Budapest: An Unassuming Easter Egg of a Country

The past several weeks have been incredibly busy, either because of small trips, cultural events, or coursework. As I may have explained before, the semester at Utrecht University is divided into two blocks of short, intensive courses, and I began the second block of courses in early November. This second block has been far more challenging than the first, and it’s difficult to not stress about being constantly behind on work. In addition, prior to this block I had already set up several short trips as well as been preparing for a visit from my parents, so times have been… busy. However, although I will still have papers and work due well into January (after having started courses back at UF again, ugh), my actual class time at Utrecht University is finally over! And, to celebrate, a couple of friends and I decided to book our last international trip before heading home for Christmas: Budapest!

On our first night my friends and I were instantly blown away by our hostel in an old mansion, and then on the first day we got up early in the morning to go to the Ecseri flea market in the outside of the city. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get any photos of it, as most of the vendors requested for their stuff not to be photographed, although—to remained unnamed—friend did sneak a single picture!

But really, the flea market made me fall in love with Budapest instantly. There was a lot of your basic stuff, like pottery and old toys and stuff, but it really felt like there was so much hidden treasure around every corner. We found old guns and swords which seemed like they were straight out of a Pirates of the Caribbean prop closet, Victorian cameras and telephones, military badges, an oil portrait of Lenin, and even some Nazi paraphernalia. So much history just nonchalantly thrown about, and nobody seemed to pay any mind.

After that we headed back into the main center and explored many of the tourist sites:

Hungarian State Opera House/Magyar Állami Operaház

St. Stephen’s Basilica/Szent István Bazilika

Matthias Church/Mátyás-templom

Fisherman’s Bastion/Halászbástya

And the many absolutely adorable Christmas markets

We did have a little bump in the road when we realized that the party we were going to that night didn’t actually exist… and that the metro was closed and it would take us an hour walk in the below-freezing temperatures to get home, but it was totally worth it when we stumbled upon Heroes’ Square, as well as Vajdahunyad Castle, which we had no idea existed.

The next morning we awoke to a gorgeous, snow-covered Pest, and quickly headed over to Buda to explore the Várbarlang Buda Castle Cave/Labrynth system.

And after another day of Christmas market exploring and toe-freezing, as well as a visit to the mega-depressing House of Terror, we checked off some final details off our bucket list by going to the Széchenyi Thermal Baths and finally warming up at one of Budapest’s famous ruin pubs.

(Yes, that’s snow on the benches)

I have visited many new places in the past five months but Budapest has easily been one of if not the most incredible. It’s kind of like falling in love with Europe all over again. Like the Czech Republic, Hungary boasts some breathtaking architecture and excellent food, while at the same time being quite rough around the edges after the Iron Curtain. Maybe it’s weird, but the rickety, 1950s-age metro cars achieved nothing more than making the place feel more charming and real.

I have another stop on my list before heading home, but I can safely say that going to Budapest was probably one of the best treats of my time in Europe. I know I sound like an annoying low-budget tourist billboard right now but, really, go there. Just do it.

Tanya xx


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