I started our day in Budapest in a foul mood. Everything was getting on my nerves, the pushing and shoving of a 25 billion tourists, the sun burning my skin, people taking up more than their fair share of seats in the bus, to name only a few. The list also includes; people breathing and a fresh summer breeze that was particularly irritating. After a self-diagnosis of caffeine deficiency and the prescribed antidote things seems a lot brighter! Everyone was in this city for the same reason – to experience and see as much as they could. I watched many of the 25 billion tourists help each other out, offering to take pictures of each other, giving directions, and smiling at each other. Despite it being my first time there, it felt familiar, almost like home. I wonder if it was because of how everyone was to one another, not just tourists but locals too.
We spent the first half of the day in Buda by the castle, museum buildings, and the Fisherman’s Bastion looking out over the panoramic city scape below us. We did this for about three hours and probably – if we had more time – could’ve done it for longer. The views were amazing.
It was during our walk to lunch that the rain started. Only for short, heavy bursts of about five minutes. We waited under bridges and archways until they had passed over before continuing on our way. We had read about this Hungarian restaurant online which ended up being a 20-minute ride on the metro to get to. But it was so worth it. I had fried chicken in a paprika sauce with Hungarian potato dumplings (these were like thick noodles). Delicious! By the time we got back to the river the sun had completely gone and was replaced by grey clouds and a lightning storm over the distant hills. We walked up the Danube to find the Shoes by the Danube, a memorial to the 60 Jews that were lined up and shot during WWII, their bodies pushed into the water below. However, we couldn’t find it, instead, we walked further up the river and further away from shelter as the clouds came towards us in an apocalyptic fashion.
By the time the rain reached it went straight to downpour level and we ran into the first bar we came across. Upon reflection, I think I would’ve preferred to spend a few more minutes in the rain to find a different one, but at the time we found ourselves trapped. In a Man o War tribute bar. For those of you who don’t know Man o War (because I certainly didn’t at the time) they are the heaviest of metal bands. The main source of light in the back of the dingy bar was a TV screen that had their classic shows on repeat, playing such hits as ‘Balls to the Walls.’ An interesting feature of the decoration was the entire wall of Man o War t-shirts and white X’s all over the black paint. I’m not being dramatic when I say I felt like I was in a scene from the Blair Witch Project, I was getting ready to accept my fate. “Of all the bars in the entire city…” Of course, after a few beers, we were loving it and head banging along with the vaguely satanic band on screen.
When we started to get headaches we decided it was time to switch bars and ended up in a Turkish piano bar which featured a live piano and violin duet who played classical music. This was when we came to appreciate the full diversity of the city. The owner came up to talk to us and ended up giving him two of his self-published books, these books lined every shelf in the restaurant and an entire table in the toilets.
We ended the day walking along the Danube when the rain had calmed down, finally, finding the Shoes By The Danube just as the sun was briefly caught between the bank of clouds and the darkened skyline. We continued to walk down the river as the sky turned to black and the city was reflected on the water, lights rippling and dancing in the waves caused by the boats, filled with people drinking and dancing, as they sailed past. The Green Bridge was our final destinations and we ended the night standing on it, half way to Buda, half way to Pest, looking at the nighttime city.