Thursday, April 23, 2009

Magyarország: Home away from home

Budapest's beautiful Parliament (beats London's fsho)

Before I write anything, I must make mention of the most wildly fascinating and strange trucs one will ever come in contact with, that being the Hungarian language. For example, Hungary is Hungarian is not even a close substitute for the country's real name, that being Magyarország. Yes, sweet home Magyarország... imagine taking English, pushing around 15 words together into one giant unnecessarily-accented word and then posting it up all over a city.. this is Budapest. I quickly became fluent in the language however (toughest language in all of europe to learn? My ass!) With my skillful command of yo (good), sia (hello AND goodbye... hawaiians, where are you? You will feel right at home), and kus (thanks), I tore thru the town at breakneck speed. Those Hungarians didn't know what hit 'em.
Oh, I should mention that the rest of the words of the Hungarian language were filled in thanks to my lovely and beautiful travel partner, and fluent speaker of the Magyar language, Anna. I mean, she's actually Hungarian-American but props to that one. Without her, I would have been lost in a torrent of Eastern European madness, not to be confused with the more beautiful and more elegantly dressed Western European madness.

Anna and I in front of a statue of King Matyas in the old city

Néanmoins... Budapest is a gorgeous city, albeit not the most tourist friendly. There are more forms of public transport in this city than anywhere I have been, and somehow there are no maps. The metro, the less-underground subway, the Villemos, and buses make up a complicated and intricate panel of transportation alternatives to choose from, aside from the walking and the cheap taxis. In fact, Budapest is a little like Paris, except in place of the Seine is the Danube, and in place of the two rives are the two sides of the Hungarian city, Buda and Pest. But there are tons of old and beautiful buildings of similar architectural style, a Jewish area, lots of museums, a hoppin' nightlife, etc. Oh, but MUCH MUCH CHEAPER! Praise Allah!!

Among the things to see in Budapest (mostly in Pest, the more commercial and touristique side of the city) include Hero's Square, the Parliament, the old city complete with hilltop castle and fortress, the Terror House, more statues of late king Matyas than you can shake a stick at, gorgeous churches, Europe's largest synagogue, and.... TURKISH BATHS! Ok these things are like heaven-sent direct to Hungary. They were built when the Turks controlled the area... imagine going back in time to ancient Greece where beautiful bathhouses with enormous stone and marble architecture filled the city where people would come to congregate, and discuss politics, art, and other intellegencia interests. That is what the Turkish baths are like, except everyone actually wears a swimsuit (albeit one that is barely there) and instead of discussing politics you come to tan, swim, and relax in endless pools the middle of what looks like some elegant Athenian Forum. Magnificent.

Well ya no, Budapest has a somewhat sordid past during the Nazi occupation...

P.s. I met a legit Holocaust survivor, and his wife made Anna and I lunch. p.p.s. that man is Anna's grandfather and his wife, the sweetest old lady and grandmother to Anna. I have now seen Anna's family home in the States and well as her many residences on campus, her parents' (and late grandparents') bourgeois apartment in Budapest, the Carry Bradshaw-esque apartment she is currently living in during her summer stay in Budapest, and her OTHER grandparent's apartment (the.. ahem... Holocaust surviving ones). SUCK IT TRISH!!! ;)

Europe's largest jew temple, in Pest
Nightlife in Budapest is... AMAZING. THE coolest bars/clubs I have seen are all in the downtown area of Pest, with rooftop lounges and open-air patios and underground dance floors, definitely a place to go to party. Anna skillfully directed me around her city and we hit up one or two places each night. Among our adventures: Drinks with Jen, Molly, and Brit who were traveling thru eastern europe and just happened to be in Budapest, meeting (and being bought drinks) by a group of English rugby players and their Italian opponents in their upcoming match at a club and watching them scrum (skrum?) all the way from the first place to another club while Anna took pictures and controlled police traffic in her fluent Hungarian, pushing people off the main dancing stage at a bar so that we could command the dance floor while raging to favorites like Black Eyed Peas (Hungary is a little behind the times ok...), meeting Andrea and her friends who also just happened to be in Budapest to rage, and being taken to a secret club that only Hungarians know of on the 8th floor or so in an old abandoned-looking apartment building.

The last day of my Hungarian whirlwind, Anna and I traveled to a beautiful and quaint little village about an hour outside of Budapest by train called Szentandre ("Saint Andrew" I assume is what those Hungarians meant) where we walked thru small cobblestone streets, lunched at the most amazing little cafe owned by a native Hungarian who had lived in Seattle for 20 years, dined at a bourgeois restaurant along the Danube, and made to sure take plenty of pictures of paprika, the national spice of Hungary. Seriously, these people shower in that shit... they put it on, in and serve it with evvverryything. And I only thought it was used to top deviled eggs... well ya learn something new everyday dontchya?

Petit Chemin in Szentandre I thought was a cool photo... random, yea

On the way back to Paris (that being taxi shuttle, bus, plane, bus, plane, RER, metro) to reach my apartment, I ran into quite a cast of interesting characters. Oh, my adventures never end. This rambunctious group included:
1. A Greek man living in Australia with whom I chatted about kangaroos and their meat all the way from Zurich to Paris.
2. An American woman who teaches French in Paris and who lived in Morocco for 6 months and shared tips with me about living in North Africa.
3. An African man near the exit to CDG who thought I was French and whom I had to help direct to the nearest taxi stand.
4. A priest from Senegal who was confused about the RER B who thought I was French and thus whom, in French, I had to direct to the express train to take him straight to Gare du Nord, avoiding all the banlieue stops.
5. A British couple about our age who spoke only English and, being ignored by the real French people, I directed how to get thru Châtelet-Les Halles and on to the 1 to get to Port Maillot.
6. A really sexy French Arab mec on the 14 who was eyeing me up (and vice-versa of course)

All in all, successful taste of Eastern Europe.

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