The Grand Budapest Hostel

In the British university system, there is a “reading week” each term. It’s like spring break, but it’s cold and students are expected to do work. I had to go somewhere, even though I was working part of the week. I had three days and some change to spend somewhere nice.

After exploring prices, airlines, and places, I landed upon Budapest, Hungary. I was told it was beautiful and worth it, so I booked my first Ryanair flight and a private room in a well-reviewed hostel.

I knew Ryanair was one of the worst airlines in existence, but I didn’t think of myself as vulnerable to ridiculous over-charges. Somehow, the name on the ticket was wrong, and because I noticed more than 48 hours after booking, I had to pay a fee that was greater than the cost of the flight.

Once I got over that ordeal, I was pumped to take on the city of Budapest.

I took the national express bus to Stansted airport and arrived a few hours later in my first continental European country since arriving in London.

I was tired, but the weather was nice, and I wanted to make the most of my time. I decided to book a session in the Széchenyi baths.

I made my way in that direction, stopping for photos in heroes square and eating (very cheaply) at a vegetarian cafe.

The baths were warm and packed with loud young people (and loud older people, too). I felt like I was being followed by a particular group of obnoxious Australians, so I relocated. I stayed for as long as I could handle it because I paid to be there, but there’s only so much “bathing” one can do. It was very cold getting out of the hot water and into the cold air, and I also made the rookie mistake of wearing no jacket when I left the hostel that afternoon.

I made my way back, stopping at a tesco to buy tea, chocolate, snacks, and a Diet Coke for the night – all super cheap.

The next morning, I made (and dropped) eggs before heading up the hill for my “urban hike.”

I did some window shopping before crossing the bridge that took me directly to the staircase up Gellert Hill. The views along the way were amazing. I was pretty sweated-up with the uphill glute engagement, but also elated that the sky was clear and the air was warm.

I did a lap at the top, taking in the 360 views before heading to the next one: Castle Hill. I walked all over creation to figure out the most convoluted path to the castle.

Not wanting to pay to enter the castle grounds, I walked around the front toward the cute little cobblestone town area.

This is where I found the cafe at the top of my list: Cafe Ruszwurm. I ordered a cappuccino, two cakes, and two pastries. Everything was soooo good. The poppyseed roll was my favorite and really brought me back to childhood. Though the wait staff didn’t believe I could, I finished all of it; no one should ever doubt my ability.

Only a few steps away from the cafe was Fisherman’s Bastion. It’s a fort-like structure that looks like the shell of a castle. I found a nice, little window where I could sit and stare at the beautiful city and reflect. This felt like a big moment in my life, realizing how far I’ve come in the last few years, everything leading me to where I am right now.

I sat there for a while before walking back into Pest. I excited went over the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, catching a glimpse of the Parliament building before getting sustenance in the form of vegetables at a tiny vegan restaurant. I took the long way around, down the main streets with big shops.

After resting for a bit, it took a lot for me to go out again, but I wanted to experience having a single drink at a ruin pub. One of the most popular, Szimpla Kert, was a short walk from my hostel. I had one drink, looked around, then ate some felafel.

The next morning, I made my way to the House of Terror. This was my educational moment, so I really tried to take in everything I could in an attempt to learn as much as I could about Hungary’s recent history. I’m not the biggest museum person, but this was pretty moving, especially the (I guess at least partially recreated) dungeons.

After this heavy time, I had no particular plan, so I walked all over, getting food anywhere I could because it was so cheap. Even though I’m not a coffee-drinker, I got some everywhere I could – somehow in protest of London’s high prices.

I ended my day early with a shopping trip for as much chocolate and tea as I could fit in my carry-on. I got a paneer sandwich/burger and tried to sleep as much as I could before my 3am wake-up call.

Late that night/early the next morning, I was out and on my way to the airport. Though I arrived back at Stansted early, the passport control line was the most slow-moving I’ve ever experienced.

Despite the struggles I had along the way, my time spent in Budapest was really great. I don’t anticipate this being my only time traveling in Budapest.


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