left. I looked up the closest one to where I was staying, packed up all of my stuff, checked out of my hostel, and went walked over to the Gallert bath house.
I got my wristband, locked my things in the locker, and went to the baths. There are natural springs under Budapest, which is where the water comes from. It was warm and relaxing.
I relaxed int he pool for a few minutes before heading to another nearby pool. Then I went to the steam room and almost burned myself by sitting right where the steam is pumped out of (newbie mistake). Then I went to a different set of pools. And then I found the outside pool. After that I found the sauna, which is what I’d been looking for.
A few people told me that the saunas are awesome because right after you get done in the sauna you jump into an extremely cold bath and it was extremely refreshing. This sounded like exactly what I needed.
I sat there for 10 minutes before all the pores in my body were pumping out sweat. It was time. I hung up my towel, opened the door, and climbed into the pool. It was COLD! But it felt so good I wanted to do it again.
I went back and forth between the sauna and cold bath 4 times before I had to head to the train station. I went back to the locker room. I forgot which locker I put my stuff in so I tried a few with no luck. I saw something on the wall that lets you scan your wristband and it will tell you which locker is yours. I scanned my wristband… nothing was displayed. I tried again… no luck.
I read the sign on the wall: “If nothing appears when you scan your wristband it means your locker is not locked.”
I instantly got a pit in my stomach. In my locker was my phone, my passport, my money, my credit cards and debit card, all of my clothes, and my laptop. This is not good.
I rush back over to where I thought I locked my locker, and start opening up random lockers. Empty. Empty. Empty. Yes! There is my stuff. I check my unlocked locker and everything was there! The pit left my stomach and I relaxed knowing everything was all good!
I dried off, changed clothes, packed my belongings, and headed to a grocery store to buy some supplies for the 5 hour train ride. I bought two large rolls of bread, one package of salami, one large water, some Mentos, and a can of beer (just in case the water isn’t enough). Total: $5.40. Nice!
I hopped on a tram, headed to the train station, and got on my train.
My plan for the journey: eat some food, write some blog posts, and relax.
Life had a different plan for me.
About an hour into the train ride one of the train employees comes by to check our tickets as usual. “You go bus,” he says to each of us as he checks our ticket.
Wait a second… what?
“Bus. We get bus now,” he said to some pair of friends traveling together.
Uhhh… I thought we were on a train the entire way. I purposefully look at which routes take trains and which ones take trains and busses and choose the ones that only use trains. My app doesn’t say anything about a bus on this route.
An Italian high school student studying abroad in Hungary sitting across from me explained that there was an issue with a part of the train track and that we need to get on a bus to get to the next train, which will take us to Zagreb.
Some girls behind me asked the guy checking tickets: “How long will we be on the bus?”
“Yes, bus.” he responded.
Not the most informative of answers…
The Italian kid went and talked to them. Everyone on the train was confused, but this kid was keeping us calm.
All we knew was that our entire train was about to get on some busses. We didn’t know how long we were going to be on a bus or when we would get to the next train and none of the railway employees were helpful with the answers.
The train comes to a stop. Five busses are all lined up. We all get in and are on the bus!
No one makes an announcement or tells us anything. I was laughing about the situation with a couple next to me.
We were on the bus for about an hour before we come to a stop. We are at a really small train station. People start getting off thinking we are getting onto the next train.
Nope… I guess the train doesn’t work here either!
Everyone gets back on, and we continue down the road. We are officially in Middle of Nowhere, Hungary.
I look off into the distance and see a storm. That looks cool! At least its not raining over here.
We keep driving. After three hours and two more stops we finally arrive at a train station… but that storm that previously off in the distance was currently directly overhead. I was in shorts and a t shirt and my backpack was underneath in the bus’s storage compartment.
It was time to get off the bus. The storm was dumping water on all of us below. We hectically grabbed our bags and ran through puddles from the bus to the train station.
Guess what? The train station was under construction. We all packed in under an overhang as the rain and wind combined to create a ferocious sideways wind storm directly in front of us. Then came the lightning and thunder.
It was time. I grabbed the beer out of my plastic grocery bag, cracked it open, and laughed a bit at the adventure life had thrown at all of us train passengers.
About 20 minutes later the rain moves along, the sun comes out, and the train arrives. We got on the train and start moving… very slowly.
We stop randomly every now and again in the middle of nowhere for absolutely no reason that I can see, but there is a nice rainbow out in the distance.
What was supposed to be a 5 hour train ride turned into an eight and a half hour train-bus-rain-lightning-thunder-train adventure.
Lets just say I didn’t get any blog posts done on that journey.