Never Too Cold for an Adventure in Budapest
|Keleti Train Station, Budapest|
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.
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 palacsinta. Palacsinta 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.”
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.
|View of Pest|
|On the train home|