Buda + Pest

On the last weekend of our program in Prague, three different groups of students set out to spend a couple of days in the Budapest, Hungary. One group chose the fly, the other rented a mini-van, but a friend and I chose the most economical option: an 8-hour long night train.

We left the Czech Republic at midnight and woke up bright and early in the city of Budapest, or Pest to be more specific. My grandpa always noted that the city was separated into two sections by the Danube river, Buda and Pest. Someone also told us that the train station was modeled after Gare du Nord in Paris and that it's often used as a stand-in for films. At the time I had yet to go to Paris, but I can confirm the similarity.

Our hostel was in a charming renovated apartment building, one with a central courtyard and massively high ceilings. Our trip was planned completely last minute, and while I can't say I regret going, the oppressive heat and lack of air conditioning made it hard to want to do anything.

After we dropped our things off in our hostel, we made our way to the beautiful monuments in Heroes Square. At this point we sought refuge in the national art museum on one side of the square, where we lied to get a European Union student discount and waited for the hottest hours of the day to pass. After we admired the Egon Shiele exhibition that happened to be visiting (I ran into it again at a later date in Vienna), we wandered through the shaded castle grounds of City Park. Budapest reminded me of immensely Prague in it's architecture and language, but its parks and islands had such a quiet and naturalistic atmosphere that seemed almost far removed from the capital city.

We spent our only night there on Margaret Island. Groups of friends and even families with children wandered along the banks until midnight. Yelp led us to a strange beer garden called WNDRLND where resident independent artists took turns designing the interior of the space. When we happened to visit, the entryway was an arch made of bicycle frames and parts of crash-test dummies fanned out around the central light post.

Our next and final day there was just as hot as the day before. The heat didn't mix well with our antics from the night before and our 9 a.m. check out time, so we continued our casual sight-seeing from the day prior. Even though I often lament how little time I had to spend in such a beautiful city, our discovery of the trdelník, a traditional Hungarian pastry, made the entire weekend worthwhile. They can be found in Slovakia and the Czech lands too, but none were as good as the one pictured here.

We took another night train and arrived back in Prague just as the sun began to rise. All of the beds were sold out and so I spent a long eight hours trying to make myself comfortable in an upright seat. I don't think I could ever take a night train again. I also didn't visit the baths, as we had decided to avoid the massive EDM party that was occurring that weekend - another student was there and came home with an infected leg cut, so I'm sure it was for the best. Budapest was fleeting, extremely hot, but more than anything, rather beautiful. I'm sure I'll see it again.

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