Budapest Day 1 - July 1 Happy Canada Day! I wore my t-shirt with the flag on it during our travel day in honor of the occasion (thanks, Beacon Hall!).
We checked out of the hostel in Vienna and caught an 11:54 train to Budapest, which took about 3 hours. This was my first train ride of the trip, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was reasonably priced, compared to flying, even without a Eurail Pass- I paid 36 Euros. We arrived at Keleti station at 3 pm and were immediately greeted by several men and old ladies consecutively asking us if we needed a nice hostel...ummm so you can lock me in your dungeon or watch me while I sleep? No thanks.
Nothing is in English, and no one speaks English here. It's quite overwhelming, this is the first Country I've been in where nobody speaks my language and I don't know any of theirs. We managed to figure out which way the exit was, amid other travelers clutching their belongings tight--Keleti confirmed earlier comments that theft is common in Eastern Europe. I was not getting a good vibe from this place, even though I was trying really hard to like it.
We navigate the subway, which is indicated by a rough sketch on a piece of plywood with an arrow...yeah, Im feeling great about this place so far. A one-way fare costs 320, but all we have are 10,000 notes. which the ticket lady and the machine both will not take. I guess the bank likes to get rid of them so they spit them out of the ATM at tourists like us to deal with. It took a trip to an exchange booth and a stop at McDonalds before we had proper denominations of Forints that were usable.
Speaking of. I have had McD's in every city so far, and this may become a tradition--not gonna lie, it's kind of fun to try the local specialty, it's dirt cheap, and you probably won't die from eating it. Although the security guard standing at the door didn't do my sense of security any favors. Is this a target for tourists here? Can I trust you with my life here, Ronald?
We finally found the hostel, which is essentially a 3-bedroom apartment. Really nice. And so different than our last hostel. This is family-owned; they did our laundry for us! And they only staff reception from about 9-5. The rest of the time, we're on our own. There are no locks on the doors, but we have codes to the gates and outer doors. Interestingly enough, I actually feel like my stuff is safer here than in Vienna, I guess I trust this family? May be a terrible life decision, so I'm still being careful and using the locker provided.
So. After we check in, we relax for a bit before getting ready to meet up with some guys from Manchester that the boys had met earlier on their trip. They're in Budapest at the same time but in a different hostel. We trekked over to their hostel (which was like a mexican cantina party--salsa lessons, a pool, and a cabana bar full of goth locals--such a weird and random combination!) and hung out there from about 10 pm til 1:30 am.
Then we hit the club. This place, INSTANT, had 6 bars and 23 rooms. No cover charge, and beer was 350 Forints. The exchange rate is 189:1. So less than 2 bucks for a pint? Don't mind if I do!
We headed down the stairs and emerged in an underground cavern that used to be an old wine cellar. In Budapest many of the bars are "ruin pubs", old ruins that have been converted into popular night spots. It's hard to describe the feeling that came with being in a place like that, knowing its age and history in those walls, seeing the scene of writhing bodies in front of me, just completely lost in the music of the DJ, knowing how lucky I am to be here, experiencing moments like this. It was just a fleeting feeling, but those are why I am on this trip. That's what I seek.
We explored the rest of the club, which included a top 40 room, a bar with seating, and plenty of random alcoves, but the underground techno extravaganza was definitely the highlight. Even the DJ was getting pumped just looking at how much the crowd was into the moment.
We danced til the sun came up...it was about 6:30 am by the time we hit the sack.
Today we are going on a walking tour of Buda (Fun fact, Budapest is actually 2 cities separated by the Danube River--Buda, and Pest).
Also, random observation: public washrooms in Hungary are not fans of toilet paper. Another strike against Eastern Europe. Thank god for Shopper's travel section--I knew that roll would come in handy.