Before we left, I remember Brandon sending me a Buzzfeed article about '20 travel hacks'. Amongst them were the usual: 'use a glasses case to keep your cords and headphones organized', 'roll your t-shirts into travel cubes to save space', but one in particular took me by surprise. The last one, in fact. It said, 'When you leave a country, and head towards a new currency, leave your change with the homeless'. Duh, why hadn't I thought of this before. We were, for the most part, staying within the Euro zone, but without a doubt would come across a country that had it's own currency. Budapest was the first one.
We arrived at the train station, without any Hungarian Forints, no idea where our hostel was located, and shockingly enough, no wifi to figure it all out. We went to the nearest McDonalds, swindled the lady at the door to let us use their restrooms, and fought with 3 or 4 different kiosks before one accepted our cards and we caught what we believed to be a bus headed in our general direction. This, was the first - of a few times - that I almost got us arrested. Each country really has their own rules for checking tickets. In San Francisco, we can use our clipper card, or pay at the front, or use a transfer, or ask the guy next to you. Not all places in the world, as this understanding. As the officer boarded the bus, I saw him make direct eye contact with me. Maybe it was the giant backpack I shared my small seat with that gave me away. He came right up to me, I handed him my ticket, which didn't have the proper hole punches, apparently. And he proceeded to yell at my in Hungarian and point towards the door. I'm still unsure what made him change his mind, either he was feeling kind, or I got to my stop before he kicked us out. Either way, I learned quickly that not all bus rides are equal.
Ever since I can remember, I've had this obsession with the moon. "La lune, la lune, mammy!" I used to call out as a child, every time we we're outside at night. In middle school, i can remember studying the phases of the moon, as if it were the most important lesson of all. And over the years, it's become a sort of 'check' in my life. No matter where I am in the world, no matter what situation has been thrown my way, as long as I look up, and the moon is there, there is no ego, no pain, just la lune. When we arrived at our hostel, 'Full Moon Design Hostel' I felt right at home. Our hostel was clean, and colorful, and it had a kitchen, and laundry, and the most exciting part of all - there was a club downstairs so we didn't have to go very far to party. Morrison 2.
We spent our first full day wandering through town, across the Széchenyi Chain Bridge which spans the river Danube between Buda and Pest. We walked up the cobblestone streets, through secret gardens and up to the Fisherman's Bastion. There are seven turrets in the fortress, to represent the seven Hungarian tribes who founded the present day country in 895. The entrance and balconies are free to roam, and a cafe on the terrace housed some adorable couples having an afternoon café or an early evening glass of champagne. Protected by the guild of the fisherman during the Middle Ages, the Bastion is well deserving of it's own special towel atop Buda Castle Hill, as it boasts views of Buda Castle as well as Danube riverfront and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge.
After scouring the towers of the fortress and pretending to be trapped in nearly every corner, we followed the crowd behind the castle through some incredible gardens, and crossed some seriously questionable bridges into Budapest castle. Now I know why they call this place a fortress. It took us longer to figure out how to get down than I'd like to admit, but in our defense, the elevator was broken and a lot of the exits were dead ends.
The next day, we took a walking tour, in which we ended being the only guests, and it rained. But it made for a pretty magical day in the end. I was feeling a bit under the weather and was trying everything not to let a cold ruin our trip. At the end of a long walk filled with historical horrors and the pitter patter of rain drops, we finally reached the thermal baths.
Although there are many thermal baths in Budapest, the Széchenyi thermal bath is the largest medicinal bath in Europe. It's water is supplied by two thermal springs. It may look like a baroque palace, but it's a great place to relax and enjoy the healing waters. Through the summer the Széchenyi bath stay open late allowing for some pretty incredible night swims, and on Saturdays some epic pool parties. On my worst days, I think about this moment and it still brings a smile to my face. One of those moments you touch, you connect, and you get lost in the moment. At the end of the swimming pool is another warm pool with 106°F waters. No matter the time of year, you will always find men playing chess in the steaming water. After 20 minutes or so, we went inside to check out the 15 indoor pools, each with their own size, temperate and character. Should you be brave there are even a few cold water pools, I skipped over those happily.
During our soggy walk home, we stumbled upon a few more historical landmarks and a pretty incredible meal. Then we headed to the airport and introduced Brandon to the duty free shop and an incredible small RyanAir airplane. See you in the morning Roma.