The worst thing about living in a party hostel is that your roommates no longer abide by regular hostel norms. Since they are most likely drunk out of their minds and it will be 5 in the morning. They usually stumble their way into their bed managing to hit every single thing in the process. What normally would be a night of recovery, can transform into a night of restless tossing and turning.
The morning after I felt fine. We woke up earlier than our roommates and left the hostel to grab some brunch. We found a super hipster place called Stika. It was started by two friends who were experts in coffee and wine respectively.
The restaurant was clean with wooden tables and black chairs. It had a distinct culture to it and if I were to open a coffee shop of my own it would be this kind of style. There was just one guy manning the front acting as the barista, waiter and bus boy all at the same time. I ordered a doppio and salmon benedict, which was actually very pricey for the portion.
As you can see from the image, the plate had some design to it with the lemon pepper oil. If the food wasn’t so overpriced, we might have visited a few more times later in the week.
Feeling semi-full but light walletted, we walked towards the Danube River. Moving our way from District XII to District V we started to see more tourists and tourist traps. The restaurants began to have either a young lady dressed up in a traditional gown or young man in a vest. They would urge you to check out their “deals” in Hungarian English. I stopped and looked at the price once, dropped my jaws and never stopped again. The prices are two, sometimes three times the prices of District XII. I will find out later on the walking tour that District XII is the old Jewish quarter where the locals mostly eat out.
Anchored by the Pest side of the river is this large market. It is very lively, bursting with people and stalls. It took a while until my eyes focused on the road in front of me. Once I got past the chaotic noise, I realize the market is very simply divided into paprika/sausage stand on the first floor, souvenir and food on the second floor, and random cheap things in the basement. The first floor is a literal copy and paste of a paprika or sausage stand everywhere with an aisle of vegetable stalls. The weird thing is there are still price differences between the stalls. The prices generally decreases as you move further away from the entrance. The second floor is a bit more diverse, but they still get pretty repetitive after a while. The main goal today was to scout the prices and keep an eye out for better deals elsewhere. Since we are here for 5 more days, there was no rush to buy all the souvenirs now.
Preceding a quick lunch in the market, we headed back towards the center of the city to the meet-up point for the walking tour. The sun is now directly ahead of us and sapping our energies. It had already been quite a long day and we were not prepared for another two hours of walking and listening. But being the frugal travelers who were yearning to learn the history of Hungary we marched on. Or more accurately, we sat at every stop of the tour and fell half asleep in the back of the pack.
In all seriousness, the tour was informative and the tour guide was a quintessential Hungarian. She was full of quirky humor and off beat sarcasm. There was a few times that I didn’t fully catch on to the joke until it was way to late. The Hungarians resorted to this sarcastic wit during the rough times of the world wars and through recent economic recessions. I found their culture similar to the Czechs but with strings of Germanic vibes pulling through.
Budapest itself is a living paradox, with the two sides of the Danube River in contradiction with one another. Buda is the hilly and green side of the city, on the west side of the river. It is home to many of the world renowned bath houses built by the Turkish empire. The Turkish incredible architecture and tendency to indulge in lavish activities led to these bath houses on the Buda side. The healing spring water from underneath the fertile land of Buda is what gave this side of the town its name — Water. “Fire” is what Pest translates to. The flat land of Pest is dense with narrow boulevards and crumbing ruins. It is from the fiery ovens the bricks of these ancient buildings were created. Also just a note for travelers, it is pronounced [pesht] and not [pest]. Flora and fauna are much denser on the Buda side, probably due to the nurturing minerals of the spring water. Or the flash floods of the river in the past and the rising water levels on the Pest side is harsher for the plants survival.
After the walking tour we regrouped back in the hostel and weighed our options. We could either do the Bar Crawl through some ruin bars with the hostel people or do our own thing. In the end, we decided that we didn’t want to get plastered tonight trying to justify the ticket cost so we visited one of the more famous ruin bars called Szimpla (which the crawl didn’t go to). It was pretty surreal to be partying and drinking in an dark and grimy dungeon like space. The walls were tattooed with graffiti and pierced with metal bars and rings haphazardly. All in all, another great day in Budapest. The countdown to the end of the trip is starting now.