Thursday, December 10, 2015

Budapest, Hungary


This weekend Megan, Annie, Emmy and I took off for Budapest.  It has one of Europe's best Christmas Markets.  It's famous for Christmas time mysticism. We stayed at Maverick City Lodge Hostel, one of Europe's Famous Hostels.  I've officially stayed at 5 of Europe's Famous Hostels! Maverick's was super nice, with a bar that offered free drinks from 8 to 10, so that was cool.  Hungary was satirically titled the "Happiest Barrack" within the eastern bloc. It had the smoothest transition from the former Soviets. During the communist regime, it had elements of the free market and improved human rights recorded.  I've been thinking so much about communism lately, but it is so incredibly interesting seeing the culture differences between countries that are post-communism and not. You can feel it as soon as you start walking on the streets. People are quieter, more reserved, less friendly.  There is a less openness to public boisterousness or defiance of social norms.
Budapest differed from Prague in the sense that it was more open to this boisterous city feel that Americans are so used to.  Not as much as Italy the week before, but definitely more than Prague.

The one thing that stood out to me about Budapest was walking through the metro stations at nighttime.  It is a very poor country and at night, there were homeless people lining the walls of any metro station you walked through.  This was the worst I've ever seen it.  It was different than beggars being on the trams or gypsies on the streets, it was actual homelessness. Large communities of suffering people living amongst normalcy.  I also noticed a lot of partying--but more than that.. drunkenness.  I was in Barcelona on the weekend, and it still wasn't as bad as Budapest.  They're known for their party scene, but it was more than that.  It was when we were walking home in the different neighborhoods that Megan and I finally looked at each other and said, "..every single person is drunk." There was throw up all over the streets and people stumbling alone on back streets. I wondered if it had to do with the level of poverty. 1984 had it right.

Besides this, Budapest was beautiful.  During the daytime, people were friendly, everyone spoke English, and there was always the smell of fresh food.

Christmas Markets
In the square, it was all decorated with lights and trees.  There was Christmas music playing over the entire Christmas market from speakers along the sides.  There was a sense of unity amongst everyone in the market. Children were ice skating.  It was the most Christmasy place I have ever been in my life. We got mulled wine and walked around the market quite a few times.  All the shops were very authentic, with the people who crafted the arts working in the stands. And Budapest was cheap! There was one night, I had an appetizer, a full meal, and a pint of beer for about $6.00; I wouldn't even be able to get half a pint of beer for that in Geneva!

Thermal Baths
Budapest is famous for its Thermal Baths.  We went to one on Saturday night.  It was a huge building with multiple indoor and outdoor baths.  We went to an outdoor bath with lights and bubbles.  We ended up finding a whirl pool in the bath.. a literal whirl pool where you would get in the stream and it would take you flying in a circle.  It was like a speedy lazy river.  And we probably laughed straight for 25 minutes swimming around in a circle like children.
You can see the whirl pool in the picture below. It was much quieter when we were there, but there were lights in the pool and big white clouds strung up above us. It was extremely fun.

Shoe Memorial

For those who were forced to strip naked, line up, and then were shot on account of their religion, sexuality, or ethnicity.

Protested Memorial
This memorial was being protested by Hungarians, and especially the Jewish community.  It was a WWII "German Occupation" memorial which depicts Hungary as the innocent Angel Gabriel.  The message of the monument is that Hungarians could not resist Nazi Germany and, therefore should be resolved of blame of the terrors of WWII.
But the truth is that Germany did not occupy Hungary under the imperial eagle as depicted, it was under the Swastika and Hungarian authorities helped carry out the deportations.  Hungary deported over 437,000 Hungarian Jews to death camps.
How is history expected to not repeat itself when American textbooks refuse to acknowledge its own crime of the largest genocide in recorded history and when countries refuse to take responsibility for their authorities deporting hundreds of thousands of their own citizens.

The beautiful neogothic styled Parliament

Cat Cafe


Not the Chain Bridge
In Budapest, there is a famous Chain Bridge.  We went to the chain bridge, but later we found out, we actually were not on the chain bridge the entire time
We frolicked on the bridge for about an hour, and I have no idea why we stayed there.  We all had to pee, it was cold, we were on a super ordinary looking bridge.  But we climbed on the bridge while cars and trams drove by us.  We laughed really hard at everything.  The wind was loud so our conversations were muddled.  Megan & I were watching an interesting looking dog walk by, and I said, "it looks like a lion," and Megan goes, "really I think it looks like a tiger," then Emmy (who was in a conversation with Annie) chimed in, "It DOES look like a hyena." Silly conversations with the people I love that I will remember forever.
Our bridge. A super ordinary place with super extraordinary people.

Thanks for our last trip. I love you ladies with my whole heart.