Things Any Traveler Must Do In BP (Or At Least In My Opinion)
Hello dear reader!
As I alluded to in my last posting, this was the week where The French Family Took Budapest By Storm. Well actually, maybe Budapest took us by storm, as evidenced by a series of magnificent thunderstorms on and off throughout this week, but anyway, my dad and sister came to visit me this week!
In preparation for their arrival, I started making a list of some of my personal favorite things to do in Budapest. Here’s a small selection (in no particular order):
- Take the Free Walking Tour. Even though I had already lived here for four months, I can't believe I had never been on the walking tour until this week! It's a great overview of the city + some neat Hungarian history and trivia bits. Here's some of my favorite trivia:
- The Magyars migrated to Budapest in 896 from the Ural Mountains. So Hungary was technically founded by the Seven Magyars, and Szent Istvan was the first king of Hungary.
- Buda and Pest were two completely separate cities divided by the Danube river until 1873.
- Buda and Pest are still quite different. For example, the average life span in Buda is 9.1 years longer than that in Pest. Buda and Pest also happen to lie on two different tectonic plates.
- The two tectonic plates are the cause of the many naturally occurring mineral baths throughout Budapest. The baths are where to go if you want to see a bunch of older European men playing chess.
- Hungarian is a pretty cool language. And by cool, I mean, the word for "Hello" is "Szia" (pronounced see-ya) and the word for "Goodbye" is "Hello." Also, there really aren't any languages that are that closely related to Hungarian. It's a Uralic language, and that means that Finnish is a very distant relative of Hungarian. But other than that, I can't say there's any other language too similar to Hungarian.
- Go to Szimpla. Budapest has the #1 and #3 bars in the world, according to Lonely Planet: Szimpla and A38, though Szimpla is my personal favorite. It's a ruin pub, so basically, it was a former apartment complex that closed down, was bought out, and converted to a bar. Even the former apartment's furniture is still used in the bar! It's also *huge* with an outdoor area and a ton of sub-bars and food stands throughout.
- Eat a poppy seed pastry. Poppy seeds are *hugely popular* here. All sorts of pastries and desserts are completely filled up with poppy seeds, and the flavor is weirdly .... herbal. After a while, it tastes pretty good though. And here's another Hungarian fact that I was told early on in my visit to Hungary: apparently there was some concern among Hungarians about joining the EU because there was some question that their poppy seed consumption would be jeopardized upon joining the Union.
- Go for a run around Margaret Island. The trip around Margaret Island is a really beautiful and unique run - it's along the Danube the whole way, and the track is quite nice with distance markers and a big timer board! Also, at the finish line, there's a beer stand (seems like a good way to hydrate after a long run...).
- Visit the Alexandra bookstore on Andrassy Avenue. Seriously. It's way more than a bookstore. There's also an art gallery and a stunning cafe with a gilded ceiling and a live pianist who always plays Frank Sinatra. I used to study here all the time, and I can't believe there aren't more bookstores like this one!
- Ride around on the metros. They're really cool here. Budapest has 3 distinct metro lines. The best however, the yellow line, is the second oldest underground metro in the world (after the London Underground), and it was built in 1896. It's now a World Heritage Site.
Anyhow, I feel like I could go on forever with random trivia and things to do in BP, but I’ll stop because I suspect this might be getting boring. But, I really enjoyed my first week back here - it almost feels like I never left in December and that I’m reunited with an old friend.