Wednesday, March 31, 2010


The flight into Budapest was as uneventful and tedious as any 13 hour flight is.
I was a bit nervous at first. My hostel was in a gothic style apartment with a high arching wood door, which opened into an open air court yard. When I opened the door the court yard and passage way were complete dark. The elevator had been sent down to pick me up, and I could hear it slowly creaking down the shaft. When it reached me I fully expected to be greeted by a throng of vampires. Luckily, I was not.

I made my way up to the hostel, opened the door and...4 people sitting on a sofa, bottles of beer and Modern Warfare 2 on the TV. Ah, my home away from home! They were interested in my travels and shocked by how long it'd taken me to get there. I had planned to go to bed immediately, but Danillo offered me a beer and a seat and I quickly shifted from travel mode to vacation mode.
I met Danillo, a Brazillian studying in Manchester. He was a funny guy full of great one liners and a sort of airheaded-blonde-attitude. He made me laugh, and had a sort of generosity I was surprised to see, but I guess fit the South American stereotype. Always quick to offer a drink or a seat. Even to people we didn't know. Angelo-his flat mate in Manchester-from Chile. Angelo was an interesting guy. Very pretty, long hair, classic South American charm. Gives you the opinion he's not very smart, but he can say some deep, well thought out, things. A nice paradox. Johnny-yet another Manchesterian. and Arwin, from Seattle, and owner of the hostel.

The hostel, which is actually just an apartment with bunk beds in the bedrooms, was a great place to meet people. But Danillo and Angelo were quickly ready to go out. At first, I was just going to go to bed, but as t
hey were leaving they managed to convince me to come out with them. We headed to a few quick pubs for a couple of cheap pints. Then we went to a club in the courtyard of a closed apartment complex. Dark, damp, eurotrash music. Again, I was fully expecting Wesley Snipes to come plowing through the door any minute. Then again, I was pretty much a zombie myself at this point, so vampires would have been fitting.

Finally made it to bed at about 4 AM that night-30 or so hours after leaving my apartment in Korea.

Saturday, obviously, started a little late, but I still managed to make the two o'clock walking tour. Normally, I don't bother with tours, but I really didn't know anything about Budapest, or Hungary in general, so I'm glad I did.

I learned that Hungary is a lot like Korea. In that both countries have been under the rule of a foreign power for most of their existence. Also, I got the official excuse for joining up with the Nazis. (The Nazis promised them land that they still think belongs to them today...ah nationalism.)

But the castle district is absolutely beautiful and the tradition which resonates from the buildings are inspiring and though provoking. The castle stands on a mountain on the Buda side of the Danube river, over looking the rest of the city. It's been there for over 500 years. It's been used during the rise and fall of the Hun
garian kings, it was used as a stable during the invasion of the Ottomans. It was illegally destroyed by the Nazis during WWII. In fact, the hill next to the castle was the last stand for the Nazi army resisting the soviet forces. There the Soviets erected a 'statue of liberty' which was considered a joke for the last half of the 20th century, but now symbolizes the first decade of Hungarian freedom in nearly a century
That's parliament in the distance(There'll be a huge upload of pictures in a few months obviously, just not at the moment.).

Monday morning, Donillo, Angelo, and I. Along with a group of Americans went to the local baths. The baths were built in the 18th century by the Ottomans, and are fully supplied by near by underwater hot springs. At first we were a bit disappointed. It seemed to be only a few tubs in one large room, but as we ventured further and further into small rooms we found an entire cavern of tubs, saunas, and cold pools. It was like a Zelda style map. After going through a door which lead to a room, to a door, which led to another spa, we were in a room with marble floors, cherubims spouting natural hot spring waters into small jacuzzi sized pools, or large Olympic sized pools. Whatever your heart desired. Then we managed to find our way to the outdoor pools. This was, perhaps, one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. There were 3 large pools of varying temperature. Surrounding the pools stood the original Turkish architecture of stone and marble. Small fountains lined the pools. The weather was perfect. You could hear the trees rustle in a near by park. It was a cathartic moment of self fulfillment for all of us. If you don't feel like you're life's pretty damn good while sitting in that spot, I don't know what to tell you.

Beyond the tour of the city and the morning in the baths, I've spent a majority of my time writing, reading, and exploring. Budapest is an inspiring city. Not only the city, but the characters in it. Sometimes I question if they are life imitating art, but I choose to think the opposite. The homeless seem to be friendly, older men-always in groups of 2 or 3, always with a loyal dog on their side. Every underpass has a violinist or saxophonist playing for cash, and the ladies behind the counter at the grocer seem angry and...soviet.

The City itself is, probably, the closest I've coming to a 'mystic' setting. The largest buildings-parlament and the basillica- stand only 96 meters tall, with most of the buildings being no higher than four or five stories. Yet, the small narrow streets which sit between them and the shadows thrown by the intricate crevices in the relief of the buildings create such an imposing feeling of significance, that you feel as though you're standing among giants. Walking down a side street in Budapest, you get the same feeling you might get walking down Michigan avenue in Chicago. Budapest does in 5 stories what it takes Chicago 100 stories to do. The men who designed these buildings, hundreds of years ago were true masters of their craft-in a sense I wonder if we've lost today. And to have Budapest stand today nearly the same as it did a hundred years ago...In Budapest, I feel like I'm walking in history, not learning it.

At, the moment, I'm finishing this between games of Modern Warfare. (Rainy day, kill me.)

This week's been a perfect blend of history, socializing, and relaxing normalcy. From what I gather, I'm a bit lucky-especially to so quickly have met friends. but hopefully my luck continues.

Tomorrow, I leave for Venice, Italy. One day there, then to Florence and surrounding area for 3 or 4 days, then off to Rome for 10 days or so.

From L to R: Angelo, Danillo, Tim, Me, Shy Korea girl who really wanted to be friends with everyone.

Taken on Monday afternoon. Had plans to go out, wound up just drinking and singing songs on the balcany of the apartment.


Michael Charlton said...

I'm going to keep reading this.

Atray said...

bret, long time no contact dude...This is awesome. and I too will keep reading this