(January 30th-February 2nd)
I went to Budapest, Hungary this past weekend with some other Rome Start girls. We booked our tickets the middle of last semester for really cheap, and we didn’t really know much about the city. Sometimes we book on impulse (motivated by cheap airfare) and in this case it worked out in our favor. People call Budapest the “Paris of the East” and I don’t know if it can be put on the same spectrum of Paris, but it’s equally amazing in it’s own ways. We flew in early Friday morning and spent the day wandering around trying local foods at the Great Market Hall, and soaking our feet in the rain filled streets. We found our way to the iconic Chain Bridge but at the fear of getting trench foot we decided to hide out in a little bakery for a while (maybe that’s a tad dramatic). The architecture in Budapest is enough to keep you enthralled as you wander the streets, and that was how I wanted to spend my time in Budapest; staring at the buildings and marveling at their structures including all the history that lies within the city. There were countless monuments, plaques and memorials associated with many of the main attractions where we were most often. When we branched out from the most popular areas, we found little streets filled with Hungarian people going about their every day life.
We didn’t completely fill our days with activities just so we could appreciate being in the city itself without rushing from museum to museum. Part of our long walk through the city led us to the Pest side of the Danube River. There is a memorial called the Shoes on the Danube Promenade and it is subtlety placed but certainly a powerful dedication to the lives lost in Budapest during WW2. There are 60 pairs of cast iron shoes from the time period that are attached to the stone; many of the shoes have objects like candles or flowers near them. I am fascinated by WW2 and it’s one of my favorite subjects to study in history, so to be in Europe and have these opportunities to see the places that I’ve learned about my whole life, has been a great chance to learn even more in the original setting of the tragic events.
Castle Hill is also a very important area, and it was quite the trek up to the top with the stairs covered in a mixture of slush and snow but definitely worth the views. At the top we actually met a large group of students traveling from John Cabot University here in Rome, which was cool running into them all the way in Hungary. A large group of other JFRC students went to Budapest this weekend too, so we ended up seeing them in various places all over the city –another cool thing about traveling with a lot of people in several parts of Europe.
The thermal baths were incredible. We went to the main/most popular/largest ones, that were called the Széchenyi Baths. We lazily floated, swam and mostly sat, chatting in the warmth for hours. We arrived in the mid-afternoon so we were able to experience them both during the day and at night. When it did get dark, the lights came on and our hair turned frosty because of the added crispness to the air. We continued to sit and enjoy just like people have been doing for centuries. That evening we finished our trip with a wonderful Spanish meal at Pata Negra, in good proximity to our hostel. We shared tapas and toasted to a successful weekend in a new country!
PS: “Budapest” by George Ezra was played on repeat the entire weekend.