Back in my cafe, warm among the aroma of caffeine and fresh-pressed orange juice, I write to you. It seems far too long ago that I was in the UK, even though it was about ten days ago. Since then, I have returned to Rome, left Rome to visit Budapest, returned and am soon to leave yet again on a weekend excursion…this time in Italy.
I have quite literally taken on my role as the “barefoot traveler.” With not much improvement in my heal muscles I’m forced to be in pain or suck up the cold and trek around in my hiking sandals. And my Merrell’s are so cute, how can I resist.
Budapest, though freezing, with snow on the ground was a much needed restful vacation from my everyday busy life. Without a detailed itinerary and booked tours, I felt relaxed with time to take public transit and not stress out at make appointments.
Our Airbnb, was a perfectly-matched, teal and white decorated, Ikea flat in the center of the city. It was adorable with a winding staircase up to a loft and full kitchen, although we only used it to make tea. When we got there we had time to sit down, primp our faces and brave the snow for curry…which was amazing! I missed spice.
On Friday we searched a few things to see and do, but felt more like exploring than scheduling so we took a bus to the zoo where we came across a skating rink…unfortunately the rink closed five minutes before we got there, but the real lake next to the frozen pond (like Frog Pond in Boston) had a fog rolling over the rippling water and fountain in the center.
“The best way to see a city is to get lost.” A professor said, turns out he was right, because, although I wasn’t walking around monuments, or in a tourist group, I felt immersed in the icy wonderland of Budapest.
Once returning to more central parts of the city, Hannah and I tried to see a famous music fountain that lives on a small island in the center of the Danube river, much to our dismay the fountain which dances to whatever music corresponds was closed for the winter to prevent pipes from freezing. But the view from the bridge to get there, right at sunset, was stunning. With purple skies, fog over the river, colorful buildings and castles in the background, I was walking through a Wes Anderson film.
Of course I looked up all the sights to see from Grand Budapest hotel, but the movie was apparently filmed in Saxony, Germany…not Budapest; thanks for lying Anderson. Wes still captured the feel of the place though, and the funicular railway at the foot of the Buda Castle inspired the tiny little train that takes guests to the hotel in the movie, so at least one thing was really from the city.
I will say, that the aura of Hungary was a bit strange, People don’t really talk to each other, they kind of just stare, and keep their distance from everyone. Although, I probably stuck out with my sandals on day one…in the snow, and a bright yellow rain jacket with red velvet boots on day two, while every one else bundled up and black and gray. I don’t mind being colorful.
On Saturday we went to the famous Gellert Baths of Budapest. They call them “Bath and Spas,” although it’s not quite the same as an American spa. Think old greek movie with old men in steam rooms and bath houses, it’s that but in a pretty building. The massage was nice and the thermal baths were relaxing to dip into after a cold walk outside, but after a few hours you realize how unsanitary it probably is. An adventure in the least, and definitely a relaxing way to experience Hungarian culture.
The food, my friend told me, was the best she’s had anywhere in Europe, but unfortunately Hungarians have a limited vegetarian menus, so while their pumpkin soup was excellent, I’d choose Italian pasta and gelato any day.
The night ended relatively early so we could wake up at 3am the next day and travel home, sleep through the day and then venture to an Irish pub in Rome to watch the Superbowl at 1am. And while Budapest was relaxing and beautiful, and I would highly recommend a visit, watching the Patriots comeback was the most exciting part of my weekend. Never doubt us. 5 rings. Brady-Belichik 2020.
Ciao, Viszontlátásra (thank goodness Hungarians speak english), Bye!
Bri, the barefoot traveler