Relaxation and Reflection in Budapest

The second destination on my three-week journey was Budapest, Hungary. I arrived early in the morning after an overnight bus journey, and had to navigate where exactly I was going. Luckily I managed to figure out how to get into the city centre, which involved taking the subway. I didn’t use any public transport when I was in Prague, so this was a new experience for me, particularly because the majority of the signage was in Hungarian and not English. However, I made do and wound up in the city centre, where I decided to explore for a bit. I went to St. Stephen’s Basilica, which is an absolutely beautiful church that is still used for services. It was lovely to see. Then I headed towards the river. Budapest is very similar to Prague, in that it is also divided by a river into two sides: the Buda side and the Pest side. However, Budapest is much bigger than Prague, and the sights are much more spread out which makes sight-seeing a bit more difficult, as I would find out shortly!

Soon I headed to the hostel I was staying at, Casa de la Musica, located on the Pest side. It was an interesting hostel, in that half of it is outside and half of it is inside, set up kind of like a bunch of apartments with terraces. It was quiet when I was there though, and I spent two nights in a 6-person room on my own! So that was nice and relaxing. The staff were very friendly as well; however, I would recommend staying on the Buda side, as there are more sights on that side of the river and I had to do a lot of walking. In any light, it was still a nice place. After settling in, I walked about some more along more popular streets that have the Opera House, a few museums, and at the end of the road, Heroes Square. Heroes Square is a massive monument dedicated to those who fell in the war. It was neat to see and is located at the beginning of a park, which has a really lovely lake and restaurant on top of the lake! (once again… the Okanagan needs to step their game up with restaurant locations.)

Though I was able to take in these few lovely sights, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly lonely. I am not sure if it was the slightly off vibe I got from Budapest, or if it was mainly due to my lack of sleep from the overnight bus (and possibly the fact that the hostel was nearly empty), but it was at this point that I started to question myself and if I could honestly handle travelling on my own for the next few weeks. I am not the type of person who spontaneously does things on my own, and is confident enough to feel secure & safe in who I am to go out in the world to do so. However, that is who I would like to become, so I decided to continue with my travels. I feel like a much different person after these three weeks and I know that I can do anything I set my mind to. With this determination (and after a really good long sleep in the hostel rather than the bus), I set out on my second day in Budapest with the mindset of having a great day. And I did! I started at the Great Market Hall, which is a massive three-storey building filled with fresh vegetables, fruit, meat & cheese produce, plus hundreds of souvenir stands and food vendors. Needless to say I spent a couple of hours there taking everything in! It was really neat. Afterwards I headed to the Buda side of town and decided to hike up Gellert Hill. This hike was definitely the highlight of my time in Budapest! Besides the fact that the day I went was nice and sunny, hiking up Gellert Hill provides you with amazing views at every turn-hiking up, hiking down, and all around. I took some incredible panoramic photos of the city below once I got to the top. This hike alone made me feel so much better! Nature truly is the best medicine.

Heading down Gellert Hill, I went towards Buda Castle and the surrounding area. The Castle basically has a bunch of monuments and museums, as well as some great views of the city. A bit further along is Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion, which are neat to look at architecturally, as well as providing more spectacular views. After taking these many sights in, I decided it was time to head back across the river to the Pest side. I crossed the Chain Bridge and got to see a lovely sunset on the Danube. The Danube river is definitely one of the nicest rivers (at least near the cities I’ve went to) and it was really nice to walk along the bridge and enjoy it! Some other observations I made about Budapest include the fact that it is less vibrant than Prague, in terms of the buildings (which are mainly all grey and white, much less colourful than Prague), and the atmosphere-people definitely aren’t as friendly. I think part of this may be due to the fact that Budapest is more widely known for its night life, which I can’t comment on.

The next day, I slept in a lot (which was so nice!!) and then decided to explore the Jewish Quarter of Pest, with the main point being the Great Synagogue. The Synagogue was a splendid sight to see. I was reminded of the atrocities committed to the Jews, not only those in Germany, but also to those in Hungary, especially in Budapest. The area surrounding the Synagogue has many monuments for those who lost their lives due to these atrocities, such as the Memorial Garden and the Weeping Willow. There is also a Jewish Museum, which was interesting to see. After feeling awful about these atrocities committed to so many people, I decided it was time to relax and do something that Budapest is really known for: its baths! I went to the Gellert Baths, which were really neat. They featured 8 thermal pools with varying temperatures, and also have a swimming pool and outdoor pool area (plus spa services and restaurants). It was slightly more pricey than everything else in Budapest, but Budapest is extremely cheap, so the baths were still a decent price compared to any other country. I spent many hours there relaxing my sore muscles! Afterwards, it was time to return to the hostel, and I was able to see Budapest lit up at night, which was pretty cool.

In conclusion, Budapest was interesting to see, but definitely not my favourite. However, it is by far the cheapest place I travelled to, so if you are looking for somewhere to go where you will get the best bang for your buck, Budapest is the place. Three days was definitely enough time for me to see everything, but it was also nice to relax a bit. I would recommend 2-3 days in Budapest to get a good feel of the city. I would say the top things to see/do in Budapest include hiking Gellert Hill, visiting the Great Synagogue, and visiting the baths (Budapest has a large variety of options that all offer slightly different experiences). If you are visiting Budapest, I recommend staying on the Buda side as there are more attractions to see there and you would have to do less walking. I hope anyone who travels to Budapest in the future enjoys the hiking, reflecting, and relaxing that Budapest offers!

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