I love adventures, experiencing different cultures, trying different things and going off the beaten track while I travel. I have never been on a mini Europe trip so I spent hours planning routes and looking up destinations. Finally, after hours of endless searching on Google we settled on Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava, Berlin and Nice. Nice was thrown in for the heat and ‘glam factor’.
We decided to fly in “style”, so chose the wonderful no frills airline ‘Ryanair’, being on a tight budget we only had hand luggage. I stuffed all my travel essentials into my tiny suitcase and headed towards the boarding gate. At which point I was told that my suitcase was too big. Determined not to pay the outrageous hold luggage fee I squeezed all my belongings and decided to wear the rest, I looked like an Eskimo in three tops and a jumper. But, my luggage fitted in the slot and I was free to board the plane.
We touched down in Budapest on a humid Friday evening in late October and absorbed all the delights of the airport. It was so tiny you could never get lost. Being in a hurry we forgot to change money to Hungarian Fonts, luckily I had a few Euros left over from my Turkey trip. We made our way to the bus designed to take those on a budget to the city. As we hopped on the bus and drove into the city I was mesmerised by the sheer beauty of the city. I fell in love with the huge old style buildings and the river. Our hotel was a little out of the city, well a 15 minute tram journey away and the room was cosy to say the least. We were determined to explore the city and I was delighted to learn that the trams were 24 hour. When will they introduce 24 hour transport in London?
We walked along a huge bridge which reminded me of the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC, but obviously a lot shorter and less pretty. We walked from the Pest side to the Buda side and saw Gellart Hill, the chapel and the palace. I had no idea the city was split into two sections, trust us to spend our first night in the wrong side of town. We started of our Friday night journey in the posh side of town and were greeted by glamorous looking men and women. I was in heaven and more than happy to admire the well-dressed men as they sauntered past. Upon our adventures this night we walked up to the chapel, where we were informed that ‘sanctification’ was taking place in the morning and it was open to the public. I have no idea what sanctification involves, but the chapel looked very pretty. We carried on our journey and ended up outside a place called Moulin Rouge. I must be forgiven for thinking we might see a burlesque or cabaret show. Boy was I disappointed to discover that the clientele was largely the over 40s and it was a disco playing cheesy music. One Direction isn’t my music choice for a Friday evening. The night was young and we were determined to find somewhere cool to hang out and people watch.
Hunger got the better of my companion and we ended up in a Hungarian fast food joint in the student neighbourhood. The people of Hungary don’t seem to understand the concept of fresh food. Chips made at 4pm and reheated do not qualify as being fresh. I hate soggy chips and was glad I wasn’t hungry. The surly chap at the counter practically threw the chips at us and looked aghast when I asked for fresh chips. “They are fresh we made them today”.
Our night took us to an old man’s bar, where all the men were, well very old and in need of Zimmer frames, their pace makers hit a high when they spotted women under the age of 40. Not wanting to be desired by a granddad we decided to make a quick sharp exit out of the place. Our next stop was a hidden gem, an Iranian restaurant called Shriraz which was still serving food after 1pm and had the best mint tea I have ever sampled. We sipped our tea and scanned the room and watched a ‘Godfather-Playboy’ old man surrounded by a bevy of scantily clad females. The man had game and the women were eating out his hands. He stood out a mile, dressed in a velvet jacket, snake print shoes and a moustache that you just wanted to twirl around in your fingers. We watched as the women got up and put on a belly dance show like no other. The women moved their bodies like a snake and I was in a trance. I never expected that I would have witnessed a belly dancing show in a Persian restaurant in Budapest and be in the company of the Iranian mafia. The night was still young and we joined the dancers in a shisha café in the centre of the town. Here we listened to Arabic music and watched the people dance to the beat of the music.
One of the must things to do in Budapest is to visit the Baths or Spas. We attempted to visit the spas and baths twice and both times we arrived too late and were politely told to go away. Note for future, always check the closing times. However, on our lonely road back to our hotel we stumbled across a murder film shoot for a Hungarian TV show which is ‘way’ cooler than a Spa. We gate-crashed the set and watched the excitement as bystanders. After half an hour of watching the same scene over and again we got itchy feet and decided to carry on with our adventure.
With swollen ankles from far too much walking and constant harassment to buy an IPhone 5, of the local Gypsies, we decided to look for a massage parlour. We spotted a Thai place and quickly negotiated a good deal, 15 minute massage for 1000 Font, about £3. My cousin took her position in the massage seat and we were treated to 15 minutes of ‘scream and shrieks’ of pain as the lady got to work. Our other companion got her back cracked for free. What a bargain and they even offered us free water and sweets.
Another must do thing in Budapest is to visit the Opera or theatre. In no other country can you watch the Opera for about £2. Okay we got standing tickets and were meant to stand for the four hour show, but, as soon as the guard turned her back we perched our bottoms on one of the spare seats. I am not a huge Opera fan and I can’t understand Hungarian so I was a little lost as to what on earth was going on. After about 40 minutes of struggling to follow the plot we decided to quietly leave and instead explored the Opera house and took loads of pictures.
Our journey out of Budapest was not a simple one. We made our way to the train station and struggled to buy our ticket. How hard can it be to buy a ticket? Apparently, it’s not an easy task in Budapest. We took a chance and boarded the train without a ticket. I was woken with a loud shout and jolt by the burly ticket officer who demanded to know where our tickets were. We were lost for words and searched our purses to see if we could scrape together the money for our tickets. Damn it, we were a few Euros short so had to get off at the next stop, a tiny place called Gyor. Modern technology was lost at the station and we had to wait over 15 minutes for the ticket lady to issue us an old school style ticket. I had not seen this style of ticket for about 10 years. We managed to walk around the pretty and scenic town of Gyor in about 30 minutes. Alas, our trip to Budapest was over and we were on our way to Vienna and Bratislava for some adventure.