Never Too Cold for an Adventure in Budapest

Keleti Train Station, Budapest
When I heard that I would have a three-day weekend due to the presentation of semester marks, I knew I had to activate the time.  As I had been reflecting on my first five months here, I had realized that I had had a lot of free time that could have been used for traveling or exploring.  So, just in time for a cold snap, I decided to go to Budapest, where another Fulbright ETA lives who offered to play tour guide and host.

4:45 AM, Friday February the third found me trudging through the bitter cold to a tram stop.  From tram stop to train station, within an hour I was on a train skimming through the shadows with another American, Erica, who had separately decided to go to Budapest the same weekend.  Our minutes were interspersed by naps and short conversation until a wait in Břeclav for a train to take us the rest of the way.  We stood, shuddered, and played a word game in Czech before happily boarding another train.  In Bratislava, a Fulbright ETA stationed in Slovakia joined our cabin, having recognized me from the platform.  The time passed quickly as did the scenery, and we exited the train in blustery Budapest.

Heroes' Square
My first couple of hours were spent in West End Mall (of all places) where I enjoyed pita and hummus and where I blindly followed my two companions (Erica and an American who lives in Budapest) through the labyrinth of shoes, bras, and makeup.  Once afternoon hit, I joined my host for the weekend at a chilly tram stop.  We left my backpack and all warm thoughts at his place before braving the streets and enjoying the well-lit Budapest-ian architecture.  The warm Hungarian meal that followed was both welcome and delicious.

The next day, it was a bit difficult to embrace the cold, but that we did.  Into the snow we went, wandering towards the House of Terror.  This museum was recommended to me three times in quick succession while at the Fulbright midterm meeting, and I couldn’t help but seek it out.  The building in which this museum exists housed both Hungarian Nazis and Communist terror organizations.   The footage of interviews with former prisoners was particularly stunning and sobering.

Detail inside St. Stephen's
 After the museum, back into the snow we went.  We sifted through the snow at Heroes’ Square and then jumped on a metro pointing towards a “Tex-Mex” restaurant.  (I have enough experience with central/eastern European cuisine to do this without guilt.)  I typically “do cities” by walking around and scoping out the architecture, however, sub-zero (Celsius) temperatures force new ways of experiencing a city—like visiting museums.  So, we sought out the obscure “postal museum.”   It was no longer permitting entrance (an hour before closing), so out we proceeded to St. Stephen’s Basilica.  Having spent most of our time in the Pest side of Budapest, we then crossed westward over/under the Danube River to Buda to view Parliament in all its well-lit splendor.  We then warmed ourselves in the consumption of palacsintaPalacsinta are like Hungarian-style folded pancakes/crepes filled with either sweet or salty goodness—I went for chicken and broccoli.
Soon we found ourselves meeting some of my host’s friends at a bar for a birthday gathering.  There were both Americans and Hungarians present; in speaking with the Hungarians, I realized how accustomed I have become to the Czech accent of speaking English.  In hearing Hungarian, I noticed some words that seemed to have similar roots to Czech, but generally I observed the pronunciation and spelling to be altogether unique.  There are some similar sounds to Czech, such as the “sh” and “ch” sounds.  They are phonetically depicted differently, however; in Hungarian, it is a “s” which calls for a “sh” sound.  Thus, Budapest is properly pronounced as “Budapesht.”

Matthias Church
Sunday greeted us with even more snow, and we had to dig our heels in a little bit to get ourselves outside and over to Castle Hill.  I am so thankful that we braved the chilly, chapping cold, for Castle Hill was to be my favorite part of Budapest.  I was first taken with the patterned tiles on top of Matthias Church.  Behind this church is Fisherman’s Bastion (a fortifying wall), which allotted a nice view of the Danube and the Pest side of Budapest.  We trotted over to the president’s residence and the castle, enjoying the architecture.  As beautiful as it all was, my chapped hands, unfeeling toes, and red nose were all eager for even the partial warmth of a Hungarian bus.  By 1:45 PM, I was on a train heading back to the Czech Republic, relishing in the sites of passing villages, children sledding, and picturesque churches. 

All in all, I was in Budapest less than 48 hours, but it left me with a hunger for more.  So come spring or summer, I hope to head southeast again to this lovely city.

Fisherman's Bastion

View of Pest

On the train home


  1. Amazing! Love to hear the details and Budapest in the dead of winter is still gorgeous and historically fascinating from all accounts! You are indeed blessed to see and experience all you are over there! Hugs!

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