Day 1 | April 20
Amanda and I began our journey to Budapest with our 2:30 bus to Madrid. We arrived three hours later, took the airport shuttle to our terminal, and went through security like we had done so hundreds of times before (we pretty much have). We only had a couple hours to kill before our flight by that point.
As the time neared to board our plane, we realized that this would be be far from a normal flight. A group of guys showed up, beer cans in their hands, wearing colorful wigs and tutus. I’m not sure what their plans were, but they looked like they were ready to hop off the plane in Budapest and go straight to some party. We shrugged it off. Anything was normal by this point.
On the plane, we sat behind three of the guys. None of them were dressed in costumes, but they were heavily participating in the game of “let’s get some beers every time the flight attendant walks by.” The guy in the middle turned around towards the end of the flight at talked to us a bit, mainly Amanda. He was from Porto, Portugal and he knew an impressive four languages. The friend next to him was a bit more obnoxious, telling the flight attendant that he loved her and continuing to cause some trouble. At one point, a guy behind me stood up and told him of for his disobedience. He muttered a few Spanish swear words under his breath, all of which I understood. Not sure if that’s an accomplishment or not. All in all, it was quite the party bus, and I guess that’s what you get for traveling through an airline called Wizzair.
We arrived in the city a little after midnight. I was welcomed into Budapest with some “endearing” pats on the head by the guy in front of me. We got off the plane, endured the chilly outdoor walk from our plane to the exit, and waited for our shuttle van. The worker told us to watch the screen for the arrival of our shuttle, but after a while of seeing nothing, a British guy came and asked us about it (he and his Spanish girlfriend were waiting for the same thing). The four of us decided it was in our best interest to not trust the screen. It was already late. We didn’t want to miss our shuttle, so we all waited outside in the cold. Amanda and I talked to the couple for a bit. They were super sweet and adorable. I would have loved to continue our conversation on the shuttle, but sadly, they left before we did.
Our van eventually came as well, and all was good. Amanda and I were the first ones on. We witnessed the van fill up with people and empty out again, for our stop was the last one. The entire ride was just filled with an awkward silence as the driver zoomed through the city at an alarming speed. Perhaps we were all just silently clinging onto our lives, anticipating our possible death. We made it safely to our hotel though. We checked in and passed out for the night. It was probably sometime between 2:00 and 3:00am.
Day 2 | April 21
The two of us slept in a little bit the next morning, but still managed to wake up in time for breakfast at the hotel before it closed at 10. It was one of the most impressive hotel breakfasts I have had yet (following closely behind the one we would later have in Prague). It was more of brunch style. I enjoyed some bread with cheese, an apple, tea, one of the best salads of my life, and some other Hungarian specialties.The rest of our day was spent simply exploring Budapest.
We began our adventures by strolling through a nearby park/hill that was along the way. The area had a few trails and a lot of good views overlooking the Danube River and the bridge. There were some other monuments and things such as the Philosophical garden, an area that hosted several great religious and/or philosophical figures. Amanda and I took a ton of pictures of all of the pretty views of the city. Luckily, we’re both addicts come time to taking travel photos, so we were able to stop frequently to do so.
From there, we crossed the bridge and meandered our way towards the Budapest castle. The place was an absolute beaut. It felt like a little village in itself with several open areas for people to just sit and talk. Everywhere you turned led to a new path to the top of the castle. We worked our way up, of course taking several pictures of the nearby river and surrounding city as we did so.
After visiting the castle, we kind of just walked around some more admiring the river and various buildings from each street we walked through. We had lunch at a little restaurant and got some four-cheese pasta which may or may not have had tiny meat pieces in it. We couldn’t really tell. I tried my best to pick them out just in case.
We ended up at some other touristy locations. A man from Spain came up to us and asked me to take his picture, which I happily agreed to. I fumbled my way through using his big tablet, and then we talked to him for a bit. He was super friendly. He told us about how he was just traveling through the area. He enjoyed hiking and adventures of that sort, saying he would love to come to the United States someday to hike. We told him about how we were studying in Spain and traveling through a bit of Europe. Somehow we even talked about psychology. He was the first of many cute little encounters with people during our trip.
After talking with him, we stopped in a cute cafe named Smuz to enjoy some coffee, wifi, and warmth. It was the cutest coffee shop I had ever been in. The place had a hippie vibe to it. It was decorated with mint tables and lots of plans, cute pictures, and tiny lamp centerpieces. Amanda and I ordered red velvet lattes, partially for taste, but mainly for aesthetic purposes. The workers “painted” our lattes and gave us each a tiny yellow flower on the side of our drinks. The pink color of the coffee looked beautiful with the blue cup and table. Everything there was so aesthetically pleasing, and Amanda and I spent a solid five minutes having a little photo shoot with our drinks. Definitely the most Instagram-worthy drink yet.
At the coffee shop, we talked with a couple people next to us as they asked about our lattes. There was an older guy from St. Louis with a girl from somewhere in Europe. I didn’t catch where. They were online friends finally meeting. I wasn’t sure what to make of the situation, but they both seemed happy, and they were nice. So we went with it. We finished our coffee, stopped in one of the most unique bathrooms I’ve seen, and continued with our explanations. But seriously, the bathrooms were cool. They were shared. The stalls locked with a key, and the place itself was decorated with grass and other little artsy things. It was impressive.
From there, we walked to the baths. But without swimsuits and without a desire to pay, it wasn’t a very eventful trip. We didn’t even get to see any of the baths. The building itself was pretty and definitely made it worth it. We found a nearby park area, as well as a magical castle-looking museum. I wish I could tell you the names of everything, but a lot of it was accidental discoveries, so I’m not sure. We ended up in Heroes’ Square, a plaza with some impressive monuments and the Budapest letters. Anyone who knows me knows I love my city letters. It was a fight to get a picture since everyone was coming and going, but we made it work.
We ended our day with some beautiful (and of course, delicious) donuts before taking a bus back to the hotel. We had our dinner at an Italian restaurant at a nearby hotel. It was just Amanda and I in the restaurant (maybe Hungarians eat much earlier than we’re accustomed to in Spain). But it was tranquil, and the waiter was really accommodating. It was my second four-cheese pasta of the day (oh yeah, that’s what we did for lunch. found a restaurant by the castle). Eight cheeses in one day? My life couldn’t be more fulfilling.
Our last hours of the day consisted of going through and deleting unwanted photos. Since Amanda and I both take hundreds of them, it’s a lengthy process of narrowing them down. It was fun though. We went to sleep early so we could recharge for our second (and our last) day in Budapest.
Day 3 | April 22
We began the following morning, again, with a delicious breakfast in the hotel. We then packed up our stuff and headed out to take a bus into the city. Since we needed smaller bills to pay for our bus tickets, we stopped in a little market. The man working was really entertaining. He helped us get our water, asked us a bit of where we were from, and he gave us some caramels. He was a delight.
We took the bus back to a busier shopping/tourist street. We needed to do a bit more souvenir shopping before we left. I ended up with three postcards that day (postcards are what I collect from the places I travel). I also bought a sun hat.
Eventually, we stumbled upon the cutest little outdoor market. After a quick google search, I see that it’s called the Christmas Market. I’m not sure if it’s that year-round (especially after Easter), but we’ll go with it.
The market had a Hobbiton feel to it. There were little artisan stands, vendors, and plenty of traditional Hungarian foods- stews, meats, breads, and goulash. The little stands were adorable, decorated with lights and flowers. Paper lanterns hung from the trees, and in the plaza, there was another Budapest sign for picture purposes. I fell in love with the market, and I took a ton of pictures.
This place was another aesthetic of mine. If I wasn’t sold by the pretty views before, this was enough to convince me that Budapest was my favorite place so far. Amanda and I finished up our time with a coffee and later a lunch of fried veggies with a shared pretzel. It was the only vegetarian option we had to work with, and it seemed much more appetizing then the meat options of rooster testicle stew.
Afterwards, we did one last walk through the market and then we caught our metro to the bus station. We arrived at the bus station with enough waiting time for our bus at 4:00. The station was our first experience with having to pay to use the bathroom, so that was an unexpected thing. It seemed so normal to everyone else waiting in line to pay the lady at the counter.
We caught our bus. FlixBus seemed nice. It was a comfortable bus with outlets and wifi (all of the essentials, right?). They left a good first impression, which kind of faded with time. Our bus was supposed to arrive in Vienna, Austria at 6:50 pm, but somehow we ended up arriving about 50 minutes late (10 minutes later than the departure of our bus to Prague), so of course, we missed that.
When we got to the bus station, we talked with the guy from FlixBus telling him what had happened. We were instructed to call the company, and they would get us on the next bus if there was space. We found some guys from South Korea who were going through the same problem, so we hopped on their phone call. Amanda took over with the call since communication would be more efficient that way. The guys got everything sorted out for them, but since Amanda and I hadn’t booked the buses as a transfer, we had to pay to get new tickets. All good though. We would be on the 9:15 bus.
Afterward finishing up with the phone call, the men invited us to go with them to find wifi (mainly to receive our confirmation emails) and get something to eat. We happily agreed. We stopped at a nearby burger place. Amanda and I just went with their plan to order a bunch of fries and burgers. We told them we were find simply sharing an order of fries, but somehow, we each ended up with our own. There were burgers for us as well, but we had to kindly refuse them. I don’t eat meat, and Amanda didn’t want the burger either. They were nice though, and I deeply appreciated their willingness to buy us food.
We headed back to the bus station just before our bus came… or just before it was supposed to. Again, we ended up waiting just under an hour for it to arrive. It was fine at first, but as the minutes began to pass as we stood outside in the cold, it became a bit too ridiculous. Amanda and I played it off with humor though. “Is there a bus driver here? We have someone dying… to get to Prague.” and “FlixBus? More like Flexbus, since it seems to be so flexible with when I arrives. Burrrrn.” You had to be there to understand the humor, but I promise you, it definitely lightened the situation.
We almost considered staying in Vienna since we would be arriving so late in Prague (almost at 1am). Plus, Amanda was feeling a migraine coming on. But eventually, our bus arrived. One of the Koreans came and found us to tell us so. It was cute. My phone died just as the driver was scanning our mobile tickets. There was an outlet next to me on the bus, but it was so close to the seat that I don’t think anything could have been plugged in there. Smart design, right? Life felt more stressful with a dead phone. I couldn’t pass time with it on the bus, and I couldn’t look up directions or anything. I shrugged it off and passed out for most of the ride. Our time in Vienna was short, but I am satisfied with how things turned out. We took a picture with a Vienna sign outside of the bus station (just to say we were there), and we even ate food with some new friends. So I’ll count that as us experiencing a tiny bit of Austria. I was ready to be on our way though, ready to begin our next adventure in Prague.