Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I had the opportunity to go visit my friend Emily in Budapest this last weekend and I had the most amazing time.  I have never been to Budapest before so I was very excited to explore a new country and a new city.  The trip started off on the best note when I was about to board the plane from Prague to Budapest and was told that I was selected to move up to "first class".  How cool is that.  I got to be the person who sits IN FRONT of the curtain instead of staring at the curtain in front of me and wondering what they were doing up there.  I got to see how the rich people live...with LEG ROOM!!! Oh my gosh!!!  Heaven!

Emily met me at the airport and we set off to explore the city.  We took a quick pit stop at her flat to drop off my stuff and taste her homemade goulash (which was fantastic) and then set off to see Budapest at night.  Emily lives on the Buda side of Budapest.  According to some of the other Fulbrighters, Emily lives on the Beverly Hills side of Budapest and I can see why they say that.  There are beautiful homes and a rich feel in the air.  Across the Danube is the Pest side which is considered the "touristy" side of Budapest.  Connecting two sides are many bridges that span the vast Danube.

One of the most famous bridges is the Chain Bridge.  Apparently the designer of the bridge claimed that he had made "the perfect" bridge.  He challenged anyone to find something wrong with the bridge and if someone found something wrong, he would jump from the bridge. People seeked and seeked and finally someone claimed that the lions at the end of the bridge had no tongues....that was the only thing wrong with the bridge...so the designer jumped from the bridge.

Emily took me to one of her favorite pub spots called, Frank Zappa.  We had a couple beers and we were able to just have some "girl time" and catch up.  It is amazing to me that 6 months ago, I had no idea who she was and I am so lucky to have met her and become friends.  She is an amazing person and I am so thankful we are friends.  After a couple hours, we headed back to her place and got some sleep.  We had a big day ahead of us (although we didn't know that at the time)

Saturday we met Kent (another American Fulbrighter teaching in Hungary) and Istvan (Emily's boyfriend) at the train station.  The four of us set out on all day walking tour of the city.  We walked EVERYWHERE and hit all the major spots of the city.  We started with the Castle and made it to watch the changing of the guards and then toured around the grounds.  Next to the Castle is the Fisherman's Wharf area.  I am not completely sure but I think that during the war, the fisherman would guard and protect the castle from that area.

After the castle, we walked across the Chain Bridge again and went to see Parliament.  Parliament is HUGE. The Parliament is one of the most photographed structure and you can see why.  Parliament is placed along the Danube and there are statues and monuments surrounding the area.  One of the most sentimental monuments to me was the Jewish Shoes Memorial.  There is a row of shoes that are made of metal that symbolize the hundreds and hundreds of dead Jewish bodies that were pulled from the Danube after WW2.

After Parliament we ventured to Vaci which is the "touristy" section of the Pest side.  We found a restaurant that was probably the classiest place I have eaten in in awhile and well worth it.  For a reasonable price we had a truly typical Hungarian meal.  We started with a bowl of Hungarian Goulash (I think Emily's was just as good) and then had Paprika Chicken on Hungarian pasta.  Finally for dessert we had a pancake with jam.  Hungarians are famous for their paprika and they put it on EVERYTHING but I glad it was absent from our dessert..that would have been a little odd tasting.

After lunch we walked off our meal by going to the St. Stephen's Cathedral.  There is a story behind the cathedral as well (but I can't really remember it) but I do know that St. Stephen's was so popular that when he died his right hand was removed and the bones were placed in an honorary case and placed in the Cathedral.  Emily refers to it as the "creepy right hand" and I definitely concur.

Our tour of Budapest was no way near to finished.  Emily and Isti then took us to Emily's favorite part of the city, Andrassy street.  It is a long street with many beautiful buildings and culture.  Unfortunately the weather was not on our side but the gray overcast didn't take away from the vision I had of the long street with spring flowers, rows of trees and serenity (even though everything was gray and still hiding from the winter frost).

Finally around 4:30 we topped off our tour with a stop at the Thermal Spa.  We shredded our street clothes, threw on our swim suits, and suffered the 30 second run from the main building to the warm outdoor pools.  Once in the pools, we were in heaven.  There were so many people in the pool but enough space to get relaxation.  Emily's boyfriend is so amazing and such a trooper and since he lost the "not it" game, we sent him to find out what is the other building.  He returned to tell us that there was a whole other world of pools.  We endured the freezing temperature and raced inside the next building and inside we found at least 15 more pools of warm water.  We settled on one of the last rooms and rested our souls in the hands of Mother Earth.  Looking around the walls and decor, it is easy to picture yourself living in Roman times and all I needed was a hot gladiator feeding me mouth watering grapes (instead of my body looking like one) and life would be perfect :)

After our 3 hours we braved the sub zero temperatures and ran back to the main building, changed and headed back to Emily's.  We had an amazing "typical" American dinner and made soft tacos, drank margaritas and then headed out to explore the night life of Budapest.  We visited 2 dance clubs and then ended up on some random island and went to this dance club called Studio.  It was seriously like I was in Vegas.  The club was huge with beautiful women dressed as angels and men dressed as devils swung from high in the air and the DJ played non stop continuous techno that made your heart feel like it would actually beat out of your chest.  I actually really liked the atmosphere and it would be a great place to get dressed up and got out too but it was so late in the night that we were all exhausted so we called it an early night (or actually early morning) and went home.

Sunday, we woke up and after some food at the local fast food Mexican restaurant, said our goodbyes and went our own ways home.  I just had the best time and I am so glad that I got to hang out with Kent and Emily, meet her boyfriend, and see a new city.  Budapest is definitely a city that I am going to go back to. Thanks Emily for having me!  I really did have the best weekend!

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