Jun 062010

Before I get into the Slovenia leg of my trip, here’s another one of those “random thoughts” posts about Budapest…

  • Budapest feels like far less of a tourist-oriented city than both Paris and Amsterdam. In both of the latter destinations there are tour buses and groups of people with maps almost everywhere you go, but in Budapest it feels like much more of a “real city,” so to speak: just real people living their real daily lives, rather than hoards of visitors wandering around looking at it like an exhibit at a museum.
  • I love how there are little supermarkets everywhere in Budapest – and they’re all opened quite late. In Holland the markets were few and far between, closing uselessly early. Paris was better in terms of business hours, but it still took a bit of searching to find a place to stop for water or a baguette. But here I’ve never had to worry about planning or searching: there’s always been a market just a few paces away should the urge for a snack arise. The one strange thing about them though is that they nearly always have two separate doors – one entrance and one exit, where the exit leaves from behind the registers. Often they even have a guard outside just to prevent people from walking in via the exit. It’s probably happened to me – or the person in front of me – 50 times already.
  • I mentioned in a recent post how Budapest really feels like an “anything goes” type of society. This is certainly clear from the endless graffiti (which is probably more overwhelming than anywhere I’ve seen) and the practice of sitting on the streets drinking at all hours of the day. I observed this mentality almost immediately after my arrival, but the first I was told of it was by my friends on our first Wednesday night out. When we took a tram from the Buda side of town, where we met, to Pest, where most of the clubs are, they looked at me like I was crazy when I started heading for the the ticket machine. “Dude, are you serious? Nobody pays for buses or trams – they virtually never inspect tickets, and if they do, just ignore them.” I somewhat dismissed their comment at first, but after a couple weeks here it did indeed seem to be true. For every 100 people I’ve seen on public transit, maybe one of them actually validates a ticket after getting on. Of course I suppose it’s possible that the other 99 people all have monthly passes…but it is true that I never had my Budapest Card examined, not even once.
  • Getting ahold of that Budapest Card was so amazingly convenient. Unlike Paris, where a single metro ticket lets you ride to your destination, in Budapest one ticket means one ride – so a destination requiring three transfers technically requires three tickets. Although they may never check, riding without a ticket isn’t really something I’m comfortable doing – but with this card I can hop on and off whenever I want, ride the tram one stop to the supermarket or transfer three times for the most geographically direct route to my destination. Take it from me: if spending any nontrivial period of time in Budapest, get yourself some sort of unlimited transit pass. It will make your life immeasurably more convenient.
  • It’s interesting that none of the metro stations I’ve seen – neither here nor in Paris – seem to have handicapped access. Maybe this is because they were all built so long ago, before wheelchairs were a mainstream concern. I probably wouldn’t have noticed myself if not for the couples picking up and carrying baby strollers down the steps; I’ve helped a single mother carry one or two down myself. There’s just no other option.
  • Although most travel resources state that Eastern Europe is no longer the cheap budget-traveler haven it once was, I’m still fairly surprised at how cheap Budapest actually is. A large beer in a nightclub is barely over $2, and virtually nowhere charges for entry. The venues that do charge are apparently never more than $5 or $6. $2 will also get you a huge meat-filled gyro from a street vendor (less than half of what it costs in Munich or Paris). Even my lodging, a private room with private bath and shower, costs less than a 6-bed dorm would in Paris. Budapest may not be quite as cheap as Yangshuo, China – but it’s still not too bad if you ask me.
  • Damn, I really wish I’d heard about Hajógyári Sziget a lot sooner! Just one day before my departure a guy I met at Trafó Club mentioned it – though he called it “Dream Island” – so I plugged it into Google. Here’s the first description I found: I had been to Budapest numerous times before I found this place… The locals call it “ship Factory Island”, and its about 5-7km up river from downtown. It is an island in the middle of the Danube that is solely dedicated to partying your ass off until whenever you feel like leaving! It has numerous bars/clubs, afterhours clubs, eateries, etc. You can literally party 24hrs a day and never leave this place… Many of the bars are trendy and parking lots are filled with Bentleys, Ferraris, Aston Martin’s etc., but I never found a place that enforced a dress code! When the mainstream clubs close between 2 and 4, the afterhours party’s roll-on until well after daylight! Some of the the bars have swimming pools & hot tubs, most have live music, DJ’s, house, Techno, R&B, or a combination of all etc… The place is “so” crawling with FINE women that I hate myself for finding “One” that I decided to keep around for a while… She won’t let me go there anymore!!! So, Enjoy, its really a “Dream Island”…
  • It’s a bit sad, but for as excited as I was about my time in Budapest, I really feel like my stay here went mostly to waste. Aside from the fact that I clearly picked the wrong lodging (from a social perspective at least), the rain just completely washed out nearly everything I’d hoped to do. I was immensely excited to visit some of Budapest’s famous “kerts” – outdoors parties – none of which took place due to the weather. And Cinetrip, a nightlife extravaganza held right inside the traditional thermal baths, would not be returning until July. A visit to Lake Balaton would’ve also been pointless, as I couldn’t exactly go waterskiing or kayaking in the rain. While it was certainly a nice chance to see a bit of the city and catch up on personal work, I really just don’t feel like I got the Budapest Experience I’d been told so much about. I guess I will have to come back again someday…

  6 Responses to “Budapest Thoughts”

  1. That Island sounds awesome….did you go?

  2. Unfortunately not, I didn’t make it…

  3. It sounds like an unfortunate coincidence more then anything – these floods are historic:
    It’s like when I went to Kilauea – the volcano quit erupting the day I got there and started back up 2 weeks after I left.
    Better luck with your next destination.

  4. I know – and that’s exactly why it sucks so bad. Everyone I’ve met everywhere has told me that this spring’s weather is absolutely unheard of, that it’s never so cold & wet this time of year…

  5. Dream Island sounds awesome!

  6. I told ya…next time I go to Budapest, I know *exactly* what to do 😉

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