I got myself up and out of bed the following morning at a not unreasonable 9 maybe 10am. I felt a bit naff, remnants of a hangover, poor sleep from nicotine in the blood ' oh woe is me' type stuff you know.
Having brushed teeth and showered I met the same hostel staff member from the night before and had another chat mentioning the room door not locking. He was surprised to hear this as it had worked for him and after a fair amount of key turning/fumbling and door pushing I realised I needed to turn the key twice to lock the damn thing. It was a proper slap forehead moment.
I haven't travelled extensively , just to three different countries on my own (so far) and each time I've found it invaluable to just go out for a little wander and get lost to start familiarising myself with a place.
The plan was to go for a wander but aim for St Margaret's island. It sounded beautiful, was in my guide book and was one of the first places recommended by the hostel guy.
As I left I had to leave the key with the hostel as they only have one set, later I realised they just keep the key sticking in the lock anyway which kind of negates having the key but the place was secure and everyone was very trustworthy, I didn't bother locking my door when I went to sleep after that first night.
Getting to St Margaret's Island from the hostel isn't that difficult but I still managed to take a wrong turn on the main Boulevard. This was not necessarily a bad thing though as it gave me a feel for the place looking at the buildings and the faces of the people.
It seemed to me that people walked around in Budapest as if they had a constant headache, they didn't look particularly happy or unhappy or angry just , a bit vexed. There wasn't exactly 'a look' that the hungarians have either, they are such a mix of cultures from a complex and rather unpleasant history that this has created a society that is very much mixed , like England really.
The streets were really clean, I did note quickly and throughout my stay that there was always someone rummaging through bins in the street looking for maybe food, cigarettes, who knows. It's not that it doesn't happen in Bristol , it was just more prevalent in Pest ( Budapest is actually two cities, Buda and Pest ). The buildings were big and quite grand but many in a state of disrepair, apparently when they film old war movies the city is a great choice of filming location. Even in a state of disrepair I wouldn't say the buildings were hard on the eye.
There were a lots of kebab shops and weirdly loads of spar supermarkets, aldi and the odd tesco!
On that main boulevard was a load of reconstruction work tearing up the roads causing huge clouds of dust to bellow up and into the crowds of pedestrians. I always felt it best to hold my breath as these plumes hit me.
When I got to the large 'BANK OF CHINA' standing all tall and powerful (bit of personal perception on that one maybe) I decided I was nowhere near St Margarets Bridge or the island it linked too so headed back to the hostel to get my bearings.
It seemed to take ages to get back , but in reality it was probably only 20 minutes , stopping at one of the cities many spar shops to get a sandwich as I needed some breakfast. Travelling solo I have a habit of eating badly, irregularly and I really wanted to break that habit and have something even if it wasn't true Hungarian fare.
I opted for a little feta sandwich with some olives and iceburg lettuce inside, was ok, did the job.
Back at the hostel I met the owner, Eszter, a really friendly and rather cool lady. It's always weird to meet new people who remind you of someone you already know and E reminded me immensely of a French friend back in Bristol. I even asked if she was French as to my untrained ear her English had a slight hint of French to it, I think that was just me and my brains filters at work.
E asked if I wanted to change my room as the one I'd got was a little 'romantic' which I had to agree with and so I got a room nearby which felt more appropriate for a solo fella. Again I won't tell you the film theme because the decoration inside is really creative, it would ruin the surprise if you stay there, but here is a clue:
We sat and chatted for quite sometime over cups of tea and roll-ups/vapouriser. It was interesting to get more insight into Hungary and the history of Budapest.
Budapest has been through a lot.
From my basic knowledge I can say after a particularly unpleasant Nazi occupation where countless Jews were executed, quite publicy from the sounds of it in the river danube, salvation came from the Soviet union. Sadly the Soviet occupation then plunged the country into a communist system, which is great in some respects but to oppose it, to have free thought meant black cars appearing ouside your house for you to then be taken away never to be seen again. Family members would spy on each other, trust must have been so hard to come by and I think in the older generations you could still feel remnants of that way of living in how they act towards others. This occupation ended in 1991, but some statues still remain to commerate their liberation. That in a nutshell is my basic history of Hungary, but I'd learn more later on a walking tour.
After a few relaxed hours I headed back out, this time in the right direction to St Margarets Bridge and then to the island, which is huge!
I thought the island would be quite small, possibly a 10 minute walk type place, the actual island has a bus service in operation and it took around 50 minutes to walk from one end to the other, granted I did stop to marvel at some of the many sights in this beautiful place, but I could have only covered a quater of the area.
It is a massive park area, benches, beauty spots, streams, a sports center, hotels ,restaurants, old churches, the ruins of St Margarest nunnery and a zoo are the attractions I happened to stumble upon. It is such a beautiful place and I could have easily spent a whole day there alone, Budapest is not economically wealthy, but it is rich in sights and attractions and their sports facilities are very good, a running track spanned the perimemter of the island itself were locals can burn off some of that Goulash or Langos (more on that dish later)
After a good few hours of strolling and taking countless pictures, none of which did the area any justice I headed back the way I had came before nipping over to the houses of Parliament, its design based on the UK's HP , only 1 metre bigger :D
As I got close I realised I had found the place as around the building were simple chainlink barriers and police officers dotted around with two soldiers positioned opposite the magnificant building occasionally breaking into some ceremonous synchronised routine involving slow steps in a semi circle before aligning themselves and shifting back into that well programmed rigid stance with that fully focused stare, "don't mess" is all I could think.
I loved their Houses of parliament, it felt a bit weird to think that the country was run within that grand structure a few feet away. Admittedly I have the same feeling when I've been outside my countries Houses of parliament, standing in view of a building with such significance.
I would have stayed longer, I wanted to head down the Danube and cross the chain bridge (the first bridge to link Buda with Pest) but I knew I had plenty of time and more importantly I wanted to go to one of the must-see things in Budapest, 'ruin bars' and the hostel was running a bar tour that evening.
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