I had no idea what I was eating. It was like a giant pretzel. There was no coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. “Sometimes I forget I have an addiction,” I had told the girls. It is not until I get that mid-morning headache after not getting my early morning cup of coffee that I realize how dependent I’ve become on it. Our biggest challenge in Budapest was finding a place where we could grab a quick, to-go breakfast while rushing to our first tourist attraction. This day we were headed to the Jewish Quarter with a 2 1/2 hour free walking tour. Sarah, Kristen, and I ended up walking while we ate giant pretzels which purpose was more to quiet down our stomachs. Simone opted for the soymilk coffee she must have found in heaven. “Maybe while we’re walking, we’ll stop by a café, and I can quickly escape the tour. I’ll get a delicious coffee, and one of you can stand by the door, and let me know if the tour starts walking.” It was an intricate plan. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.
The free walking tour was…good…Well…I’m not one to bash a business…But…For the sake of telling you the truth: I did not love it. Sure, I LOVED the Jewish Quarter in Budapest! It was just the monotone voice, and historical information overload, under the fiery sun. I also felt that several questions people had went unanswered. But then again, there were a few inappropriate people walking with us. So all that took away from the experience. It’s the first free walking tour I don’t enjoy. But back to the things that matter: we did not stop for coffee.
During the tour, we saw the outside of the Grand Synagogue, which is the second largest synagogue in the world (first one is in New York). I would have loved to go inside, but it was Saturday (the only day they do not open. We considered going in as disguised Jews for the service, but the way we were dressed made us reconsider. Honestly, I could have walked the streets of Budapest naked if they let me, it was so hot!) The tour ended at a “ruin bar,” which is the most hipster place I’ve ever seen. I hear this trend began in Germany, but Budapest shares in on the idea of taking an old, ruined house, throwing every possible broken artifact in there, and calling it a bar. That’s right. People are also welcome to write all over their walls, floor, ceiling, furniture. The more damaged it is, the cooler the bar becomes.
Simone asked if we wanted to have a drink at this place…But…I had become obsessed with another bar, and had to decline that offer. First, we had to get us some real food, and some real coffee. We found this fantastic alley-like area where they had a bunch of food trucks! A delicious selection of street food, which included a cute coffee stand, and a lactose-free popsicle booth. Budapest is extremely accommodating to lactose intolerance (which made me enjoy my cappuccino endlessly – a harder to find luxury in Madrid, where I live). I had a cappuccino, a hot-dog with their typical sausage (which is more like a chorizo), and a blackberry popsicle I still think about. It was the perfect summer afternoon.
On our way back to the Airbnb, we had that drink Simone suggested at the best bar I have ever been to. It was an outdoor hammock bar. That’s right. I sipped a glass of white wine, in the middle of the afternoon, rocking on an orange hammock by the flowers. “You look like a millionaire,” Simone said. I raised my glass, “To money.”
Back at the Airbnb, we quickly changed into our bathing suits and walked over to the Gellert Baths. one hour walk killed the rest of our energy for the day, so the thermal baths were ideal for our aching feet. We hopped from pool to pool, having some serious girl talk. Then someone had the idea to go in the steam room, which I thought was going to be the sexiest thing I ever did in my life! It was great, and probably my favorite thing at the Gellert Baths…but…it took some effort on my part. You can hardly see a thing, and you feel like you’re breathing in lavender infused water that happens to be searing hot! Steam is also coming from your seat, so don’t move or you might get even hotter. Not my sexiest hour. The most fun was the wave pool, which we thought was a random and contrasting addition to the relaxing baths. I have never seen so many grown-ups expressing so much childhood joy. The sauna was also great, though again, it was not as sexy as I had imagined. It felt a little like a death-trap, but the after effect was really good. Probably because your body is so grateful to be out of that hell fire cabin. We did return to the steam room.
Starving after hours of rejuvenation, all we wanted was dinner. We headed out to the streets, braless, and with dripping hair, holding plastic bags with our wet towels and bathing suits. That’s how we entered our fancy dinner restaurant. I guess it does not matter how you look, as long as you have money 😉 We kept our meals simple, but we had agreed to splurge on one fancy, Hungarian meal. This was it. Even when we went all out, we still found Budapest prices to be reasonable. The waitress brought us a bottle of red wine, and the musicians played pretty classical music. I don’t remember what we talked about, but we had a really, really good time. That’s all that mattered. Our dynamic during this trip had been flawless.
Full, and with extremely pained feet, we hiked up to the Citadella, which was recommended to us by Daniel – our airport taxi driver. It was honestly not my finest hour. I don’t know how many miles we walked that day, but my feet were ready for bed. It was also extremely dark, and we were not completely sure how to get there other than going up the woods. The woods. The perfect crime scene spot. Thankfully this was only a 20 minute walk, and then we were in the raving top where the best view of Budapest can be seen. There were many more people than I expected there, drinking beers, and taking pictures. It was surprising, considering the desolate, dark walk up. “Wait! Don’t leave me behind!” I exclaimed. “I’m afraid I’ll be kidnapped, and you guys won’t notice because I am last…and then you will notice it’s oddly quiet, and when you turn I won’t be there. Then on your way back you will find my chopped body in the woods.” My mind can be as dark as the night sky sometimes. I highly recommend this view, however, though I wish to go back one day in a better state of overall wellbeing 🙂 . That’s the magical feeling I have about Budapest, though. Something deep inside keeps telling me this was not my first and last time here. It took a single look to know I will come back for more.