Monday, May 6, 2013

pearls get hungary

budapest was our next, & my final, destination for the crew's mini euro trip & we were all beyond excited to get there & start exploring! besides a few pinterest posts, I admit I knew very little about budapest aside from the wonderful snippets travelers in our london program had brought back. I knew one side of the river was buda & the other was pest. I knew I wouldn't like the food & I knew we were definitely going to pamper ourselves at the bath houses! what I didn't realize was how fresh & apparent the country's political & social battles would feel. how the architecture would make you feel nimble in comparison to each building's strength & how the atmosphere would feel as hearty as the country's goulash stew. each decorated rooftop & ornamented windowsill beckoned you to just 'chill out,' to take a moment & breath in the beauty balanced on each corner of the city. 

after a long lunch & one last long look at the scenic hills of praha, we hopped aboard our seven hour coach ride to budapest where I played musical chairs hopping from one open seat to the next & not quite napping as much as I'd hoped. we arrived again after dark & decided our best bet was to eat tacos next door & wake up for a full day of adventure! 
{day one}
as the nerds we are were slightly obsessed with the walking tour in prague, we chose to repeat the tradition & hopped on another free walking tour around buda & pest. we met at the lion statue, curved around post-soviet statues, past the largest catholic church (st. lukas), over the liberty bridge, up the castle hill, past the changing guards ceremony, towards the matthias church (the oldest in budapest) & ending in the park just off the side of the halászbástya (the fisherman's bastion : seven towers between terraces with an incredible view). it was a lot in just under three hours! we discovered how the architecture style of mosaic tiles in mexico actually came from hungary, how hungarians actually spread lard on bread rather than butter & how impossible it is to say anything more than "szia" ('see-ya') & "allo" which actually mean "hello" & "goodbye" in the most backwards sounding way. left up in buda at the end of the tour, we took the chance to enjoy some girl time & picnic by the view before hiking down to an entirely necessary trip to h&m for a pair of shorts - something none of us thought to even bring to london but with the wonderful eighty degree weather in budapest, we couldn't wait another day to wear! as the foodies we are, the all-you-can-eat-&-drink buffet a few blocks from our hostel beckoned our names for an early dinner. needless to say, we were cut off from champagne & wine by the waiter & I was scraping the desert off thomas' plate while paying the bill & being shuffled out of the restaurant... I'd say we got our huff's worth! we capped off the night at the ruin bar across the street, szimpla cafe, which happens to be ranked third on some best bars in the world list where the broken-on-purpose decor & trendy music were perfect for a chill wednesday night. 

first view of the castle
 blue skies & beautiful buildings
 just posing like statues again : natalie's the dog of course

 the little princess : the fist non-soviet statue built in the city

 important austrian man
 one of the city's beautiful parks
lock on the love 
gorgeous statue 
first glimpse at st. stephen's basilica 
 entrance to the largest catholic church in budapest

you can still see the church way down the street 
drama on drama 
chain bridge : from pest to buda 

 castle from the ground up
 parliament is the brown spear poking out on the far left of pest

 I was a bit mesmerized by their pinpoint precise routine

 matthias catholic church : see the mexican style tiles on the roof?

 instagramming pest!

center statue at the fisherman's bastion

{day two}
we awoke our second day, ready to see what our tour hadn't. guided by caroline's friend who's studying abroad in the city, we were lead to a local indoor market that featured quite the assortment of vegetables, dried fruit & plenty or raw red meat (which was not ideal at 10:30am...) luckily upstairs was stacked with stalls of hearty hungarian food, ready to be devoured by those ambitious enough for meat & potatoes followed by fried bread topped with your choice of sugar, fruit & syrup... a stomach ache waiting to happen? I thought so & played it safe with a dripping nutella crepe to satisfy my sweet tooth, unadventurous but I'm sure my stomach was much happier with this choice! a bit of aimless wandering down sunlit streets & we couldn't wait any longer, off to the bath house! back across the river to buda, we aimed towards the liberty statue & gellert hill to the gellert bath house, known to be the prettiest in the city. 

we weren't disappointed in the least as the grand building & confusing route through the locker rooms left you in an oasis of natural spring water pools surrounded by regal statues & drenched in sunshine! ahhhh.... we refused to leave our row of sun chairs for anything besides a jump in the pool as we soaked in the fresh buda air & reveled in our lack of spf. I felt like I was ten years old and back at my grandparents' florida home, envisioning the pool was my own personal luxury I happened to invite a few wonderful guests to. when the sunny finally started to dip behind the tallest trees, we went inside to the spa where we treated ourselves to a quick aroma massage that somehow knew exactly where the semester had stored the stress in my shoulders & how cramped my legs must be from sleeping on all varieties of public transportation. the entire walk to dinner we shared stories of how wonderful our calf muscles felt while the moon turned a beaming shade of pink to guide us back to pest. slightly exhausted from the week so far, our quite perfect day closed with tacos for dinner & casually sipping mixed drinks in our hostel room, just enjoying our adventures so far... 

szimpla cafe : the number three bar in the world
 a typically picturesque street in the residential region
inside the hungry hungarian market

behind the jewish museum : each leaf symbolizes someone who died in the holocaust 
front of the jewish museum 
 more tree laden lanes

passing back to buda 
 see the liberty statue up on top to the right?

inside the gellert bath house! 
 you know its european when there's as many spedos as bikinis

the main outdoor bath (our favorite) 

 from up behind the statue : the bath house & upper deck

catching the very last glimpses of sunshine
 the moon all lit up 

hiking across the bridge : didn't think my mom would believe I was in a backpack

{day three}
the third day in budapest, I parted ways with the crew as they started their two train ride & three bus ride trip to croatia. after giving literally three rounds of regretful hugs to each member, I waved a slightly awkward goodbye to natalie, caroline, thomas, steven & ian. but even on my own, I had plans! first up : hike to the top of gellert hill to the szabadság szobor, the liberty statue I had been eyeing on the top of the hill since our arrival. I crossed the bridge, playing human frogger across the street until I was at the foot of the citadel fortress & the head of the trail up gellert hill! my excitement exceeded my physical abilities a bit as I broke a serious sweat practically jogging up the steep steps an scenic stops to the base of the liberty state. she stood so tall & proud at what seemed to be the most important spot in buda or pest. after taking a billion pictures of the same awesome view, I sat at the base of her lady liberty & just smiled to myself, 'I'm at the top of budapest & it feels like the top of the world...' 

when lunch could simply no longer wait, I lost my way waltzing down the trails, eventually finding my way to a sidewalk in between the river & a busy tram line until I came across a bridge to cross back over to pest. back in pest, I picked up a mini champagne at a deli to sneak into a modern thai restaurant where you personalized your bowl of fresh, asian goodness! next up : a casual stroll down the andrassy ut, the 'champs elysee of budapest,' or so I'd been told. the wide street was lined not only with fanciful labels & designer duds but growing green trees that offered shade as you shopped your way down the row... I stopped in the hungarian state opera house as it was another item I had heard was a 'must-see.' though the entrance was quite beautiful, my curiosity had me ignoring velvet ropes as I melted my way into one of the group tours that took us through various rooms for dressing, drinking or entertaining : my favorite being the actual theater where we were positioned in the velvet box seats as the the guide described details of the elaborate ceiling painting & each ornate detail of the regal, round room. sadly I didn't learn very much on this tour as it turned out to be entirely in french... for a faux-free tour, I honestly didn't mind & probably perfected my 'nod & smile' techniques! the tour ended with a one man opera skit, which ended my time as a tourist. I grabbed an ice cream cone, watched a marching band by the lion statue & made it back to my hostel to collect my bags & bid budapest adieu... 

the citadel from the street
 the first steps up gellert hill
 the citadel statue

 I love how flowers can grow seriously anywhere
 turned one last corner & I knew I had made it!
 hello lady liberty!

 the view from the top : castle on the left & pest on the right

 I thought she was beautifully regal

 back down in the city : I loved the statues lining that circular terrace
the champs elysee of budapest
no major shopping street is complete without vespas 
 the outside of the hungarian state opera

entrance to the opera house 
painted ceilings on the first floor 

a glimpse out onto the terrace 

view of the andrassy ut from the state opera terrace : can I sound more posh?  

the theater room : gilded in gold absolutely everywhere 
up on stage 
closer glimpse at the luxury booths 
the ceiling chandelier & design 

my personal opera booth
 the mini opera performance : he was quite dramatic
back down the andrassy ut 
 buda & pest : sad to leave them as I made my way back to londontown...