Up until this point, I had been singing the praises of Budapest to anyone on the tour who would listen. As I think I made fairly clear in my blog posts when I visited the first time, I think Budapest is absolute amazing. This sentiment was reciprocated by our veteran trip leader Phil and our awesome-at-pretty-much-everything Hungarian gypsy bus driver Szabi. You could therefore say I was fairly excited when Budapest was out next stop.
The distance between Plitvice Lakes and Budapest was fairly short but it meant going through customs into the Schengen zone. Whilst this certainly wasn't the longest (or the most corrupt) border crossing to date, it was certainly the most through. By which I mean, we had to actually get off the bus, surrender our passports then get back on the bus after our passport had been stamped. On a slightly related note, my passport is beginning to look like that of a real traveller with almost a quarter of the available pages covered in stamps.
As with most cities we had visited thus far, our time in Budapest began with a bus tour around the city. Having spent the better part of a week in Budapest a few weeks earlier, I was fairly comfortable with the layout of the city although I was initially surprised how little of the touristy things I had seen. I realised my time in Budapest last time was mostly that of almost a local (albeit a slightly alcoholic local). We visited the Citadel and the Fishermans Bastille at the top of Buda mountain which proved to be good photo opportunities.
The drink I'm drinking from belongs to Sara, our traveling cook. I can get away with it because hat and bow tie. Also, she's drunk.
That night I got to play tour guide and lead everyone back to my favourite watering hole in Budapest (actually, my favourite watering hole anywhere), Szimpla. I think I may have mentioned it in passing, but Szimpla is awesome.
The next day took a more somber turn when a few of us decided to checkout the House of Terrors which is essentially a large museum built in the former headquarters of the Hungarian Gestapo dedicated to displaying the suffering of the Hungarian people under Nazism and Communism. It was incredibly moving as well as disturbing (the exhibit ends in the underground torture/murder dungeons complete with torture equipment) and by the time we came out, all I wanted to do was find a pet store and hug puppies for the next 6 hours. This was also the first time myself and my tentmate Fraser decided we both needed haircuts. This is an important point because the time it took to get one is ridiculous. We both agreed we wanted a proper barber (as opposed to a hairdresser) and figured it shouldn't be too hard. The result? Europe: 1, Haircut: 0.
Me sitting on animal statues is another recurring theme you may come to notice through Europe.
That night we headed back out again although, and I feel horrible saying this because its really body's fault but mine, but I'm starting to get foggy on the details about what else I got upto in Budapest because it was weeks ago and my memory is pretty lousy at the best of times. The point is, I loved Budapest the second time round almost as much as the first and I definitely plan on going back.
Oh that's right, the second night our entire tour group (all 49 of us) descended on a local restaurant (of Szabi's recommendation) and ate our collective weights in schnitzel and goulash. Next door in one of the many 'ice bars' that are scattered across Europe was the actual 'Han Solo encased in carbonate' prob from the 5th and 6th Star Wars movies (because of course that's where it is!), but the next morning was a real early start so after getting our geek on, we headed home for some much needed sleep.