Part One: A Look at Budapest

Posted on September 27, 2011

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“Who here is in love, raise your hands.” Anna the tour guide asks and glances around. I giggle at the sight of women glancing sideways at who I guess are their partners (can I put my hand up? Is he?) and am reminded of a t-shirt I once read: Don’t worry guys. We have that premature “I love you” that happens. It’s just as embarrassing.

Oh hey now, flashback in a flashback! Sixteen. Said “I love you.” He said “thank you.” Damn.

Am I old enough yet to say ohhhh, high school… I think so. Pretty sure I’ve grown more into a Golden Girl than a Gossip Girl. Or Gilmore Girl.

But back to romantic, grown-up girl Europe.

“This is the love fence. If you are in love, and you come here, you write or etch the initials of you and your love on a lock, put it on this fence and throw the key in the Danube River. Then you and your love will be together forever.

Maybe you think you love him but you’re not sure, maybe just a romance? So maybe you buy combination lock instead.”

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Arrived in Budapest yesterday morning. Slept great on the train, probably because being alone in the dark, cold Brasov train station scared the junk out of me. But arrived in Budapest, caught the city bus to the Ferenciek Tere square… Only knew I was there when a teenage boy tapped me on the shoulder and said Ferenciek Tere is the next stop. I laughed and said how did you know?

Smile. “You’re holding a paper with directions, I peeked over your shoulder. The green gate to the hostel is across the street, just take the metro tunnel under.”

I never would have seen that green gate.

It would be four more hours before I put it together the time had changed between Romania and Hungary, so I wasn’t just trying to check in early, I was annoyingly trying to check in early. But I did, and I handed over everything I owned in a massive bag of laundry to the receptionist and the equivalent of $8 with a “this is so exciting.”

And then I walked. Buda and Pest (pronounced Pescht) used to be separate cities, but were combined approximately 150 years ago to be the capital of Hungary. I’m staying on the Pest side – flat, where all the business districts, parks, most visitable places are. You go to the Buda side to live if you’re rich, to climb hills to the palace and cathedral, and to eat too expensive food. Also to visit the courtyard where Katy Perry shot the video for Firework last year. Pictures below are of the “Chain Bridge” linking Buda and Pest, and the Parliament building.

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Walked a long time yesterday, had the cheapest Chinese food for lunch, walked more, walked more, got a headache, headed home. Went back out last night, sans camera. The city is absolutely gorgeous. Don’t have night photos, but lunch was great.

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Today, I was up and out for the 10:30a.m. free walking tour. These really are amazing. Tip-based, the guides are locals, not affiliated with the government, they’ll tell you everything, good and bad. History, politics, ways to avoid tourist traps, cute local stories, problems. They are so much fun, and three hours later you’ve tipped the equivalent of $5-10 for an incredible amount of “infotainment.” They’re perfect for me – my eyes tend to glaze over in museums, I don’t read history books, I’m just a poor student in that regard. But after today’s tour, I can point out which architecture stye is communist era (everything ugly, gray, square, undecorated), and what came before or has been redone after. Pretty cool.

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