Friday, May 23, 2008

Where I was: Budapest, Prague

May 22, 2007

I was definitely not feeling good on the train to Prague, and I am still experiencing some cold symptoms--stuffy nose coughing and sore throat. Either way, I have a lot to write about. So after we got attacked by the hostel proprietors in Keleti station, we headed over to one that we got an ad for and after the usual obnoxious search with our bags on our backs we found it. We got a really good deal, only 11 euro a night a.k.a. 2700 forints (the Hungarian monetary system).

Budapest is a huge city split into two areas, Buda and Pest--which are divided by the Danube river. We were really tired after the night in the train and kind of intimidated by the city and not having a destination so we were cranky. We solved the problem with some gyros and then headed towards some sights.

There wasn't really a tourist center in Budapest because it is kind of a new tourist spot. We realized this especially in Prague because in comparison, Prague has a far more laid out tourist center. Anyway, we wandered towards Heroes' Square. One the way, we saw this water monument which was intended to display freedom because unlike other monuments, this one could move since it was liquid and not solid--I thought this was really innovative.

After that we saw St. Stephen's Basilica, which was massive. I was so amazed at how massive it was. Then we wandered up Andrassy, which was essentially La Rambla of Budapest. Andrassy had trees, stores, and at the end, really pretty houses that we decided were probably embassies. At the very end was Heroes' Square which had statues of Hungary's heroes.

There was also a park which had a market and I bought my dad some fat Hungarian slipper socks. I later found out that they were a really good gift because my dad's feet get cold.

After the market, we happened across a pond with row boats and we did them. It was rather entertaining because Lisa could kind of row, and I was just really bad. We put on a little show for the people in the park, but eventually we got the hang of it. It was a feel good moment for me because it reminded me of Retiro in Madrid (before the backpacking trop) with Lisa (my bf from home), Luisa (my cuz) and Joe (my roommate from Dublin). I had so much fun that day.

Then we headed back to the hostel and ended up running into Lisa's friend Jake from London, which was completely random. He recommended a place where Lisa and I ordered a world of meat and gouged. It was delicious, but the amount we ate was kind of disgusting.

After dinner we went home and changed into our newly acquired euroshorts to go out. We tried to meet up with Jake, but we couldn't find him and then we couldn't find the other place we wanted to go. I was really frustrated. We eventually broke down and took a cab to a club recommended by our hostel. Unfortunately, we got seriously ripped off by the cab driver.

The Club Rio was interesting...We couldn't communicate with anyone because of blaring music, and broken English/Magyar are hard to understand.

We met this American there--and hilariously enough, he was our roommate on the train the next night. This was comforting--no sketchballs.

The next day we wandered across the bridge to Buda and climbed Castle Hill to get a really beautiful view of the city. The castle at the top was not really impressive, but the view of the city was worth the climb.

After Castle Hill we went to the baths, which were so awesome. There were indoor and outdoor pools and thermal baths. The outdoor pool had a wave pool. Lisa and I were flying around like fools in the wave pool, but the Europeans just smile and enjoy--no surfing USA I guess.

The indoor thermal baths had all little black things in them, but we decided to just believe that they were minerals and relaxed. We were tired after bathing so we napped.

We ate dinner and then went to catch our train to Prague.

We got to Prague at 6 a.m., so waking up at 5:30 a.m. was not nice. The hostel I stayed at last time was full. We went to one on the map that I had heard of in Wenceslas Square, and it was really nice. We couldn't check in until two so we went and had our first McDonald's experience for breakfast. Egg McMuffins were just as good as I remembered.

Then Lisa and I went to H and M and bought clothes--ridiculous considering the size of our bags.

We shopped on the souvenir street and I bought a silver and garnet ring. Last year when I was in Prague, I had bought my mom a garnet charm and she told me that was my grandma's birth stone. I thought it would be special to buy one. Then Lisa bought one too, so they are like our backpacking friendship rings--a really nice token for both of us for surviving the mayhem thus far.

We did some sightseeing--a lot of repeat stuff for me since I had been last year.

We went to this place Bombay--my favorite bar in the world (behind Porterhouse Central in Dublin). It was awesome, and a really fun night out. I managed to wash my hands with my camera around my wrist, which led to its demise. :(

We slept in! Then we woke up and got some KFC, which was awesome. Then in the sweltering heat, we went to the castle. It was not fun climbing up the top, but it was beautiful so we had a good time doing it.

Later we had dinner, I had roast beef. And then we went back to Bombay for some drinks together.

The way home was fine--but then we got approached by a man asking for money--which we didn't have because Prague has a different currency and we spent all of it since we were leaving the next morning. He started to reach for something (a knife?) I was ready to bolt, but then the reception at our hostel let us in just in time and a cop car drove by us. Once again, I can thank St. Anthony for protecting me in a potentially awful situation.

Before the mugger there was this limo with photographers outside of a store, but no one was getting out so we decided they were filming an add--cool, but not as cool a celebrity sighting.

Prague was still good, even the second time around. It was nice to do it in the warm weather (last time I was there was February and it was FREEZING).

Now we are on the train to Berlin and we have a week in Germany. I skyped my family before I left Prague--which was great--I am excited to see everyone in a week.

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