This week I’d like to tell you about a trip I took to Budapest, Hungary this past weekend with a big group of my study abroad friends.
As I boarded the plane late Thursday night I was filled with excitement to see a place I had only ever read about in books and magazines. Although I hate to say this, Hungary was a country I knew very little about before my visit. To my surprise as the taxi drove us from the airport to the place we would be staying for the next three nights the scenery didn’t look all that different from Brussels or the United States even (although it was already dark out and somewhat hard to see).
Eager to get an early start, my friends and I awoke and rushed out the door to take full advantage of our short two days in Budapest. Our first mission of the day was to see the Gellert Baths and the park surrounding them on the Buda side of the river. A fun fact I learned right before my trip is that Budapest is actually split into two different sides. The Danube River separates the Buda side of the city from the Pest side. Although it seems quite confusing, it’s much like Portland in the sense that the Willamette separates Portland into east and west. Which side of the river is your school on in Portland? and do you all live on the same side?
After exploring the Gellert Baths area (which, much to our dismay, ended up being a hike up a large hill) we trekked along the river to Castle Hill, where there is an old palace and a few churches upon a hill. The Buda side of the river is very hilly, much like SW Portland near OHSU. There was one church that was absolutely spectacular! I think it was my favorite so far, and that’s saying something since I’ve seen over 30 churches during my time in Europe! After adequately exploring the big sites of the Buda side we ventured across the river on one of Budapest’s most famous bridges, Chain Bridge. It is one of many that cross the Danube from Buda to Pest, but certainly one of the prettiest. Which Portland bridge is your favorite? I quite enjoy the steel bridge!
On the Pest side of the river we encountered a number of spectacular sites, from the largest synagogue in Europe, to markets selling Paprika (Budapest’s most famous export) and souvenirs. My favorite meal in Budapest was from a little vendor at a market very close to our apartment. I order a chicken skewer, which was served with diced and seasoned (with paprika I’m guessing) potatoes on the side and mulled wine to drink. Mulled wine seems to be a popular drink in Europe in the winter, much like apple cider in the US. It was an excellent meal!
The second day was probably the biggest learning experience for me. One of the girls I was traveling with has grandparents from Hungary. They immigrated to the US when Hungary was under Communist rule and day-to-day life was difficult. Because of this she was interested in visiting a museum called The House of Terror. Although it sounds like a haunted house, it is something quite scarier. It is a museum about the various government systems that have ruled over Hungary. It begins just before the Nazi occupation of WWII and details the various governments that led Hungary. Hungary has witnessed a number of regimes that were very scary for its people. There are many records of families going missing in the middle of the night because they supposedly said something against the government. It was a very unsafe place to live and the people were very oppressed by the different dictators and regimes that held power over them and their country.
Another thing Budapest is very famous for are the baths. Budapest has a series of natural, mineral baths that people visit to swim in and relax. They are said to be rejuvenating because of the natural mineral content of the water. The idea reminded me a great deal of the hot springs I used to visit in Idaho as a kid. Have you ever been to hot springs? What did you think? We were fortunate enough to visit one of the baths (the Lukacs Baths on the Buda side) at night. It was so soothing and warm! It was basically a giant hot tub with really cool underwater lights! It was definitely my favorite experience in Budapest and something I will remember forever.
How are you guys staying warm in the approaching winter cold? Are you all getting excited for Thanksgiving!?
I hope you have a great week!