Budapest captured my heart. I don't know if it was the rich history, incredible architecture, vibrant (but not overwhelming) night life, the breathtaking way the city lights up when the sun goes down, or perhaps just having two amazing Couchsurfing hosts who made me feel welcomed and shared their own love of the city with me, but something just drew me to the city in a magical way.
As I briefly mentioned in yesterday's post, last night I went with my Couchsurfing hosts and the other surfer who was staying with them to Szimpla Kert, a famous ruin pub in the Jewish quarter. It's listed as one of the world's 100 best bars. It has a very unique and quirky character that I loved. While we were there, chatting with two Italian cyclists who had cycled from Vienna to Budapest, a seemingly random and impromptu performance broke out in the middle of the bar. Before long it moved to the stage and the relaxed pub atmosphere transformed into a club type feeling (at least in one portion of the massive bar. It was definitely an experience I will never forget.
This morning, definitely feelingly sleepy from an adventurous night, I walked into the city centre for the start of - you guessed it - a free walking tour. Unlike some walking tours that seem to focus on quantity of stops over quality of information, this one had very few stops, but the guide talked a LOT about Hungarian history. Some of the stops that we did make included St. Stephen's Cathedral...
...the Chain Bridge, the first permanent bridge in Budapest connecting the two sides of the city. However, it was destroyed in 1945 during WWII and re-built in 1949.
...a fountain that looks a little bit too much like a penis (supposedly an intentional way of saying "fuck you" to the government who commissioned the fountain)....
...and Matthias Church.
After the walking tour I decided to make my way to Margrit Bridge. One of my hosts said the view from Margrit was the best of all the bridges, and having walked over 3 out of the 4 bridges in Budapest, I have to agree.
Along the way I stopped in front of the Hungarian Parliament Building for a little fun. There are tours of the parliament building, but it's ridiculously expensive for non-EU citizens. I considered trying to get my UK resident permit to work, but ultimately decided since I had such a short time in the city, it wasn't worth it this time. But I'll be back.
Between the walking and the horrendous heat I felt like I was dying. So once I made it across Margrit Bridge, I found a corner store to buy some ice cream and relax in a nearby park for a while. This is the kind of heat that just moving, even if you're sitting, makes you sweat. Before long I felt recovered enough to keep making my way through the city. I was still drenched in sweat, but no longer felt like I was going to pass out.
I made my way to the Shoes on the Danube, a memorial to Hungarian Jews who were killed during WWII.
At this point my feet were killing me so I caught the metro to my next destination: Gellért Hill. I still had to walk up the hill, but the view was worth it.
I stayed up there for hours to watch the sun set over the city and get an amazing view of the city at night.
I slowly wandered down to the river to get some more photos of this amazing city.
It was late at this point, but my night wasn't over. I went to the local Couchsurfing weekly meet up. Since the weather was nice, we gathered by the river and just drank the night away, enjoying each other's company. It was the perfect end to a perfect (but fucking hot) day.