It's not about the Destination, but the Journey.

Trip Start Sep 07, 2011
Trip End Jul 18, 2012

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Friday November 18, 2011

This weekend a group of us took a weekend trip to Budapest. We had a SUPER early train that left from Linz at 5:43am. Ugh. So we had to leave Raab Heim at 4:30 to make sure we got there. Some people didn't even go to sleep that night, but I, however, managed to get 3 hours of sleep. If I wouldn't have went to sleep a little I would have been unbearable to be around all weekend. The train we had was a night train though (until Vienna when we had to switch) and had a sleeping cabin where you can lay all the chairs down and make a huge bed out of it. Most of the girls fell asleep but I found it too cramped and uncomfortable to sleep. But luckily it was only a 5-hour train ride so it wasn't too bad.

Once we arrived in Budapest we took the metro down 4 stops and then walked about 10 minutes to our hostel. It was freezing (and was freezing the whole weekend) so we practically did a speed walk/jog with our luggage. The hostel we stayed at was in the Pest part of Budapest (one side of the river was Buda and the other was Pest). It was a decent place. The man working there was really really nice and extremely helpful. He gave us like a 30 minute information session about the city and where to eat, what to see, etc. There were 9 of us and luckily we got into a 9-bed dorm style room. Originally us 7 girls were going to stay in this room (leaving 2 spots open) with some random stranger which we weren't fond of, but the nice man said he would work something out so that the 2 guys who came with us could stay in our room instead of the random-er.. so that was good! It was a really big room decorated in some fish decor with twin beds. Nothing special but it was fine. The showers and toilets were shared public facilities but they were always clean. Everything in this city was really cheap too. The exchange of Hungarian Forint to the Euro is about 300 Forint to 1 Euro so we only paid 24 euro per person for the weekend for our place to stay.

After we settled and unpacked for a while we took the hostel man's advice and ate at the restaurant he highly recommended. It was a nice restaurant with traditional Hungarian food. As a starter I had a cup of Hungarian goulash which was delicious. It wasn't as thick as the goulash I had in Austria, but it was more like soup like what I would have at home. As my main dish I ordered a platter of duck in a blackberry sauce with potato croquettes. It was so good! I was a little nervous about the duck because I've never had it, but it was very tender and delicious!

After lunch, which we went to at about 2pm, we didn't get out of the restaurant until about 4:30. Some of the girls wanted to go to the shopping center and there was a Starbucks in the mall as well so we went over there. We walked around the mall and had some cake and coffee at Starbucks and stayed until about 6:15. Afterward we walked over to the opera house, took some pictures outside, and then decided to see the show.

We got the cheapest seats we could (which were a little less than 3 euros) which were seated at the very top and on the side. The show we saw was called Rigoletto. We couldn't really see to be able to watch the show but it was still incredible. The venue was gorgeous- just like what you would see in the movies. Beautifully painted, had a large chandelier, so many arches, the box seats, orchestra in front of the stage. Everything. This might have been my favorite part of the whole trip even if I didn't get to watch the show. The music (the orchestra as well as the opera singing) was breathtaking. And just being in this Hungarian opera house was a great experience. I kept looking around checking out every little detail of the house because it was so pretty and imagining how long people have been going to operas in this house. So cool! We stood out a little bit in our jeans though. Mostly everyone was dressed up, and I'm surprised they even let us in. However, since most of us had zero sleep sitting down with music playing pretty much put everyone to sleep. I was fine because I was enthralled in the whole thing, but Amanda was looking a little drowsy, Megan and Claire fell asleep on each other as well as Saana and Elda. Leanne fell over on me and slept and the two boys were looking a little bored. And I'm still over here amazed at it all trying to sneak pictures without getting caught. So you can just imagine us in our jeans sleeping in the top row of the Hungarian opera. Funny sight I'm sure. There was a short break after the first hour and everyone decided we had better sneak out then and leave because no one was going to make it the full 3 hours of the show.

After the opera we stopped by a wine shop and bought a couple of bottles before going out that night. We then went back to the hostel for a while and chilled and then went to the dance club called Morrison's 2. It was a big club and a lot of fun!

The next day we got up a little later since we went out the night before and left the hostel around 11:30. We had a lot to do and see that day though and needed to be quick since it gets dark at 4:30 now. We walked around for a while trying to find a bakery, but I guess we came at an awkward time of day because none of them had hardly anything left. So when all else fails, we just go to a McDonald's. We know it will always be fast and reliable so that's what we did. After breakfast/lunch we took the bus to the Buda side of Budapest. First we walked over to the city "center" which didn't really have much and then on over to what we believe was a Jewish church. We looked around for a while and then continued on through the park and up a set of stairs that leads you to the highest point of the city. Here we got a great view and saw the church and "castle" I guess is what you would call it. We were told that the church was built here on the highest point of the city so that it can look down on the city it blesses. The church was really big and pretty as all of the churches have been but the castle provided a great view of the city. However, it was so hazy and foggy. I unfortunately didn't bring my nice camera with me (I don't know why), but I'm not sure even it could get a good clear picture through all the haze and fog.

On top of the city they also had a few souvenir shops we stopped by at and then to a cafe for some more coffee and cake. We tried the traditional Hungarian sponge cake with a hot chocolate. The cake had an odd taste to it and I couldn't tell if I liked it or not. I'm not really sure how to explain it.

After the cafe we headed towards the palace. On the way we saw some more things I'm sure had some sort of importance, but we just didn't know what they were. Still pretty cool to see though. When we reached the palace it was located on a very ideal spot with another great view of the city. It was hard to get pictures though because it was already dark. Walking up to the castle we passed by I guess what would be called "ruins" where old building used to be. There was also a little booth set up where you could shoot archery. The boys of course wanted to make a competition out of that. After they were done doing their thing we walked further into the palace. The lighting was really pretty at night as well as the palace itself. After walking around at the top we went over to where you can get the best view of Budapest, especially at night. This is the point where I extremely regretted not bringing my good camera, even though I don't think even it would do the scene justice. This was one of the prettiest sights I've seen. The whole city was lit up and you could see the bridge and many other main sights of the city. So, SO pretty!

We then continued down the path back down to the city and caught a cab back to our hostel. We had to split up in two different ones though, but we made one boy come each... Just in case. Once we got back to the hostel we quickly figured out how to get to the Baths- the last thing on our list to visit- and got changed into our swimming suits. We then took two buses to the Szechenyi Baths of Budapest.  This is the biggest thermal bath in Europe with 3 huge outdoor pools and 15 indoor ones. The complex was built in the early 1900s and had baroque style architecture. It had the tall ceilings and huge columns with statues everywhere and looked like what you would see in an old Roman scene or something. I didn't take pictures inside the bath because I didn't want to mess with my camera around the water, but just so you can see it I'm going to upload some pictures from Google :). It's also a spa nowadays and you can get massages there as well, but we didn't. After we bought our tickets and got changed we tried to figure out which one to go to first. We really really didn't want to go outside in our bathing suits, obviously because it was freezing, but those baths were huge and the steam coming off of them made it look so warm! So we made a run for it...

The first bath we got into was heated and felt good after being in the freezing cold. There were different sections in the pool and in one circular area people were swimming in circles to make a current. So we acted like little kids for a while and played in the current. We stayed in there for a while until the water didn't seem that hot anymore. Then this was the worst part... Getting back out into the cold after getting wet! The whole place was huge and we didn't know which area had what kind of pool. But we decided on this one particular door and again made a run for it. When we got there though it was locked!! So we were all like "Crap!!!!" and ran to the next nearest door just to get inside. In this area there was only a sauna which we stayed in for a while to warm up. It was super hot so we got warm quick and then made Corey go figure out the next place to run to. Ha. He decided we should go to the other side of the indoor pools. On this wing of the building there were a couple normal pools which we stayed in for a while and then also there were the hot/cold baths. This is where you stay in the really hot one for a while and then you're supposed to jump into the cold, and then back to the hot one. It's awful, but it's really good for your pores. So Claire and I decided to be brave and try it. After we got really hot we ran over and jumped in the freezing one (which I believe was literally freezing). When I got in it actually took my breath away it was so cold. Claire stayed in a little longer, but I got out as soon as I jumped in and quickly went over to the really hot one. It made your skin all tingly going from really cold to really hot, but the hot definitely felt so much better. After a while we tried it one more time and this time I managed to stay in a tad longer, but not much.

After torturing ourselves for awhile we decided to check out some more areas. There was another bath that had a current in it so when you swam you wouldn't move. I guess though it turns off every so often so when we went there it was off and we decided to just move on to the next pool. The last pool we visited was the other outdoor pool that was pretty much the same as the other except I think it was hotter than the first one. We just stood around in this one and then we all realized we were starving because all we had to eat that day was McDonald's in the morning and the cake and hot chocolate in the afternoon. Real healthy. So it was time to leave and get some real food.

We left the baths around 9pm and had dinner at this Italian restaurant called "Okay Italia". We were absolutely starving at this point, especially after swimming. I ordered an ice tea with a starter of Bruschetta Toscana and my main dish was chicken in mozzarella and spinach with potato wedges. It was very good! We were all really tired and zombie-like from the day though and hardly talked through out all dinner. The service was good here and the waitresses was nice.

After dinner we went right back to the hostel. We payed the hostel man then so we wouldn't have to do it in the morning since we had an early train and then I felt disgusting from the baths so I took a quick shower. Afterward we were all kind of slap-happy and chatted/giggled for a while, but we got in trouble by the hostel man at one point because we were being too loud. So we calmed it down a little, debated on whether or not to go to sleep again since it was already 1am and we had to get up at 5am to make it to our 7:10 train, and finally decided it would be best to maybe get a little sleep. One by one we all finally passed out.

Come 5am we all got up and packed and headed out. The boys stayed though because they have the Eurorail pass which means they can hop on any train, but we had specific train tickets for specific trains. They wanted to see some more so we left them there and we headed out.

It was quite a trek to get from the hostel to the train station, but we made it there with plenty of time to spare. This was an Austrian train we had back to Linz so it was a lot nicer than the Hungarian train we had on the way to Budapest. There were no connections so we could sleep the whole way back.

All in all it was a great trip! I feel like we saw a lot, especially all the main sights of Budapest, and I loved the city!
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