Looking back, Budapest was my second favourite city on this trip. But I wouldn’t have guessed it, the way the trip started …
The drive into Hungary is a bit sticky and a little angry.
“Sticky” because, as the bus is pulling away from our first rest stop of the trip – and we’re still in Poland at this point – I accidentally spill a bottle of Pepsi over part of my skirt, and the floor underneath my seat, narrowly missing another tour-mate’s belongings.
(This also doesn’t help me shake my unofficial reputation amongst some of my travel-mates as the disorganized, spill-prone tourist. Yes, I am the comedy relief.)
“Angry”, because when we pull up to the next rest stop – just inside the Hungarian border – and one of my tour-mates, whose bladder is practically busting and HAS to use the facilities, is stopped by the angry Hungarian rest-stop owner, who comes out of the building yelling and waving and prevents her from going inside.
It seems our poor bus driver has parked in the “wrong” spot, prompting the owner to shout and whistle at him to move the bus. And, as it happens, the bathrooms aren’t located inside the rest stop, but at the side of the building. And they’re not in the best condition.
One of my other tour-mates later recalls getting yelled at by a supermarket cashier when we stop for lunch, because he tries to pay at the check-out with Euros, only to be sternly told, “No Euro!” When he insists he doesn’t have anything else to pay with (they take credit, as it turns out), she apparently gets really huffy with him.
At this point, I almost wonder if Hungarians should be re-named Angarians. So angry …
This is temporarily forgotten when we finally arrive in Budapest. We first stop at Hősök tere (Heroes’ Square in Hungarian) and snap some photos. Then it’s over to Halászbástya (Fisherman’s Bastion), which resembles probably any castle you’ve seen in a Disney movie. The building is pretty, as are the views.
We are finally driven to the hotel we’re staying at, on the Pest side of Budapest (and, unlike the previous two cities, relatively closer to points of interest). The triple room Lauren, Angela and I are staying in is huge. And the meal we have for dinner is, I think, pretty good (although from what I hear, the bartending staff needs to take a semester’s worth of classes in the hospitality department).
Soon, it’s time for a bit of a night outing. One group wants to find an internet café, some ice cream (a staple on this surprisingly hot trip) and maybe a nice drinking establishment. The other group wants to also find ice cream. But not just any ice cream. According to a tour-mate’s guide book, there’s a place called Butterfly, located up at Oktogon.
I end up going with the second group, thinking I can return to the hotel in enough time to (a) call a friend of a friend, a Canadian ex-pat working and living in Budapest, to make plans to meet up the next day and (b) catch up with the first group, since I want in on the internet café and the drinking.
My plan doesn’t work. It takes us about a half-hour just to walk up to Oktogon (and my companions aren’t exactly jazzed about their surroundings – which they describe as “dodgy” and “scary” – despite there being five of us travelling together. It’s really just kind of dingy). We look for Butterfly (and the long lineups that apparently accompany it), but to no avail. It also doesn’t help that none of us thought to get the address.
On the way back, we stop at the McDonald’s so a couple people can get something to eat. By the time we return to the hotel, the first group has long since left, and I have a pulsating headache, likely from the heat.
I call my friend’s friend, who answers and mentions that he was on his way out to meet friends, and if I wanted to join them. Me from 45 minutes ago might’ve been up to the challenge; Me with the headache (and no sense of direction) opts to pass and plans to call him tomorrow.
So while group number one enjoys their time at the Old Man’s Pub, I have a quiet night in, involving hand-washed laundry and sleep.