The Eastern Europe Diaries: Budapest, Hungary

While traveling through eight countries in Europe this summer, I kept a pretty detailed diary. Over several entries, I will share that journal with you. Enjoy!

July 21, 2016

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Szechnyi Baths in Budapest, Hungary. So beautiful. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Budapest, Hungary!

Slept 12 hours last night, and was still tired when I awoke, no doubt because it was 1 a.m. Central Standard Time in the states! I am enjoying that “off” feeling of jet lag and the sense of planting my feet upon new soil.

The apartment & AirBnB host I selected are great. Just what I need: $60 for my stay of a few nights, a comfy bed with a noticeably tiny comforter (everything is smaller here), a desk, a closet for my belongings, and a large, arched window overlooking a dog park. Robi, my host, tried his best to help me book a train for Saturday to Romania, as the site was partially in Hungarian and not translated for lowly, single-language english speakers like me! But after navigating the complex site, at the last moment I couldn’t recall my Verified by Visa password, and I wound up locked out of my account. Yikes.

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The view from my AirBnB rental, in Budapest, Hungary, An off-leash dog park appears in the foreground, and a mall appears in the background. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

I am going to try to get to the train station today to buy a ticket to Baia Mare, Romania, for Saturday.

Robi’s apartment and my AirBnB is near a bunch of grocery stores and food stands galore, shopping malls and ample people watching. It is outside the city center but still has that city vibe, so it’s ideal for taking a break from the tourist throngs.

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Near my AirBnB rental, a senior couple goes for a stroll in a park. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Also, there is a cozy little stone-walled bar with an outdoor patio just a block away.

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The darling little bar down the street from my AirBnb. I wanted so badly to go. But sometimes, being alone, I can’t push myself to endure an empty table. So, I never actually stopped here. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Robi tells me he does not drink, and I have noted he is very quiet and organized. It’s the kind of place where if you leave a crumb, he will notice, no doubt. I’ve had many hosts who are particular in my years of travel, many of them with a detail-oriented, almost obsessive personality, and it always makes me wonder how they can handle the disruptive nature of hosting a steady stream of international guests. There is not a crumb in Robi’s fridge, not an ounce of food, and I wonder what he eats. At great length last night upon my arrival, he explained notable sites, transport, apartment quirks and rules, etc. He was incredibly helpful.

I popped out for groceries for dinner and other needs, and came home with $12.50 USD worth of groceries – a good value – for a loaf of whole grain bread, two types of sandwich meat (salami and ham), grapes, tomato, eggs, 2 bags of chips, 1 bottle of wine, vegetarian pate, and I think that is all. It is budget friendly, which is a primary concern during long-term travel. Eating out every meal of every day is not sustainable over a month. Not for my budget, anyway!

I will make an omelet tonight for dinner, cooking on the cute, tiny stove in the snug kitchen.

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Appliances in Europe and elsewhere are typically far smaller than the appliances we have in the U.S. This is a standard stove size, and it works beautifully. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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Eggs with super golden yolks, purchased at a store in Budapest, and destined to be my dinner, which I prepared at my AirBnB. Note that eggs come in a 10-pack, not a dozen. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

I am currently at the Budapest Opera House, awaiting the 2 p.m. English tour. Very excited! Then I will proceed to the train station to purchase a train ticket for Saturday, I hope! I have not seen a single public restroom yet. Where do people go? It is like New York City in that way.

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Tour groups get an overview in the Opera House in Budapest, Hungary. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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An ornate ceiling at the Opera House in Budapest, Hungary. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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Our english-speaking tour guide in Budapest, Hungary. For Americans who haven’t traveled internationally much, it may be surprising to note that english translations are often marked by the British flag, not the American one. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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A grand staircase at the Opera House in Budapest. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

On my walk, I saw a few homeless people in a urine-stained passageway, with their canine companions, sleeping on the cold stone floor. Police in fluorescent vests were chatting some of them up.

I am clearly in the touristy area currently as I stroll around the city; Gucci stores and expensive Parisian-style cafes and on/off buses. There are lots of people here to talk you out of your money, just like in the states. I prefer the relatively quiet apartment neighborhood, as usual. Prices are better, and there are no hawkers, so I am free to wander unencumbered.

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Budapest, Hungary. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

July 22, 2016

Travel makes you ask questions. Why don’t we sell eggs in 10-packs in the US? Why must they be a dozen? Why must they be white shelled and whisper clean?

Why must everything we have be two times the size of what it is here: the fridge, the dish washer, the laundry machine?

Why must we drink giant coffees rather than petite ones?

No one hands out plastic bags at the Spar grocery; everyone totes their items in a bag they’ve brought. Why aren’t we there yet?

Why don’t we have a water gauge that spins wildly to show us how much water we’re using when we flush the toilet, or use the sink?

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Travel makes you question things, like, why can’t we see how much water we’re using? It seems an effective tool for conservation. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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The Opera House was so divine, so ornate. A smoking room where young couples could meet, a beautiful, royal balcony, a 20-karat gold-plated auditorium – no kidding! – where we heard two songs performed by a soprano as we sat on a winding staircase, her voice echoing off the high ceilings.And a bathroom. Oh, one must not forget the importance of a bathroom when traveling.

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A beautiful soprano sings two songs to the tour group, as we sit on a grand staircase. Summer is off season for the Opera House, so this was our only chance to get a sample of the great, and affordable performances they provide. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

I spent a good amount of time resting my weary feet at the grand park behind Heroes Square yesterday. They had a giant “trampolin” or trampoline, and I watched the children play. One was having an epic meltdown, pounding her father with angry fists and yelling. Men had hung their backpacks on a nearby tree and stripped down to their swim trunks for heated games of ping pong! The eldest was dressed unapologetically in a Speedo, in all his glory!

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In all his glory, a ping pong player prepare for a match in Budapest, Hungary. Coming straight from the bathhouse nearby, this mode of dress is acceptable by local standards. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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Ping pong in the park behind Heroes Square, Budapest, Hungary. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

I had wine, bread, and pate for dinner and went to bed by nine. Beautiful! Then I was up at 1 a.m. with jet lag. Not so beautiful. After a long while I faded off again with a lightening storm brightening the bedroom periodically. I dreamt of old friends, long gone…but are they?

Today I hope to go to the hot spring baths for which Budapest is famous, and the Grand Market Hall. I’m very excited. I walked perhaps too much yesterday, my feet are tired and blackened. I walked Andrassy Ut. with all the fine shoppes and expensive cafes, also Kiraly Ut. I bought my train tickets at , Nyugati Pályaudvar, the western train station.

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The cavernous western train station in Budapest. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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The timetable at the western train terminal in Budapest, Hungary. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
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People board trains in Budapest, Hungary. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

I will depart from there tomorrow, a cavernous train station that feels classic, somber and functional. I will change trains once, then arrive in Romania late. I’m hoping I can find my hotel. The booking site promised use of a bike, and I’m very excited for that. Biking in Romania!

My itinerary is aggressive, yet it is odd having one foot in Hungary and other in Romania and a hand in Austria…like a global game of twister. But I know I’ll be back to this city to round out my trip, and will enjoy more of it then.

I’m so glad I packed light dresses, which is primarily what the women wear here. Some wear flip flops, but for the most part they wear flats or sandals.

I have not spend a dime out to eat since Minneapolis, where I indulged in an unnecessary extravagance of a bowl of high-end ramen. It was delicious, and I ate it because the airline said no dinner would be served. And then, while on the flight, dinner was served. The vegan meal they provided was a bit odd on Air France: a lentil/rice ball with blackened greens and steamed carrots. It would have sufficed, however. Ah, well, I’ll budget now.

Breakfast was scrambled eggs with bright orange yolks that poured like gold from their brown shells. I added in chopped tomatoes, and served it all with grapes: thicker-skinned, smaller and with seeds, very different from the cultivated, carefully formulated grapes we get in the states. Drank stovetop coffee from a ceramic McCafe mug without a handle. It made me laugh.

I could barely figure out how to use the coffee pot. Everything is an adventure.

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Scrambled eggs in Hungary, with beautiful, golden yolks. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

There are many homeless here. One woman I saw in the metro station caught my eye. She had two black eyes, as if she’d been beaten up. She and her companions smelled strongly of bodies unwashed. So much to process.

 

Stay tuned. More to come! 

Charish Badzinski is an explorer and award-winning travel and food writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, providing strategic communications, media relations and writing support to individuals and organizations.

Find Charish on Twitter: @charishb

Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

 

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