What an experience Budapest was! It is definitely the most unique country I have visited in Europe so far due to its checkered history. Budapest was an incredible experience and a beautiful city. Buda and Pest are split between the River Danube, and our hotel was on the Pest side overlooking the Danube and the Buda side. The hotel we stayed in was beautiful and probably one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed in! Our tour guide told us that Hungarians to this day care very much about knowing on which side their fellow peers live. The Buda side has many beautiful, expensive neighborhoods, so most people who live there are very wealthy. The Pest side is home to all major businesses, so most everyone who lives on the Buda side commutes to the Pest side daily to work.
On the first day we toured around the Pest side. Our tour guide explained the history of Budapest, which I found most fascinating. In her words, “Budapest has always been on the wrong side of history.” In WWI, Budapest aligned themselves on the side of the Austrian-Hungarians. Of course we all know that the Allies won the war, leaving the Hungarian economy in devastation, as well as their empire ceasing to exist. In WWII, Hungary took the side of Nazi Germany, believing that Hitler would bring economic and social prosperity to their country. Again, the Allies won this war and when countries were being liberated from Nazi Germany’s possession, the Soviet Union “liberated” Hungary, turning them Communist. Events led to the Cold War, and Hungary was not truly liberated from Communist regime until 1990! I could not believe this considering I was born a mere 3 years later! On this tour we also got to see the Jewish Quarter, where the Nazis forced Jews to live in the confines of the ghetto. We got to tour the Dohany Street Synagogue, which was built in 1854. Despite so much destruction in the area, the synagogue was never bombed or burnt down. It is the second largest synagogue in the world, next to the synagogue in New York City.
That night, my friends and I decided to treat ourselves and get massages at the hotel’s spa! It was so nice and relaxing. After our treatments, we had dinner at a traditional Hungarian restaurant. The food was SO delicious! I had red wine, beef puff turnovers and goulash soup! I also tried paprika chicken. It was so yummy.
The next day, we had an early wakeup call at 6:30 am to catch the 7:00 am metro to go to the famous Hungarian thermal baths! There are multiple indoor and outdoor baths, and it was so relaxing. If I lived in Budapest I would start everyday at the baths! Later in the day, we explored more of the Buda side and got to see the Buda Castle, as well as explore Budapest’s most famous and least expensive indoor market. We had some free time later on so a group of us decided to hike up to one of two remaining Communist statutes in the city. The view at the top was absolutely breathtaking and looked over the entire city. We were there at sunset and it’s a memory that I will never forget. That night everyone got together for a Hungarian cooking class! We made 8 different kinds of dishes, and needless to say everyone was stuffed afterwards!
My experience in Budapest was so special and I loved every minute again. I’m already looking forward to when I can return 🙂