I departed Madrid with such apprehension. I wanted to stay, but knew it was time to head out and keep traveling.
Budapest was the destination, but I wasn’t too excited, despite the marvelous things I have heard about it. I loved being with my new friends, and heading to Budapest meant a departure from my comfort zone.
Perhaps my frame of mind upon leaving set me up for the numerous bouts I had with the city, or maybe it was just time for me to practice keeping my wits about me.
Either way, Budapest and I went mano y mano and in the end, well, I think it is safe to say I didn’t go down without a fight.
I got off the bus and headed to the train to get to the city. Of course, I speak the equivalent of nothing in Hungarian, so when I handed the woman at the ticket counter 1,000 FTs, she told me it wasn’t enough for the train.
I handed her more. Then, I looked at the sign. Clearly, the ticket I wanted was marked as 320, not 1,000.
“Wait,” I stammered. “I gave you 1,000.”
“Yes,” she said.
“Don’t I get change?”
I didn’t know how to argue in Hungarian, so I gave in.
Budapest: 1 D: 0
After successfully navigating my way to Unity Hostel in Pest, I rang the door bell, thankful to be putting down my pack and looking forward to getting some food.
I buzzed. And buzzed. And buzzed.
So, I buzzed a different number.
“Hello,” said the voice … in Hungarian.
“Hi, hostel?” I asked.
“Let me in?”
I pulled out my cell and called. A Spanish recording came on, explaining something to me (guessing I couldn’t make calls).
I spun around, looking at the buildings around me, seeing if I could just yell up to someone in the hostel to let me in.
Fight or flight, right?
I decided to fight. I walked up to a girl checking her messages on her phone and explained to her my situation and asked if I could use her phone.
I dialed the hostel.
Panic began to creep into my mind. My heart began to race.
Shit. I have no place to sleep, no map of the city.
Budapest: 2 D: 0
“Do you know where I might be able to find a hostel?” I asked the girl.
“Yes,” she said, beckoning me to follow her down another street. “Go down there to the second main street and there is one across from the post office. You will see a sign.”
After about 25 minutes of wandering through one of Buda’s main streets, I saw the sign for the hostel.
They let me in.
“Hi,” I said, saying a silent prayer for a room. “I don’t have a reservation.”
“That’s OK,” said the receptionist, sitting down in her chair. “How many nights would you like?”
Budapest: 2 D: 1
At Interflat Youth Hostel I met two girls from America and we headed for food. The three of us craved pizza so we did what any Americans craving pizza would do, headed to the nearest Pizza Hut (shhhh, no judging).
Pizza was mouthwateringly perfect.
We got the bill.
The server had added a 25 percent gratuity.
Budapest: 3 D: 1
I hadn’t gone out for a few days and my inner conversations were growing stale. I tried to convince a girl in my dorm to come out with me, but she wanted to stay in.
A bar, Instant, was recommended to me by the hostel, so I decided to take a walk on over there for a drink.
I walked in and it was such a cool bar. A packed, cool bar.
There were no seats, so I did a lap through and decided I wasn’t in the mood to stand in a corner, eyeing people and conversations jealously.
So, I proceeded to another bar, one less crowded and a lot less cool, and grabbed a beer. Then, I headed back to my room to catch up on some writing.
I had been in Budapest two nights and had met no one and decided a change of scenery was necessary.
I made a reservation and headed over to Back Pack, a hostel in Buda packed with hippie flavor and general awesomeness (and recommended by Lonely Planet).
It was a rainy and cold day in Budapest and by the time I arrived to Back Pack, my jeans were soaked through and I was chilled to the bone.
But, I had made it. I was immediately let in to the hostel and given a room with a comfortable bed, unlike the last hostel where I was oh-so Princess and the Pea and could feel every spring in the mattress.
To add to the glee, I hadn’t had to validate either of my travel tickets, so I rode for free on the tram and bus.
Budapest: 3 D:2
The rain continued on Monday, but I was determined not to let the water drown out my day.
I stood outside of the hostel, OAR (Of a Revolution) playing on my iPod, and began walking down the stairs.
Then, my foot was slipping and my ass was connecting with the slick stairs and I was sliding down to the bottom.
Pain shot through my entire back and my arm. Tears filled my eyes.
For the first time during my trip, I wanted to go home. To my parents. To sit with my mom and have a good cry.
Budapest: 4 D: 2
I stood up, fighting back the urge to burst into hysterics. Then, I looked behind me. Was anyone rushing to make sure I was OK?
I looked at my back. Soaked. I looked at my arm. Scratched. I looked inside of myself. Bruised, but manageable.
I brushed the dirt off of me, sucked in some fresh Budapest air and headed out the front gate and into the city to explore.
Budapest: 4 D: 3
At that point, I decided there was a chance Budapest was going to kick my ass. It was time to get traveling, so I headed to a ticket office to purchase a bus ticket to Brasov, Romania.
“I’m sorry,” the woman said, cautiously looking at me and the frustration that was spreading over my face. “There are no buses to Brasov this week.”
“What about a train?”
“I can call and see how much it is,” she offered, and I graciously accepted.
After some back and forth, she gave me directions to another office to go and purchase a train ticket.
An hour later, and a little wetter (it was still raining in Budapest), I held in my hand a second class reserved seat to Brasov, leaving the following evening.
That night, I finally met some people in my hostel, Scott and Heidi, a fabulous Aussie/Kiwi couple and we enjoyed some drinks together.
Finally. My first good night in Budapest was also my last night.
The next night, I boarded my overnight train for Romania for some time out of Schengen Europe. Just in time to start crazy new adventures in Brasov …
Budapest: 4 D: 4