Ok, so my expectations for Budapest were pretty much non-existent. Had heard of it before, not sure in what capacity or context, but when I decided to purchase a one way ticket to Europe (to Prague) and explore/max out the 90 day tourist visa (for Americans) in the central/eastern parts of Europe, Budapest ended up on my list. Also, after some research, determined Budapest would be the “cheapest” of all places I decided to visit – Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Rome, Atrani in Amalfi Coast. Actually, Bratislava was the cheapest, but also very, very tiny town, knew I wanted more of a larger city feel. Spent all of April in Budapest in an Airbnb, and am so glad I did!
I didn’t expect much. Honestly, really decided to park it in Budapest for a month because it was cheap and seemed like a nice (again cheap) central point to travel to other places in Europe (like, Romania, Croatia, Poland – but I didn’t haha). From my research, also seemed like it would give me the feeling of being “away” yet still be able to access the comforts and amenities of “home”. Tall order coming from NYC – the city that never sleeps and you can almost literally buy anything you want at any time. Need a fake Rolex, bootleg Louis Vuitton bag, band aids, and 2 liter of soda? At 3:45am? Sure, half a dozen plus hustlers and corner stores in the city operating 24/7 just to meet your needs, whatever they are. 🙂
In preparation for the month long stay, I joined an North American Women’s Expat group (joined them for coffee each week, all same age as my mother/grandma, still, lovely conversation, glad I went), emailed 2 dog shelters for volunteer work (neither replied! hello? free labor!), looked up an English speaking meditation center, and read a few blogs for “off the beaten” path sightseeing ideas.
Budapest ended up being the best experience for me during the nearly 3 month trip. Not only did I meet the most amazing people, the beauty of the city really struck me. It is such a metropolitan yet romantic city. Truly marrying bits of old world history along with the trappings of modern living and society. Budapest is also incredibly international with many expats and tourists traveling from all over the world.
Lots of different food options, again, very international in that there are several different options for whatever fits your fancy – local/Hungarian, Italian, American, Japanese, Korean, Mediterranean, etc. They even have tons of McDonald’s, Burger Kings, and, yes, Starbucks.
Personally, Hungarian is a very hard language to pick up. I always try to learn a few phrases every time I visit a new country. Sadly, my pronunciations were weak AF, so weak locals couldn’t understand what I was trying to say. Thankfully, many Hungarians speak English (whew!). I did explore parts of the city that weren’t very touristy, thus, not so many English speakers, but managed with Google translator, several apologetic smiles, and some grateful head nods.
Of all the places I’ve been, one of the few places I would actually consider moving to live permanently. And one of the very few I am 100% planning to visit again. Will make a separate post on Budapest To Dos with some more pics. This is just a mushy “I love Budapest” post – one of my favorite cities in the world now!