It took Becks and I 10 years to travel Europe together. 10 years of best friendship and visits to each other's houses on the other side of the country and 2 hour phone calls to catch each other up on our lives. And boy oh boy was it worth the wait, let me tell ya. We flew into Budapest - me from Copenhagen and her from Manchester - at 11:45pm on the 5th. And by we, I mean me, because her flight was delayed another 45 minutes bc these kinds of things are inevitable when you put me anywhere near an airport. I sat at the airport baggage claim effectively radiating with joy and excitement, feelings that slowly began to dissipate when I got a message from Becks saying she was at baggage claim and didn't see me anywhere. Considering we've both experienced baggage claims before and figured the other wasn't wrong, we realized we'd made a rookie mistake in assuming that Budapest Int'l would have only one place to pick up your stuff. So we met in the middle - her with a running start, me with more of a hobbling charge what with all my bags - and reveled in the glory of the fact that we were about to spend a week together in Europe. Mind you, neither of us have ever been to Hungary or the Czech Republic, and we most certainly do not speak the language. As such, it was incredibly convenient that Becks had already looked up the bus route to our hostel and it wasn't long before we were on the bus headed into town (after Becks grabbed the wrong ticket from the machine had to book it back in order to make it on the bus - it was a good start). We hopped on the bus and spent the 30 minute ride speaking about a mile a minute to catch each other up on the last few weeks since we'd talked while simultaneously listening intently to the bus speakers informing us about the stop we were at and when to get off. We eventually made it to our hostel around 2am for a verrry late check-in and did our best to keep quiet while we settled in - that is until Becks dropped her water bottle from the her top bunk with a sound that could have woken a sleeping giant. It's cool, nobody noticed. I finished up my Copenhagen post and we headed to bed to get some rest before our first full day in Budapest.
We woke up a little later than intended, but to our credit, we didn't get a lot of sleep in the week leading up to our trip. We walked the inner city for awhile before crossing the bridge to the "Buda" side of the river and checking out the Liberty Statue. Just a fun fact: this is not a statue to visit if you don't hate yourself. There are many, many hills. Several. And you go from freezing to sweating in a matter of minutes and then your body is confused about its temperature and your equilibrium gets all kind of messed up and then at the top you see this oxidized bronze statue of a lady who seems to really like freedom. I complain, but the view from the top was gorgeous and Becks and I spent a good chunk of time chatting about life before making the long journey back to the city center for a walking tour. We didn't actually *find* the walking tour... but like, we tried. Luckily we happened to end up in a Christmas market in the vicinity of where the tour should have been and this was more than a decent trade off. We stopped for some of the best Gluehwein we've ever had (kind of like a steaming, mulled wine that brings you immense and immediate joy) and did some shopping bc as the title suggests, we got to feel a little on the bourgeois side of things due to the conversion rate of the dollar to the Hungarian koruna. We especially enjoyed this considering we're poor as all hell and Denmark and England have respectively robbed us blind. Eventually we made our way back towards the hostel, stopping first at a grocery store to pick up snacks and breakfast/dinner food that we could cook at the hostel rather than buy out so as to save some money. Becks found us a bag of corn-based spiral noodles and we were all set to make spaghetti and veggies. What we didn't realize, however, was that that meal would be our dinner for the next three days, bc it made so much. So basically, we spent $20 on three dinners and two breakfasts and some snacks for each of us. Aren't you proud, mama? We had wine with dinner and I got zero sleep in Copenhagen, so guess who took a 2h nap in the room after dinner? Good guess. Becks is patient and kind and didn't mind socializing with the neighbors in our 12 person mixed dorm while I caught up on sleep, and we spent the rest of our night hanging out and chatting until we passed out bc we had big plans for the next day.
The following day started early and had us out of the hostel by 9am. In order to accomplish this, we set out all our clothes and toiletries the night before so as not to wake our dorm mates who were out till 5am and snored like an international chorus that no one wanted to listen to. After eating eggs and fruit at the hostel, we began the hour-long walk to the thermal baths of Budapest. Apparently most people take the tram to get to the baths bc of the length of the walk (and potentially the fact that it's cold as hell) but we are our mothers' daughters and we like to walk, whether it be to save money or get more exercise is beyond me but here we are feeling sore and accomplished. To say that we were super psyched about the baths is an understatement. We agreed that this was one of those things that you see people doing on Instagram and you think "that's not real, regular people don't do that" and then move on. But no, it's very real, and for the small fee of 5,400 hungarian koruna ($20), you too can swim in thermal baths in the dead of winter. We paid our dues and headed to our tiny "cabin" (dressing room) to switch into our suits - which I never would have had if they weren't necessary for my Southeast Asia trip bc who brings a bathing suit to Europe in the winter. We made our way outside into the 3*C weather with nothing but our towels, our phones, and our healthy fear of frostbite based exclusively on recent experience. We hopped into one of the bigger pools and enjoyed the 28*C water's contrast with the freezing temperatures in the air. After spending a socially acceptable amount of time enjoying the atmosphere, we whipped out our phones - or rather I whipped mine out bc it's supposedly waterproof although I refuse to test that theory - and set to taking pictures of our surroundings and each other. Apparently we're trend setters bc it didn't take more than a few minutes before everyone and their mother was taking pictures as well, which didn't exactly help the ambiance of OUR pictures, but whatever. After awhile we switched pools and enjoyed an incredibly aggressive whirlpool with some very frisky and strategically placed jets before heading back inside to the medicinal pools (no idea what kind of medicine but I'll take all the help I can get). We sat there for another half hour before deciding we should try one more before heading out, which was when we realized we had chosen poorly and been sitting in luke-warm water rather than the beautifully well-heated pool right next to us. These things happen. Around 2h in, we realized if we didn't get out of the water we may actually evolve into prunes, so we headed back to make the transition into marshmallow women that could handle the cold. It was at this point that we decided we were hungry, which was decidedly not the time to make such a decision due to the fact that there was absolutely nothing at all in the vicinity to eat. As it was, we had to walk about 15 minutes back where we came from in order to find a Hungarian bistro that served things that didn't involve gluten and then a coffee shop whose beverages we bought for the express purpose of keeping our hands warm. We then walked back towards the baths bc our next stop was right next door to them: an ice skating rink. I know, right? Outdoor thermal pools in the morning, getting your ass handed to you on the skate rink in the afternoon wearing so many layers you barely feel it when you fall. Just kidding, I totally felt it, I fell hard. We were actually some of the first people out on the ice which made it both particularly exciting and particularly slippery, and it wasn't long before I accidentally clothes-lined Becks trying to get her to stop and take a picture with me. I swear it was an accident, and she says it didn't hurt THAT bad, so I like to think it's all good. Maybe she'll hit me in my sleep or something to make up for it, I'll let you know. Or rather I won't, bc I won't know. Oh, did I mention the rink was right next to a castle? Bc it was. Talk about a freakin' view. It made a great background for the video Becks took of me falling to my knees bc I got cocky and tried to spin in a circle and was smote (not sure on the past tense conjugation of "to smite" so just go with it) by some higher power who wanted to knock me down a few pegs. It took us what felt like forever to find someone to take our picture - it's kind of hard to find someone to ask when everyone is moving in a precarious ellipse unless you're willing to clothesline them like I did Becks. Somehow I imagined people wouldn't take too kindly to that approach, so we just waited until we found a couple who was trying to take a selfie and offered to trade them a picture for a picture. And then we did that with another couple, just in case we didn't like the first photos. We are very thorough. At some stage our ankles started to hurt due to the foreign movement they were undergoing, so we returned our skates and began the trek home. Naturally, and purely for warming purposes of course, we stopped at a Christmas market on the way back for some Gluehwein. 'Twas magical. After dinner, we joined with the rest of the hostel visitors to have a few drinks before heading out to potentially the most interesting club I've ever visited with a name that I refuse to pronounce but I think started with something like "Fogas" so if you ever visit Budapest good luck with that. Essentially it was a multi-story, indoor/outdoor, predominately cement structure with a different genre of music being played in each room. You're into trap? They've got you covered. Hip hop? Absolutely. Techno? For sure, there's even lights and fog in there so no one can see how weird you're dancing. Rock? No problem. Country? Nice try buddy, this isn't America. Like I said though, it was a super cool experience that I'm so glad Becks and I could share.
The issue was this, though: Not that it matters in ANY way, but Becks and I were not dressed for clubbing. We were in jeans and sneakers and cute t-shirts and minimal makeup bc who do we have to impress? We were there to enjoy ourselves. So the fact that about a dozen absolute creeps tried to mess with us was absolutely astonishing. I'm not just talking about guys who kind of come up and dance behind you while your friend's eyes go wide in warning and you feel your spidey-senses tingling and dance away. I'm talking about the guy who came up and tried to put my hair in his mouth, the guy who forcefully pulled me away from my friends to drag me to the dance floor, the two guys who aggressively kissed my cheek without warning or invitation, the guy who - after talking to me for about .7 seconds - asked me to go home with him, the guys who would not back off when I tried to turn Becks around and get them away from her, the guy who came up from behind and grabbed her by the waist by surprise - who she had never even talked to btw, and to top it all off, the guys who on our walk home (while we were talking about what a horrific experience it was to be aggressively and unacceptably approached from all angles at all times and have to keep our heads on a swivel) decided to try and go in to give Becks a hug, and when she stepped away, decided that grabbing her ass was the best way to handle the situation. ARE YOU F*CKING KIDDING ME. When she started shouting at him for it (so incredibly proud of her for that btw) I immediately joined in upon realizing what had happened, and the piece of crap had the audacity to patronize us by saying in his best girly immitation "oh I'm going to call the police stop" as if to demonstrate that we couldn't do anything about what he'd done and even if we tried it wouldn't matter. That night was a lot, to say the least. It was not only emotionally and physically draining, but it was also a reminder of what women all over the world deal with all the time. Don't get me wrong, we've experienced this kind of thing before bc what woman hasn't, but this was such a barrage of douchebaggery and misogyny at a level that we agreed we had never dealt with before. It was truly unbelievable. And to think that if we'd had even just ONE male with us that so much of this probably wouldn't have happened is terrifying. To think that if the guy who accosted Becka hadn't liked that we stepped up and yelled at him, that he and his friend could easily have harassed us further or assaulted us (bc jiujitsu or not, each one of these guys was almost twice my size) is completely mortifying. Why do you think straight men don't like going to gay bars? It's not just bc they're straight. It's bc they don't like the idea of someone making unwanted advances on them, specifically someone their own size. This is the world we live in. It's a world where I have to teach my sister not to leave her drink unattended at a party. It is a world where I have to have a conversation with my other sister about what is and is not acceptable for a man (or woman) to say or do around her. It's a world where had I or Becks had been walking alone, there's no telling what could have happened. It's a world where men (and women, of course this is not one sided) feel comfortable asserting their dominance over someone clearly less powerful than themselves. It is a world where it should not matter what you're wearing, a t-shirt and sneakers or a short skirt and heels, you are not asking for anything other than your basic human rights not to be violated. The world is a dangerous place, and the sooner we start holding people accountable for their actions rather than blaming their prey for having been in some way vulnerable or at fault, the sooner I will feel even just a little bit safer. The sooner I will worry a little less about my sisters going out into the world on their own. The sooner I will regain a little more faith in humanity. In closing, I just wanted to say: me, too. Or rather for Becks and I both... Us, too.
Despite the experiences we had at the club, it was truly a really awesome venue. The music was great and the company was brilliant (Becks and I could stare at a wall watching paint dry and enjoy our time together) and we refused to let the bullshi*t ruin our night. We didn't get home till around 5am and didn't get to sleep until around 6am, so obviously we let ourselves sleep in a bit the next day.. till 12. We were out of the hostel by 1:30 to split a plate of delicious traditional skillet-made Hungarian Christmas food - a meat, potato and onion medley that tasted of Christmas (and later just tasted of residual onion so it's good we didn't have anyone to kiss seeing as Becks' partner Alex is in England and I am blissfully single) and then bc it's basically the law to drink Gluehwein if it is made available to you, enjoyed some of that as well. After wandering the market and appreciating the smells and the sounds and the culture, we decided to walk over to the parliament building, which is the building you'll see if you ever Google-search "Budapest". It's particularly gorgeous at night, which worked out fine for us considering our slow start to the day. We walked up to it only to realize that the better view was from across the river, so we backtracked and made our way across the Green Bridge (they're very clever with their bridge names here - there is also the White Bridge and the Chain Bridge). We made our way pretty rapidly seeing as it was bone-chillingly cold outside. Like, physically-painful-losing-feeling-in-my-limbs cold. Budapest in winter, people. 10/10 would recommend. If you're from somewhere like Russia. If you're from California.. Maybe not. The cold drove us into a nice cafe where we took advantage of the Wifi and the cappuccino machine while we regrouped and made a plan for the rest of the evening. As if it wasn't enough to be simply "cold" outside, it got dark AND started raining while we sat in the cafe, which made it very, very difficult to actually force ourselves to leave. But leave we did, making our way up the beautiful cobblestone streets only to find what was potentially every single staircase in Budapest on our way - which was great considering my knee has been acting up and I handle stairs like a 90 year old war vet right now. Actually, that's an insult to 90 year old war vets, I take it back. We arrived at the Fisherman's Bastion to a view that was most definitely worth the climb and began to play the game I played with Fede and Leo (the word game) to help distract us from the cold. We quickly realized we have very similar thought processes seeing as it didn't take us long to end up on the same word, but after 10 years of friendship, are we really surprised? No. At this point we began to make our way back towards the Basilica until Becks' jacket got soaked through (she wasn't wearing a waterproof layer bc we had no idea it would rain) and we agreed it was about time to head back to the hostel. We stopped at the grocery store for snacks considering we had a 6:45am bus to get to this morning that would take us the better part of the day, and then booked it back. When I say we were soaked, I mean Becka's jacket was literally shiny it was so inundated with water, and my medium wash jeans were now decidedly dark. We took a moment to regain feeling in our limbs before heading to the kitchen to warm up our leftover dinner and relax for a bit. We wanted to visit a popular ruin bar called Szimpla, which was recommended by not only the hostel workers but also Fede (so that's how you know it's good), so we mapped it using the Wifi before we left and made our way back out into the barren wilderness that is downtown Budapest. On arrival, we realized that there was more than just one "Szimpla" bar in the city, bc this one was less than enticing. We weren't sure where we'd gone wrong so we grabbed a cocktail and had chats while Becks used her data to figure out what we'd missed - and by we I mean me bc I'm the one who mapped us there. We then found out that there are in fact TWO Szimpla bars and downed our cocktails at a totally respectable pace before layering up and moving on to the next Szimpla. This one had a line outside and lots of lights and cool music, so it didn't take us long to realize we'd found the right place. The line was long but we decided to give it a go bc we didn't want to miss out on such an acclaimed piece of Hungarian night life, and I am so beyond glad we did. The atmosphere was exactly the kind that Becks and I love - dance floor if you're looking for it, good music just quiet enough to be able to hear each other talk, and a super artsy, chill vibe. We made our way to the wine bar bc beer hates me and liquor is expensive and chatted for 2 or so hours about everything from beauty standards to marriage to fate before checking the clock and it dawning on us that we had to be up for our bus in less than 3h. As we are no longer in college and wear the title of "old lady" proudly, we knew an all-nighter wasn't an option so we headed back to the hostel, loudly complaining about the winter weather as if that would somehow warm us up. It didn't, but it certainly made me feel better.
1.5 astonishingly quick hours later, I woke up to Becks nudging me to get up and a text from Ky checking to make sure I wasn't going to miss my bus (bc he even takes care of me from thousands of miles away). It didn't take long to get ready considering we'd set everything out the night before, so we were back out in the cold yet again after what felt like no time.. weird. Becks had researched the tram system to get us to the bus station before we arrived so she had everything under control and all I had to do was carry all my crap and do what I was told, it was awesome, I love her. It wasn't long before our bus pulled up and we hopped on ready to fall right back asleep - which we did for four hours. As of now I think we're about 15 minutes outside of Prague and that means it's time to wrap this post up and see what this new city has to offer for me and my favorite human. Pls keep us in your thoughts bc if this place is any colder than Budapest then I'm cancelling the trip and curling up in a ball waiting for death to take me.
Wish us luck, lovelies! Until next time.
PS. It snowed on our arrival to Prague. It is much colder than Budapest. Send help.
About the Author
Mouth like a sailor, great lacker of empathy, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
USA, Mexico, Iceland, Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Morocco, Malta, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Hungary, England, Poland, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Scotland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Croatia, Greece
The Baltic countries,
if Covid allows for it (Latvia, Estonia, maybe a stop in Finland)
(in August in the US)