I consider traveling to be something that has to be done either by boat or a plane. That's why for trips that can be done by a short drive avoiding customs and all inclinations that you are crossing a border I have big difficulties in remembering my passport. Unlike in Finland a drivers licence is not quite enough for an ID apparently. It almost ruined my trip to Lednice-Valtice before we even got started. So, last week I took several copies of my passport and put them in all the bags that I could possibly take with me on a trip!

So, obviously during our weekend in Budapest nobody asked for any sort of ID at any point. But anyway, Budapest, a huge capital just few hours away from Bratislava, which has been "ignored" by me for an entire year. Despite my best friend having lived there and everybody around me talking how wonderful a city it is, I have consented to just using the airport services there. Perhaps that's why I haven't taken people that seriously when they've been praising the capital...

An opportunity presented itself in the form of Anni leaving. She was moving back to Finland and flying from Budapest so why not spend a last girls' weekend there! We stayed in a 2Night Hostel, right next to the Margit bridge. There were trams, metros and buses going from right in front of the hostel and the place itself was excellent. 

I'm always so surprised when I see a hostel that is actually livable. The first hostels I ever visited were all in London and they were, mildly saying, horrible. Dirty, crowded (minimum 5 people in a room), cramped and just gave me traumas. So far I have been happily surprised in all Central-European hostels, 2Night Hostel included. Me and Kristi had our own room with an extra bed, which was brilliant because Orsi needed it on Saturday. It was very tidy, the beds were comfy and the common area and the bathroom was clean. The building itself was a very pretty, old stone building with wide staircase (I have a thing for big, glorious staircases :D). For Budapest travelers, 2Night Hostel recommended!

On Saturday me and Kristi were up before 10 and knowing that the others would still take a while we took a stroll around the neighbourhood. In just half an hour I bought one pair of shoes, make-up removal stuff, a banana and obviously coffee. Kristi found a three-storey book store, in which she would've gladly moved for good.

When the others finally got up and running we headed to the Castle Hill. The castle was founded in the thirteenth century and it has had a very restless life. It has been occupied by Turks, Austrians, and at some point even actual Hungarian royalty.  

The old town on the way to the castle is very beautiful. Big court yards with the Matthias Church, named after a popular Hungarian King Mátyás. The church's roof was absolutely amazing glittering in the sunlight. Also the view of the city from behind the curch was quite nice. The area as a whole was thankfully so big that even the huge number of tourists wandering around completely lost didn't bother us.

"Look at them, ahaha!"

After the castle we were just wandering around casually, had lunch in a fish restaurant (poor Orsi who hates everything fish-related in food) and stopped for a coffee and some ice cream in a lovely square with cafés and restaurants everywhere. 

I really like Budapest because of its supply of cafés and restaurants. They are absolutely lovely and cosy and you just want to sit in them for hours just watching people go by. Bratislava should get some tips there how to make a restaurant/café so that the customers actually want to go and spend some time there. Appearance does matter. Overall the atmosphere in the city was nicely relaxed. Could be because of the 25 degrees and sunshine, but nonetheless, I enjoyed it.

Kristi almost peed her pants "IT'S A BOOK!"

We continued our relaxation in the Margit-Sziget island. It consists of lovely parks and little kiosks everywhere where you can buy the local delicacy, langos. A grease-bomb topped with cheese and sour cream. There was also a musical fountain, which every hour sprouted water in rhythm with music coming from the loudspeakers around it. Music ranging from classical to 80's pop. We had a lovely time. Although I can't remember ever having a lousy time in any park with friends, even though here we were bothered by a gypsy man scrounging for wine or cigarettes (Finns don't share!!) and a group of very loud, very rude French men. It's not just Brits who forget completely how a human should behave when they leave their own country...

There are all sorts of free tours in the big Central-European cities and on Sunday we woke up early in order to make it to the Jewish quarter tour at 10am. We made it just when the group was leaving from the starting point and thus did not have time to grab a coffee on the way. The first half an hour was quite hard with an empty stomach and no morning coffee. So when we spotted an open café on the way we "escaped" for couple of minutes to buy coffee and sausage rolls. After that the tour was much more enjoyable.  

A restaurant-van. Bookable for small groups.

As everywhere around here, Jews haven't had it easy. But neither have the Hungarians! I found it quite amusing how the tour guide used all opportunities to remind us listeners that Hungarians are losers: whatever they are about - an uprising, a war, an occupation - they try to resist but they always lose.

The most interesting parts of the tour were the three synagogas with their decorative walls. Otherwise the area was rather run down and very hipster-like. The best part was the Guzsda Udvar area, which we probably would never have found if we hadn't participated on the tour. 

It is a cramped court yard with several cool restaurants and bars and a market selling all kinds of handicrafts. The perfect place to stop at and get some souvenirs. The music that was playing around was exactly to my taste and perfect to the area: vocal trance. Some of the bars were a bit too hipster for my liking (a.k.a too messy and dysfunctional) but most were perfect if you just want to have a little break from all the walking and shopping. After the tour we returned to Guzsda Udvar to get some souvenirs and to eat. 

The sucky part came in the evening when we were leaving: saying goodbye to Anni. I'm having difficulties in registering that she actually won't be in the office any more, for me it feels like she just went for a short trip to Austria again and will be back in couple of days... Thank goodness her sister lives in Turku so hopefully I will see her again in July ;) 

It's a shame it took me so long to go to Budapest but better late than never. It's a wonderful city, much cosier and more welcoming than Vienna, for example. Cheap (even though I must admit I absolutely HATE the currency, it's useless!), versatile and very easy to get around. Do get lost in the small back streets, there you can find all kinds of cool cafés and markets that locals prefer. I am definitely going there again the first chance I get :) 


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