Hungry for Hungary

May 13
We left Poland, crossing the border into Slovakia, stopping for lunch at this rustic little rest stop along the road in the Donovally area. We all run into the toilets, much to the woman’s dismay behind the counter. Normally we have to pay to use the toilets everywhere so this was a treat because when your bladder is bursting, it’s not too fun looking for change at the bottom of your luggage. You even have to pay to use the toilet in bars you are patrons at.

the tour guide is required to stop for at least 45 minutes if her drives for more than 4 hours in a day, so Carlos is taking a load off

We continued to drive through the Slovakian countryside, enjoying the hills and the rape seed fields everywhere. We didn’t stop anymore in Slovakia though and pushed through to Hungary, arriving in Budapest around 4. We had huge hostel room dilemmas with some very prissy people on our tour refusing to sleep in a hostel room with two people that they didn’t know, so we ended up trading just to sort it out and let them shut up.

our not-so-bad hostel

Fed up, we just wanted to spend the evening alone so went out for falafel at this place that was recommended in our book and was conveniently a 10 minute walk from our hostel.

Church (or something?) next to falafel place

It was amazing, they just give you the pita and you put whatever you want in it. The area around our hostel was so hip and student-filled. We found some absolutely fabulous bars that were perfect for us and places we would go if back home. Hungarians are so trendy and beautiful that it’s fairly unreal. We went to a place called Szimpla that looks like a garage from the outside until you go in and it’s the biggest bar you’ve ever seen with live music, cool graffiti filled room with vintage furniture and even a car that you can sit in while sipping your delightful Hungarian beer.

from our photos you can’t tell how busy the place was. It was just huge! there were at least 15 different rooms through out the warehouse of a bar.

We also went to Kaplung, which was so relaxed and had free wifi and people just showed up on their bikes with their puppies after going to art gallery openings down the street. We were in love. I swear if I spoke Hungarian, I would move to Budapest in a flash. Ellie’s great-grandpa is actually from Hungary, we found out when we called her mom that night.

Kelly in front of the Opera house on our way bck to the hostel

After a few beers, we walk back to our hostel around 11 just in time to check out Kristine doing some karaoke to Cher in the hostel bar and then we turn into bed for an early morning of sightseeing.

May 14th

The next morning, we wake up early, eat more shitty bread and cheese, make sandwiches for lunch out of the bread and cheese. We head towards the synagogue which is the second oldest synagogue in the world and the largest in Europe. It was absolutely stunning, we peeked in the main room, but didn’t do the tour to save money.

After the synagogue, we headed down to Danube River that cuts Budapest into two parts, the Buda side and the Pest side. The Buda side is the bit that has the older sights, like Castle Hill and the Citadel. The Pest side is where we were staying and has the cool bars, universities and residences. Buda was not a disappointment though as we hiked up to the top of Castle Hill, taking the view, peeking our head into the art gallery that used to be the castle and enjoying how absolutely breathtaking Budapest is, both agreeing it’s the best place we’ve been so far.

cathedral on our way to Buda

the ORIGINAL Bridge of Lions

some views from the bridge between Buda and Pest

Budapest Castle

on the way up the hill

At the top of Castle Hill:

The citadel

After walking around, exhausting ourselves we took the metro, after some a Hungarian couple gave us free metro tickets, to the thermal baths. The yellow metro line we rode was the oldest metro system on continental Europe!

The entrance to the Baths

Once at the thermal baths, we were so excited, changing in our private cabins and then taking full advantage of the different temperature baths and the waterfalls that gave massages, as well as the indoor pools and jacuzzis and the sauna. It was so fun and different, but very much like a community pool housed in an absolutely huge and fantastic building. It was one of the coolest things I have ever done.

we saw our far share of speedos

We took the metro back to our hostel, got more falafel and went to dinner with the group and got a beer to keep them company. We went back to Kaplung for some more beers and wifi and headed home, wishing we could stay in Budapest longer, but knowing we’ll come back someday.

The next day, we left Budapest and continued on en route to Croatia, but we stopped first for a swim on Lake Balaton, enjoying the sunshine and the freezing water.

Lake Balaton is sometimes called Hungary’s ocean, because it’s huge and looks like an ocean. We played catch with a ball with the group before saying good-bye to Hungary and heading to the Croatian border.


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