I left Vienna and arrived in Budapest in just 4 hours! I met David, an old friend who was a Hungarian exchange student at my high school, and we set out for a drink and some traditional goulash soup! We spent the night catching up and running away from the rain that soon began to fall. The next day I went on two amazing walking tours of the city. The first one was a general tour that covered the main sites like the massive basilica, the castle, and all of the other monuments. The afternoon tour was of the Jewish quarter. I heard about all of the ghastly persecutions and massacres of the Hungarian Jews, but also about their huge contributions to Budapest and the large role they played in Hungarian history. I met up with David and his girlfriend again later that night and we hung out with some of his friends on the Elizabeth Square, one of the only places in the city where police turn a blind eye to drinking in public.
The next day combined a lot of different emotions. I began the day visiting the House of Terror, a museum dedicated to showing the worst times in Hungarian history, the times when the Nazis invaded and thousands were murdered, then when the Soviet Union came in and enslaved many more in Gulags, and other terrifying events. I spent two hours in the museum, choking back tears the whole way through as I watched the survivors recount the horrors on video. As I stepped outside a huge weight lifted from my chest and I continued on my way to the baths.
Hungary was once part of the Ottoman Empire, so there are a few Turkish traditions that still remain. One of them is the public bath house. I went to the most famous one located in a huge park, and was culturally enlightened by the end of it all. It is not a well known fact, but I don’t really enjoy swimming or being in water, so spending two hours alone in the bath house was quite an experience. I went from sauna to hot tub, to freezing pool, to room temperature pool, to extremely hot steam room, to less hot steam room, and so forth. So many bathing options and so many old men in speedos. Never the less, I emerged relaxed and cleansed. That night I went on a pub crawl with some fellow hostel stayers! We drank carbonated vodka shots and explored the pubruins of Budapest. A few years ago some young men with an entrepreneurial spirit and a very hipster vibe decided to open bars in old buildings that were no long suited for living. The bars were a huge hit and now extremely popular amongst the tourists.
The next morning I packed my things and got on a bus to Prague!