Spur of the moment decisions are exciting. Even the smallest impulsive decisions seem a little thrilling. Like when you are at the grocery store and just decide to get that carton of ice cream you have been dying to try. Or you are walking past H & M and decide to just buy a cute summer dress. Or when you decide to throw caution to the wind and go to Budapest for the weekend – finances be damned! And that’s just what I did. Long story short Ginny Blair’s little sister Emma is in town and she decided to go to Budapest with her. I got a phone call about tickets on Wednesday and on Friday I was on a train bound for Budapest. I love my life!
It was a group of eight including myself. That’s seven ladies and Ben. We boarded a train on Friday afternoon for a six-hour trip into Hungary. We arrived and stumbled our way to the Hostel. The hostel was pretty nice as far as hostel’s go, and we had our own room. It felt a little like summer camp with the bunk beds and janky showers, but it was fine.
Saturday morning the gang of us made our way the huge indoor market. I was excited to go there because I have been dying for some spices, and Hungary is the birthplace of Paprika. I don’t know if I have shared this yet, but Prague is not really the “spice” capital of the world. In fact, I call it “The Land of the Bland”. Food here is like going to a restaurant that is for old folks – not to spicy. The market is enormous and filled with all sorts of meats, spices, produce and other treats. I walked away with some paprika and some yellow curry. Yum.
After the market we decided to split the group. It’s just easier that way. So it was me, Chrissy, GB, her sister Emma and Ben. We walked across the bridge to the Buda side. It was so beautiful! Our first destination was this cool church that is built into a mountain. There was a wedding going on there so we kind of snuck into the underground church. There is a network of caves in Budapest dating back to … way back. The cave was first called St. Ivan’s Cave because of some hermit who used the thermal waters there to heal the sick. The church became modern in the 1920’s and the Nazi’s even used it as a field hospital. Anyway, it’s pretty rad.
Next, we hiked up the hill. We didn’t really know what was up there, but we were pleasantly surprised when we got there. We stumbled upon the Citadel. It was amazing! The view was incredible and they even had a bathroom for me. I don’t know much about the Citadel, but it was cool. We then walked down the other side of Gellert Hill. We saw a pretty big snail.
Once we made it down the hill, we walked along the Danube towards the huge Parliament building. It’s a massive building that was completed in 1904. It took over 1000 people to work on it. It is awesome in every sense of the word. We found a cute little restaurant that looked right over the river at Parliament. Perfect. What was also perfect was the fact that this place specialized in Belgium beers. Pilsner is fine, but I am so tired of it! So was sat and all ordered different beers for tasting. Mine was called Kwak and was served in a wired contraption that made me feel cool for ordering it. It was also an 8% beer, so I had a nice little buuuuuuuuzzzzzzz.
After beers it was spa time. Our destination was the Gellert Spas, which was back where we started. We were not sure how long they were open, so when we saw a tram pass by we ran for it…you know to save time. Well, as is sometimes the case with impulsive decisions, it was a bad one. The moment we boarded the tram we saw the ticket checker guys and, you guessed it, we didn’t have tickets. They took us off of the tram and started talking to us in broken English. Chrissy and I tried to duck out the back but they caught us. Ginny Blair did her very best “dumb American” act to an audience that was not in the mood. Basically, we had two choices: we could either pay 2,500 HUF on the spot or they take us away to the police and we pay 10,000 HUF. Well, needless to say we wanted to pay on the spot. The problem was that we didn’t have money. Well, Ben did. Ben basically paid for all of the tickets. I only had 2000 on me and everyone else had nothing. Ben paid the dude and we walked off. That was the most expensive three-block journey in recent history.
We got to the spa and were ready for swimming. I cannot explain how amazing this place was. There were both indoor and outdoor pools featuring beautiful tile and stuff. The outdoor pool had a wave feature that ran every ten minutes. It was amazing to swim there. Ginny Blair and I felt like movie stars doing laps in a pool that looks like something from Dynasty. We sat in the hot pool and then quick like bunnies – hopped into the cold pool. Super fun. I kept thinking: who lives like this? Who is able to just hop a train to Budapest and spend the day with their friends in an amazing spa? Oh, me. Cool.
We went back to the Hostel to regroup, shower and stuff. We were pretty tired, but not ready to quit. The plan was to go to Pizza Hut then go to this cool wine tasting festival around the corner from the Hostel. Yes, I said Pizza Hut. It was NOT my idea…but it was also not all that bad either. It was kind of fancy and nice. We had two pitchers and two pizzas. They don’t have Pizza Hut in Prague so it felt like a treat. Anyway, it was nice.
The wine tasting festival was called the Palinka Festival. Palinka is a traditional brandy that is produced in Hungary. It is made from plums, apricots, cherries or other types of fruit and is double distilled. The alcohol content is between 60% – 80%, which explains how we got so ripped so fast. It was by far the strongest alcohol I have ever sipped. They call it the “fence – tearer” referring to the drinkers loss of balance. We didn’t know any of this when we got it though. Ben shot his and the rest of us just sipped it while looking for a wine stand.
We waded through a crowed of at least 200 people and finally found a Hungarian wine maker. Now the festival worked on a ticket basis, meaning that you buy tickets that you can use at different stands for samples. We purchased a bunch of them and headed for the wine stand. It was just like being back in the Bay area – people standing around getting drunk of fine wine…ahhhh. Needless to say we did indeed get drunk. The wine dude kept giving us free glasses of wine, making it impossible for us to spend the tickets we had already purchased. So we grouped our tickets together and gat a bottle of wine and drank that too. What a night! We had a blast.
The next day we were all a little sleepy, but we had a little more sight see-in to do. Our goal was to go to the Fisherman’s Bastian. It is this castle like building that looks out over the Danube River and Parliament. It was also a hike and a half for our little rag tag gang of hung over travelers. With a belly full of Burger King, we made our way. Again, it was stunning. The view from atop the Bastian was incredible. We sat up there for a while, counting our blessings and looking for a Gelato stand. A great day.
The trip home was actually really fun. Me, GB, Ben, Emma and Chrissy had our own compartment on the train. We kept it that way by playing very loud clapping games; you know the kind of games that you would play on the bus to summer camp. It was really fun! I don’t remember ever laughing so hard! I think the game “Big Mama” was the favorite – once it was changed to “Big Daddy” when Ben was in charge.
It was a magical trip. Traveling with friends and seeing new things; is there anything better in life? I am really glad I decided to go. Some things are more important than money – and lasting memories and bonding with friends are just a couple.