Budapest, fast becoming a must-visit in central Europe, and one of my favourite cities. Being my second time here, I know we’ll easily fill the three-night stay. There’s so much to see and do here. We arrive late on and get checked into our hostel: Adagio 2.0 by the Basilica, more central than last time. (1.0 is further east at Oktogon). So far ideal for bringing in 2018.
But once again, we don’t have a great deal of time. We need to catch the pub crawl as soon as possible after the delay, and thankfully (to the relief of the organisers as much as anyone else), we manage our first hour of unlimited free drinks. It’s the night before New Year’s Eve, so there’s a great atmosphere and sense of anticipation. Though a bitterly cold night, we enjoy getting to know each other more in a handful of pubs. It’s an authentic Hungarian experience all right: their famous ruins bars and their equally interesting Hungarian beverages. Naturally plenty are well on their way after the first hour, but it’s still just a warm up for New Year tomorrow night.
Thankfully for many, we take the next morning easy – the guided bus tour as last time. We’re given a taste of all the city’s been through. A lot. Soviet invasion, Communism, revolution, persecution in WWII, you name it. We once again take the photo opportunity at Gellért Hill, visit the castle, then cross back over the Chain Bridge towards the Basilica.
One thing the Hungarian guide mentioned was the generational divide she experienced. Differing views – the parents who grew up under Communism on the one hand, her own generation on the other. Sometimes strikingly different opinions, priorities and values leading no doubt to interesting discussions. I suppose there’s an analogue of this the world over, throughout history. The environment – even the world – is markedly different from what the previous generation had, causing the next generation to hold different perceptions. Hence the discrepancy: varying inclinations, conflicting life values and priorities.
There’s no doubt about today’s priorities. I’m after a workout following Christmas and days of travelling. As it worked out so well last time, maybe the baths too if I’m lucky. After the group tour, a number of us visit Hummusbar for some top Middle Eastern food . As you can imagine, it’s a diversely international group – the Russian and Australian girls, Indians, Germans. And once again, I’m struck by how affordable this is. The Hungarian Forint is still about 300 to a Euro, and the meal comes in at under 2000. About 6 Euros!
Unfortunately the baths are closed. Though I do pay a visit to the gym Bliss and Body next to Oktogon. It’s great to get under the bench rack and squat again, while also meeting some Germans visiting for New Year.
There are plenty renowned burger places in Budapest, so I grab a post-workout dinner in record time then head back to the hostel. Evening’s here now and some are already drinking. After briskly changing and locking my things away I join them for a couple. Then it’s time to head to the boat party, even bigger than last time. The entire trip is basically there, even those from other buses and other hostels. Our pm2am guide, Chris, certainly enjoys himself after all the trip’s setbacks and stress. We meet peers from all over Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, bringing in the bells on the Danube and watching the fireworks all over the city. Happy New Year!
No doubt there are uncertainties as to what 2018 holds: events, economics, Brexit negotiations. But I’m quietly optimistic. Now’s as good a time as any to get on with all I’ve had in the pipeline for some time. It’s true: the timing really is never right, but I’ll be happy if I reach some simple goals. More months of work launched into the world, more people met, more learnt. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. In my view, if something’s needing done, commit now to doing it. Otherwise you’re not that committed or serious. Prioritise now to do what you need to do in your life.
The party goes on well into the early hours, but we start to tire from the long day. Not least myself from all the walking earlier and the workout. We call it a night at 3am. With the Japanese and Indians, we find our way back to the hostel without too much trouble. Thankfully. It’s a crisp night, but of course the city parties on.
Naturally, the next morning’s another relaxed one. I’m one of the ones that manages to get up for breakfast. It’s 10am and quiet enough. Just as I’m about to eat breakfast, some more stumble in from the night before. Complete with beer in hand, so I can clink “Cheers” with my apple juice.
Nothing planned today, which is good organisation. So we hang around the hostel, then make it out that afternoon. The hostel’s basic, but ideal. Sharing a 10-bed room, it’s an OK group I’m with. There are shared bathroom and shower facilities, but they fit the purpose. Making the most of the favourable exchange rate, I visit a few establishments at Oktogon, manage a couple of snacks, then wander back down to the Basilica. Just luck of course, but it’s worth it: I’m treated to a display on the facade and a street market where I can barter off the last of my Forint. At closing time I negotiate 40 or so Forint in exchange for some kind of cinnamon cakes. Back in the open kitchen at the hostel, another good feature, some have started drinking again. So I join them, and sample the cakes there. They’ll do as a souvenir. Or at the very least, nibbles for the bus to Ljubljana.
Tools & Tips
- Budapest Pub Crawl – A renowned European pub crawl, passing through some famous Hungarian ruin bars with free shots at each. If you’ve some time you want to waste, you could do worse than read the one-and-two star reviews and the organisers’ responses.
- Budapest Boat Party – Get in some “nightseeing” along the Danube!
- Free Budapest Tours, taking in all the main sights. Or take a look at the post from my first visit for more ideas.