Life in a Bag
There’s something kinda big I forgot to mention in my previous post, maybe for some kind of subliminal Freudian reasons where I figured that if I didn’t think about it, it might not be true. Thinking about it now though, it definitely is true…
Before I left Manchester in July, I sold all of my possessions, or at least all of my possessions which I didn’t want to take with me/wouldn’t fit in my backpack and that I thought were of some value. I sold most of them on eBay, including my flat screen TV, games consoles and even clothes, leaving my bedroom behind with only a few pieces of crappy flat-pack furniture and a pile of books worth neither carrying nor selling. The clothes I liked, my laptop, mobile phone and a few toiletries went into my backpack, this represented everything I had left, my entire life in a bag.
I figured that I wouldn’t be home for a long time, if ever, and right now I needed money more than a selfie needed likes. I raised around £600 in total, £600 for almost everything I had ever bought. Why hadn’t I bought a car, a house or something worth selling?! Shit! Anyway the money barely brought my bank account out of the red, so it looked like I was going to have to get used to the RyanAir lifestyle for the foreseeable future.
So I Put My Life in a Bag and Left Home
When we landed in Budapest it began to dawn on me that I really had moved out, it had taken 25 years, but I was now travelling the world with only a bag on my back and no fixed home. I was a backpacker, a traveller, a homeless! (I guess the interpretation depends on whether you’re a glass half full/half empty sorta person, but I’ll settle for traveller, it sounds much nicer)
Now, I guess this would be a scary thought for most people, but stood there waiting to collect my bag/entire life at the carousel in Budapest, I only remember feeling excited, more excited than I had felt about anything since a trip to DisneyLand Paris when I was 8. There was plenty to be worried about, I had no return flight, no money to pay for one and in fact no real home to return to, but for me this just made the adventure all the more exciting and full of unknown. Honestly, the only thing which really gets me excited nowadays is taking risks or being in uncomfortable and scary situations, no doubt a psychiatrist might be a bit concerned but I promise to be extra careful never to bump into one.
This Ain’t No Fairytale
I guess I’m due a bit of bad luck in my life, so I wasn’t too surprised when only an hour after landing in Budapest we got fined around £20 each for buying the wrong bus ticket to the hostel. Ok, I admit we had purposely bought the cheapest ticket possible, knowing it wasn’t the right one to get us all the way to our hostel, but figured we could spin the standard ‘I’m a tourist and don’t know what I’m doing‘ bullshit if we ever got checked. Well it turned out the ticket lady who checked us had seen that kinda bullshit before and wasn’t falling for it, fuck! So we forked out the money before she pleasantly asked where we were going and if we needed directions. Bitch I don’t want your help!!! Ok so we took her advice anyway, but I was giving her evil eyes the whole time, so that about makes us even.
I know a £20 fine doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I really was broke when I arrived. I had borrowed some money from Rick just to get through the first few weeks before I could start making some money from poker, but this was still a debt I had to repay and at the time I had almost no money in my bank and only a little bit in my poker account.
Anyway the point is that losing £20 and the £70 to RyanWeDon’tCAir was pretty stressful, as I was now in debt and had no other safety net. So for the rest of the journey to the hostel, I was worrying about my money situation and about as pleasant as my mum is when she finds I left a kitchen full of dirty dishes.
Is it Buda or Pest?
We stayed at the Sexy Tractor hostel in Budapest, which was great, but let’s be honest we only chose it because it was one of the cheapest hostels we could find on hostelbookers.com and had fine reviews. By the way it took me around 3 days to realise the joke in the name and theme of the ‘Sexy Tractor’ hostel after staring at lots of communist propaganda posters plastered around the place, think about it. I could definitely recommend the hostel, the beds are fine, the rooms are clean, the wifi worked and every night they had free drinking games/pub crawls, but we never participated so I don’t know how fun they were.
We planned to get up early the next day and see the city, maybe go on a free walking tour or something and make the most of our 3 days in Budapest! Well that didn’t happen. The great, or terrible, thing about me and Rick is that we are both about as lazy as each other, so a planned 10am wake up and seize the day! turned into a 2pm wake up courtesy of the cleaners and a half arsed stroll around Budapest to see what the city was all about. I did manage to take a few photos in between long sit-downs with ice cream and I was genuinely impressed with the city. The architecture is really cool, with a lot of those big old Eastern-European city apartment buildings with big winding staircases up the centre and loads of buildings with cool decorative façades, you know the ones with little statuettes randomly placed near the windows. Don’t get me wrong, the city is kinda shitty, but it’s shitty in a cool, slightly run-down, but full of character kind of way.
Although we failed to get up on time for a walking tour, Rick had been here before so told me a few things he remembered from the tour he went on. To be honest just about the only thing he could remember clearly was that Budapest used to be two separate cities named Buda and Pest, which were divided by the river Danube. This led to hours of hilarious jokes where one of us would name somewhere we wanted to go and the other would reply ‘but is it in Buda or Pest? WHEEEY!’… Ok, it was funny at the time…
Can I Have That in Hungarian, Please?
We walked around a bit before getting hungry and deciding to find a traditional Hungarian restaurant, gotta try the local food after all. A lot of the ‘traditional Hungarian restaurants’ we found were the kind where the waiters wore theatrical costumes from the medieval period, locals seemed to avoid and the prices were inflated to levels the rich unsuspecting tourists were accustomed to. But I’m weary of falling into tourist traps like this, so if you want a tip, always avoid any restaurant which claims to be ‘traditional’, you can guarantee it’s more expensive than the place around the corner where the locals go to eat good local food.
At this point Rick remembered he went to a nice cheap restaurant last time he was here and was pretty sure we were close by. This was the point at which I learned to be cautious whenever Rick said he knew the directions to a place. We walked around aching and hungry for five fucking hours trying to find this restaurant he was sure was ‘just around the corner’. I get pretty grumpy as it is when I’m hungry, but by the time we finally found the place I was seriously pissed off, it felt like my ankles were bleeding and my stomach had turned into a rabid dog. Nevertheless we did find the place, we went inside and asked for the menu (in English) and the Hungarian lady handed us a menu (in English), which had little stickers over the original prices and new prices written in pen which were almost double the original. The price for the English translation seemed a little steep to us, so we decided to leave and eat at a buffet we had passed two hours before. The food was actually great considering it was an all-you-can-eat. I tried goulash for the first time, which is really, really good by the way and even shark meat, which tasted ok but had a slightly weird texture. One thing I found here in Budapest was that whenever a meal comes with ‘noodles’, it shows up with a pile of small macaroni style pasta in a bland white sauce, maybe it’s a Hungarian thing, but to me that shit ain’t noodles!
After a few beers and a decent meal, I cheered up a bit and got thinking, there is a lot to love about Budapest, it was nice to just walk around and look at the buildings. Although it felt run down and a bit poor, it never felt dangerous and I didn’t get mugged once, which is more than I can say for Rio de Janeiro so that will do for me.
My favourite thing about Budapest? The beers are CHEAP!
So sightseeing is great and appreciating architecture is actually quite pleasant, but there’s only so long you can walk around going ‘wwoooowww look at that building’ before you need a beer and here in Budapest you can afford plenty, even on my budget! On average we were paying 60p-£1 (GBP) for a beer, I don’t think they were pints, but after a few I didn’t care.
Another really cool thing about Budapest is Ruin Bars. These are bars which are inside of old, disused and slightly run-down buildings, of which there are lots in this city. They usually have a quirky theme and large open seating areas in the central courtyards of the square buildings. You should definitely check them out if you ever go to Budapest and my favourite one is called Instant, which has a super ‘trippy’ theme, with a huge owl sculpture hanging over the central courtyard, psychedelic paintings all over the walls and over 80 different rooms. A fair few of the rooms have live DJs too and there’s no charge to get in, although the drinks are expensive by Budapest standards, but you can just get wasted before you go and stop whining you little bitch.
Running Away With The Circus
On our last day we took a walk down to City Park, which as the name suggests, is a big green park in the middle of the city with a few interesting features, most notably a Zoo. After having visited quite a few cities around the world I’ve become used to people telling me that the zoo in this city is really worth checking out, after having checked out quite a few of these zoos, I can tell you, they really aren’t. They all have pretty much the same animals, so unless I hear of a zoo that has a monkey which shits rainbows or a lion which can be arsed to stand up when I’m looking at it, then my attitude from now on is ‘if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all’. So we gave the zoo a miss and instead walked to beautiful old castle sitting right in the middle of the park, I don’t remember the name but I’ve included a few photos here for you to gush over.
There is also a huge statue area which is kinda cool and probably has some kind of historical significance, but all the plaques were written in Hungarian and, as we already know, I don’t read Hungarian. After a couple of hours strolling off a hangover (which you can see being earned in the photo above) we were tired and ready to head back for a siesta, when we stumbled upon the hidden gem, a traditional CIRCUS!
It was right in the middle of the park and had a tent and everything, so when we saw the (second cheapest) tickets were only £5, how could we refuse? Neither of us never been to a real circus before, (I’m gonna discount the Cirque du Soleil show that I saw in Vegas, I just don’t see how you can call yourself a circus without so much as a dancing dog) so we were pretty excited when walking into the main tent andhad no idea what to expect. We weren’t disappointed! The show opened with four extremely well behaved tigers who sat upright on stools, span around on glitterballs and hopped over each other on their hind legs, before the Ringleader came out with a three minute monologue in Hungarian, most of the audience laughed hysterically so we assumed he was hilarious and joined in. This alone was worth the ticket price in my opinion, but when they brought out the most talented elephant since Dumbo, we were astounded. Have you ever seen an elephant do a hand-stand with its front two legs on a moving turntable? Well now I have. I’ve ridden elephants, but I’ve never seen one do anything like this before and I was properly impressed.
The rest of the show obviously could not compete, but it was still worth watching, with a mix of horse stunts, clowns, trapeze artists and a bat-shit crazy performance by the ‘human spider’, who would walk on the ceiling by hooking his feet onto rope loops hanging down, like some kind of human velcro and all of course with no safety net. While the children in the audience were busy laughing and clapping, Rick and I were biting our fists and screaming at him to be careful like overly protective parents, earning a few awkward glances from nearby audience members.
Note: To anybody concerned for the welfare of the animals involved in the show, I assure you they were all attention divas and loved nothing more than soaking up the applause of the audience.
So what did I think of Budapest?
- Full of beautiful old buildings, with a shitty, run-down charm
- Cheap beer!
- Did not get mugged
- Expensive translators
- Tourist savvy ticket ladies on buses
- Illegitimate noodles
I really enjoyed the city, in fact it’s one of my favourite cities to have visited so far. It’s clean, cheap, beautiful, full of history and feels mostly unspoiled by tourism as of yet. I can definitely recommend you take a trip and enjoy it for yourself, unless you want a beach. It does not have a beach.
Rating: 4/5 Beers
We took a bus out of Budapest at 11pm on Wednesday 9th July. Next stop…. Romania and the Kids Summer Camp!
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