By Sarah Russell, Indiana University
still shocked I didn’t spend my weekend in Budapest consuming my body weight in
marzipan. While the almond/sugar
confection was certainly one highlight of my trip, the day and a half we spent
there was so packed with activities and sight seeing that it’s certainly hard
to choose the best part.
and I took the night train from Prague to Budapest to meet our group around 8am
on Saturday morning. We quickly changed
and headed up to the Szechenyi bathhouse at the top of City Park in Buda.
Buda and Pest are the two halves of Budapest, similar to Minneapolis-Saint
bathhouse was beautiful and featured multiple outdoor and indoor mineral
baths. It is the largest medicinal bath
in Europe, built in 1913. Each bath had
a different quality and temperature, along with fountains and jets. There were also steam rooms, hot tubs,
massages, and floating chessboards. We
tried just about everything that didn’t cost extra money and by that time I was
getting antsy to see more of the city.
changed, we headed to see Heroes’ Square and the striking Millennium Memorial
commemorating Hungary’s thousandth year of history. The statues in the back of the square each
represent the leader of the seven tribes that founded Hungary.
headed down Andrassy Avenue through a ‘go green’ festival featuring electric
cars, new age bikes, and of course food.
After tasting a ton of Hungarian pastries, we made our way to the House
of Terror, an intimidating building that houses a museum and memorial to
fascist and communist victims.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to tour it, but even the outside was
ways down the road, we stepped into the State Opera House, built in 1875 and
adorned with sculptures of famous Hungarian composers. Inside, giant staircases
wrapped around columns reaching up to painted ceilings laced with gold. It was breathtaking.
finally made our way down to the River Danube and across the Chain Bridge to
the castle district. We hiked our way up
to the 13th century Buda Castle and found a chocolate – that’s right
– chocolate festival. Inside the castle
gates there were hundreds of stands selling chocolate everything, marzipan,
cookies, ice cream, and wine. We scoped
out every stand that had free samples and went back for seconds. It was a dream come true. We then walked in Old Town passing the
enormous white, gothic Matthias Church and taking in the view at the
way back to the hostel, we stopped for dinner at a small pub covered from floor
to ceiling with little notes that people had tacked over the years. There were layers and layers, and of course
we added our own after eating some traditional goulash soup.
the hostel Molly, Mason and I decided to hang out on the rooftop bar before
heading out for the night. There we met
a German, two Israeli’s, an Irish couple, an Australian, two Brits and two
Swedes. The Swedes had guitars and
played popular songs that everyone knew, like ‘Save Tonight’ and
‘Wonderwall’. We all got to know each
other over drinks and pretzels, singing and chatting about our various abroad
experiences. Even though it wasn’t a
uniquely Hungarian experience, it was certainly the most fun part of the trip. It was a throwback to camp, where you don’t
really know anyone but you all bond over a guitar.
hours later we went to Szimpla Kert, the original ruin bar of Budapest. Ruin bars are housed in bombed out or
abandoned buildings. A couple wooden
frames stand holding up what can only be the entire building. Lights are wrapped around beams or hang from
wires criss-crossing the open ceiling.
Flags and plants hang in corners.
It has a very urban-hippie-chic feel and a ton of young international
travelers who just want to sit and meet their peers. It was an absolute blast.
morning Christina, Molly and I woke up early to go cram in some more sights
before our 4pm train. We headed to the
Jewish Quarter and I toured the Dohany Street Synagogue, or Great Synagogue. It was built in 1854 and is now the largest
synagogue in Europe and second largest in the world. It was beautiful and detailed and had two
floors. It felt odd to me though. I’m
used to the majority of synagogues I’ve seen being small, intimate, and
simple. The size and detail reminded me
more of a church. However, as I walked
along a hallway next to the cemetery and out to the courtyard, I was put in my
place with the multitude of Holocaust memorials. Boxes with names of victims were stuffed with
stones and candles. A rabbi’s name is
engraved in the ground surrounded by a giant circle of stones. A large silver willow tree stands in the
middle, each leaf carrying the name of a victim. It was one of the most beautiful and
heartbreaking sights I have ever seen.
headed over to Parliament where we wandered the grounds looking at mystery
statues described only in Hungarian. The
Parliament building is huge and sits on the river and lights up with a glow at
night. We went from there to attempt to
find the Shoes on the Danube Promenade Holocaust memorial. The memorial is on the bank of the river,
with bronze sculptures of men’s, women’s, and children’s shoes. The shoes commemorate the Jews who were
ordered to take off their shoes, and then shot into the river.
spending about an hour searching, we ended up finding only a local café with
chocolate baklava and decided to take a break.
It was delicious. Near there, we
found a woman who spoke English and pointed us in the right direction. We ran into Hunter and finally found the
memorial. Inside each shoe were candles
and stones. It was very pretty in an eerie way.
out of time, we grabbed dinner (young rooster, calf’s cheek, goulash soup, and
some mystery fish) and headed straight to the train station and boarded,
crammed into a tiny compartment without lights, but lucky to get seats. The aisle on the train was packed so full of
people and suitcases you could not even go to the bathroom. We made friends with two Slovak women and a
Czech man and ended up drinking with them for the duration of the ride back to
everything I set out to do in Budapest, but since I was only there for a day
and a half, I would love to go back and really relax and enjoy the city. And of course, I would eat more marzipan!