I was in Budapest and my hitchhiking journey had already taken me through more than ten countries. On one of the first mornings in the city, I woke early and I wandered through the streets, marvelling at the buildings. I always prefer walking in bare feet but after the negative attraction that I attracted, I might not try bare-foot city walking again in such a hurry. That and the fact that my feet were black when I got back two hours later to make some beds. I’ve never really been one for making beds, but in exchange for 1-2 hours of bed making and cleaning 5 times a week, I had a free bed in a nice hostel.
I cycled the streets of the city, covering great lengths in small periods of time and stopped in an Irish bar to use the internet. Foreigners come all across the world and they congregate in the same places with the same people. Sat either side of me were two separate tables of Irish people who began talking with each other and provided me with some light entertainment. I felt bad for not stopping in a Hungarian cafe. Although in my defence, I stopped at the first place I found that offered internet.
There is a bar in Budapest called Szimpla. It is a ruin bar (made in the ruins of an old warehouse) and quite impressive. It is probably the most famous bar in Budapest, thus prices are high but you can sit in a sawn up car and drink a beer. Then you can jump on a tram and ride home without paying for a ticket, just like everyone else. If you see a ticket inspector, get off quickly.
After a couple of days in a new place, I found myself at a house warming party, eating pizza and drinking wine in a place where a few days before, I knew no-one. Every morning we would be greeted by beautiful music that floated through the courtyard of the hostel. One of the top Hungarian cellists lived in the apartment next door to the hostel. She once invited the whole band over for a pre-performance rehearsal and I was treated to a live classical show as I sat reading on the balcony. On a morning that was different from the ones where I was woken by the cellist, I was woken instead by an angry Hungarian lady banging on the door. I opened it and gestured a lack of understanding as she shouted at me in Hungarian before storming off. Apparently the hostel cat had poohed on her balcony.
There was some sort of musical festival in which multiple acts performed in succession. A group of us went on bicycles, struggled through many bands and then got absolutely blown away by the final act. During the evening, one of the cyclists had told me that she had cycled from Berlin to Budapest. Looking at her old bicycle, I was very impressed by the 600 mile journey that she had completed. We were talking and she asked if I had met a girl in Liberec, a town in northern Czech Republic. Curious, I asked why and she said that I matched the description from the Czech girl of an English guy. Thus she already knew about my journey. She had stayed with this same girl that I had met through couch surfing while staying at a Czech guys house with an Irish man. Sometimes the world is small.
Budapest was originally two cities. Buda and Pest. They fell either side of the river and are now joined by multiple bridges. An Australian girl told me that a rich man went travelling the world and spending money on young ladies, only to hear that his father had fallen ill. He hurried back to ‘Budapest,’ only to find that there was a great storm and he was unable to cross the river by boat (there were no bridges at this time). By the time it was calm, his father had died. As a result, the young man decided to invest large amounts of money in building a bridge. I don’t know if this story is real, but I like it.
So now it is possible to cross the bridge. Buda is beautiful. More residential and affluent that Pest which is beautiful in a different way. One of the best things about moving around a lot is the different people that you encounter. At one point in my journey, somebody travelling with me wrote down a list of all the people that we spent a lot of time talking to. In under a week, the list was more than fifty people long and I don’t remember how much it grew after that. Two people on my list were French and they gave me very happy memories. Sitting on a bridge over the river and drinking cherry spirits, one of the French guys fell off. His face collided with the ground before he bounced back up like a bleeding jack-in-the-box. Two small cuts on the right side of his face. Walking home, the other French man jumped into a fountain and showered in the spray. That night, the first spent most of the night speaking to a cat and keeping everybody awake. They were fun people.
Another person I met, when hoovering, got a sock stuck in the vacuum. After an hour of trying to probe it out, the owner came to check what had happened to him. ‘The sock is stuck.’ ‘Why didn’t you say anything?’ ‘…’ ‘You have to say something if you get the sock stuck in the vacuum.’ ‘…’
Sitting under bridges, boarding moored boats, and climbing anything with footholds soon followed. My days in Budapest were spent wondering the streets and admiring Budapest for free. I even wrote about what you can do in Budapest for free because I found so much to do. I ate in the same restaurant (hummus bar) on most days and even found that you were allowed to bring your own wine. At 200 forint (£0.57) a bottle, that’s a good deal. There was one particular meal time with the French guys and another Australian girl in which I excused myself to go to the bathroom. I passed out and woke up just long enough to come back to the table and order food. Then I disappeared for another little sleep and arrived once more at the table as food was served. When I had finished, I fell asleep at the table before stumbling home. Surviving without sleep can be difficult. I once tried only sleeping for 2 hours a day. It was an interesting experiment.
Being a vegetarian in Budapest is not the easiest thing to do. I tried Hungarian cuisine in a restaurant. It left a lot to be desired. Since this experience however, I have tried delicious, home cooked vegetarian food.
I stumbled upon greasy nightclubs and a beer festival, wondered through a beautiful cemetery, and spent time catching up on important games such as pick-up sticks. In a food market I found painted eggs and it reminded me of a Romanian guy who once messaged me. I watched his movie about painting eggs in Romania and quite enjoyed it.
As my time in Budapest came to an end, a friend came to meet me and I decided to return to Slovakia to meet my couch surfing friend (who I previously mentioned would return to the story). This would be the second, but not the last time that we met. My final two days were spent cycling the streets on miniature folding bicycles. In the early hours of my final morning, I was cycling at high speed like a (bicycle) rockstar. Jumping on and off the kerbs, I was having the most amazing time. Until I misjudged a large kerb. Or rather, I didn’t jump as I reached it. My bicycle stopped and I carried on over the handlebars. Before I even had time to put my hands out (delayed reactions), I collided with, tumbled, and slid along the ground. It hurt a lot. I lay for a minute, not moving as I heard my friend laughing hysterically before checking if I was hurt.
Yes I was hurt and I continued to hurt for many days afterwards.
I still love riding bicycles.