Bikes, Bridges, Bars, Baths, Budapest
After living with missionaries for a three weeks, I pulled a bit of a 180 for my stay in Budapest, and decided to live in a "party hostel". It was really cheap, and since I was alone, I figured it'd be a good way to meet other people and have some fun stuff to do.
Not a great idea.
I'd like to think of myself as a a guy who likes to have a good time, but the guys at this hostel, they were on a whole other level. They didn't just party on the weekends. They partied every. damn. night. They partied hard too, until four or five in the morning. I've never seen any thing like it. It didn't take long for me to realize, I wasn't cut out for that kind of intensity.
The experience wasn't exactly a great taste of Hungarian culture either. It was just a whole lot of American/English/Australian party culture, just moved to Budapest to take advantage of the beautiful architecture and favorable exchange rate. The events were completely artificial experiences catering to English speaking tourists. I don't think I met a single Hungarian person. In hindsight, I would have rather been timidly lost in a haze of Hungarian than part of raucous bubble of rich foreigners that came to rage all over the city.
I'm sort of ashamed to admit I participated in any of this, but I guess I learned a thing or two. Despite all of that, I didn't completely waist my time in Budapest. Time for the good parts:
Probably the best decision I made in Budapest is getting back on a bike.
Budapest is a great biking city. It's flat. It's not too hot. The traffic isn't too wild, and most importantly, the bike lanes are plentiful. I rented a bike for 25 bucks and spent my days lackadaisically cruisin around the city.
Aimlessly biking around might sound boring, but it's not. The city is littered with incredible old buildings. You don't even have to look for them. It seems like every corner you turn, you're in front of a gorgeous church or governmental building.
And once you make it to the Danube river, it gets even better. You can ride up and down the riverside, and take your pick of which Bridge to bike over. I prefer the well loved Chain Bridge, whose pillars survived the beatdown of two world wars.
I have to swallow some pride here. But biking over the Chain Bridge rivals the experience of biking over the Golden Gate Bridge. When you're in the middle of that bridge, you get one epic scoop of Budapest: the Liberty Statue), Parliament Building, Matthias Cathedral, and the neighboring Liberty Bridge).
Also, Budapest has some of the coolest bars I have ever seen. They're called ruin bars. They're huge dilapidated buildings that were ravaged by bombings in World War II. Since they were too expensive to repair, people transformed the wreckage into art and started serving beer in them.
They feel more like an art exhibit than a bar at times. One room has a hollowed out car from the 60's to sit on. Another feels like a captain's quarters. Another has dozens of 90's style computer monitors hanging from the ceiling, barely lighting the room with weird screen savers.
Being bars, they were dark. So all my pictures turned out hazy and unintelligible… You should Google them if you're curious.
On my last day, I was feeling like a hollow shell of a man. I was in need of a good place to recover, pray, meditate, and charge the batteries. It was time to take a visit to one of the renowned Budapest bath houses:
I spent the day soaking in mineral baths of varying shapes, sizes, and temperatures. I jumped into freezing cold pools, and scurried into to sweaty hot saunas. I witnessed Hungarian aquarobics. I relaxed in cozy, warm pools next to tranquil old men. I had a conversation about law with a pilot from Singapore I met on the walking tour.
I did all of this while still in the midst of some amazing Turkish style architecture.
Despite feeling a bit low to start the day off, there was only one thing I could feel after it was over...
Until next time,