I think it is best for me to travel to places of which I have no expectations. Although I enjoyed Budapest, I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would. Everyone I know who has been raves about it and I think that built up some unfairly high expectations.
That said I did enjoy the city. I feel the car is given a bit too much priority (for example while walking along the Danube you are sandwiched between the river and busy traffic). However, I did enjoy the contrasts of the city and found it has a vibrancy, creativity and energy that I have found and enjoyed in other prominent cities that I have travelled to in former communist area (admittedly not a very large list but I feel three is enough to make a comparison).
Budapest has gorgeous old buildings, mixed with some hideous retro establishments as well as some interesting modern architecture. You can find local cuisine as well as a variety of international foods (which I was pretty stoked about as my part of Italy does not particularly embrace foreign food). I didn’t really try any local dishes (sadly been vegetarian local cuisines can often be on the meaty side) but we didn’t lack for a variety of food options although we did end up having hummus and falafel every day (there are also a great selection of soup stores and more for the vegetarian visitor). We also made an out of the way trip to a smoothie bar which was really good, although I found a visit to a well regarded ‘modern’ cake shop disappointing.
Also coffee is definitely on the rise here. And there are coffee shops on every corner, from the well established coffee houses (which reminded me of those in Trieste) full of glamour and old world charm to the more hipster hang outs with speciality coffees and cool interiors.
I really enjoyed the interior of Kiosk which seems to be in an old theatre on the river. And really any place which has The Gentlewoman on the table as reading material is my kind of place.
Unfortunately, Tim and I aren’t … something … enough and we didn’t visit any of the famous ruin bars. Oops.
However, for breakfast for three days in a row we had the most amazing pastry from a French (style?) bakery. A pistachio pain au chocolat. Out of this world!
Also as mentioned the design is quite up my line and I did do a little bit of shopping (literally a necklace but I could have bought a whole bunch more). One of my favourite was Mono where I bought my necklace.
We didn’t do too many museums and such this trip although we did visit Memento Park, a private open air museum out of town which houses a collection of communist statues. They were really interesting but I think the experience of catching a tram to a giant but not very busy transport terminal and then waiting in what I can only describe as a sort of abandoned and uglier Croydon (sorry Croydon lovers) for a bus that then took us through a rather bleak landscape to the museum was a rather more impactful one.
We also visited the largest synagogue in Europe and went on a mini-tour. I hadn’t realised quite how badly Budapest was impacted by the holocaust (approximately 10% of those killed in the holocaust were Hungarian) and it was a sobering reminder. The synagogue had been at the centre of Jewish life for the city for over a hundred years and was luckily preserved during the war.
And we went on a riverboat cruise which was kind of cheesy as we got a hideous glass of ‘champagne’ but still enjoyable.
So there is a random rambling of thoughts from Budapest. Have you been? What did you think?