The train to Budapest was no problem, in fact I barely remember being on it. Maybe I fell asleep. That’s highly likely. I love sleeping and we were up and moving by 8am. We arrived in Budapest at about 1pm.
I immediately felt the shock that I did when I traveled over the summer: I was yet again in a country in which I knew almost none of the language. It’s thrilling, but also a little scary. This time around it wasn’t as intimidating because we were in a group with a guide.
Our tour guide in Budapest, Imre, was much more exciting and spoke to us like he would speak to anyone in German. Our first main stop, besides the main bus tour of the city, was the Great Market Hall, the largest indoor market in Budapest. There were three floors, the found floor and basement being the place to get meats and produce. The second floor was where we all headed. It was filled with souvenirs and food stands. The suggested quick lunch was a lángos, a piece of deep-fried bread with multiple toppings to choose from. Most of us went the sour cream/cheese/ham route, but there were many more toppings and also desert ones, which I made sure to try before we left. Not surprisingly, they were delicious. I think it’s pretty hard to go wrong with fried flat bread and cheese, but that’s just me.
Soon enough it was back on the bus to look around Budapest some more, mainly staying on one side of the river. For those who don’t know too much about Budapest, here’s some basics: Budapest is made up of two cities separated by a river, Buda on one side and Pest on the other (pronounced Pesht). It became one city in 1873. We headed over the Buda side and visited the Buda Castle district. We saw the Matthias Church and looked out over Budapest from the Fisherman’s Bastion (which is like a real-life sandcastle. It’s the building all sandcastles are based off of in my mind).
By the time our city tour was over it was nearing dinner time. We checked into or hotel and then headed to Borkatakoba, the restaurant we’d be eating at. We had no idea what kind of dinner we were in for.
At Borkatakomba, we were getting a huge dinner with wine, goulash, and Czarda (or Csárdás), which is traditional Hungarian folk dancing. As I said, our first course was goulash, something I’m a fan of. We also got a pickled salad type thing (not as much of a fan of pickled things) and then, what I assume was a pork cutlet with a potato-type side and sauce. At one point a man brought out a huge pot and began making something in it. Maddie was able to go up and help him stir as he added ingredients. I don’t know what it was. Someone mentioned goose liver, but who knows. I enjoyed it though. We also got some apple strudel for dessert.
Throughout the night the wine just kept coming. We started off with about 6 bottles on our table, I think it was three red and three white. Once we finished those, we figured that was it, but they just kept on rolling out the red wine. We tried to figure out how many we finished by the end of the night, but no one was really sure. It was in the double digits definitely. There was also live music and, as promised, folk dance happening. Sometimes they’d bring people up to dance with them, and everyone seemed to be having a great time doing it. At the end of the night we only had one casualty: a broken water glass. Pretty good for a 3 or so hour-long meal.
The next morning we had a slightly later start (which a few people needed I’m sure after our dinner). We were heading the the Hungarian Puszta (the Hungarian plains) to visit a ranch and potentially get some horseback riding in. Unfortunately, the actual horseback riding never happened, but we still had fun at the farm. The family who ran it was very nice and allowed us to even peak into their home. Being that we were Americans missing our pets at home, we were immediately drawn the the cats lounging around on the low rooves. We were free to wander around the farm and see what was going on. We also saw a horse show of sorts. The horses were extremely well trained. The riders would be cracking whips constantly and the horses barely even blinked at it. They would ride them in synchrony then have them stop and kneel, then sit like a dog, then finally lie down on their sides. I just never knew horses would do that. They had us take a picture with one of the horses at the end which I thought was very odd because it looked like a bunch of us smiling happily around a dead horse.
We had lunch, which was again with live music and again a meal consisting of goulash, a meat/potatoes platter, and wine. A little longer around the ranch and then we were on our way back to the city, where we’d have free time to go wherever. A few of us decided to just start walking around, heading toward the river. It was great to see the city at night. We also got some dessert: more gelato! Ice cream is one of my loves in life.
The next day we had free time. Thomas was going to go to the Turkish (I think?) baths and anyone was free to join him. There were about 8 of us who joined him. I think only two or three of us had actual bathing suits, but we managed. The Szechenyi baths were beautiful. They’re also the largest medicinal baths in Europe. It was a nice relaxing morning to have. In the early afternoon we met up at the Hungarian Parliament building and had a tour of the place. The building is enormous and would’ve taken hours upon hours to actually see the entire thing. Afterwards we had about two hours of free time, during which some of us went back to the indoor market to pick up souveniers (and I got my dessert lángos!).
We had our final Hungarian dinner in the hotel then were on our way to the train station: we were taking a night train to Krakow!
Everyone was super excited for the train and many were giddy once we got on. I was excited too, but I had been on many-a night trains over the past few months, and the magic was wearing off for me. It was nice to be with people I knew on the train though, that makes a huge difference.