Today I said a sad farewell to Vienna. I have a few parting observations that I think i forgot to mention before. It’s a beautiful town. Even in the weird, crummy neighborhood of my hostel, the buildings were so pretty. Everything is so Art Deco, everywhere you go. I love it. It feels like such a bourgeois city, but I can’t complain. It’s all directed towards a support of the arts.
The people are well dressed. Italians, from what I saw, have totally lost their sense of style. Camo is the big thing right now, and no one looks good. In Vienna there were a few women wearing thes weird dresses. The only word I can think of for the style is maybe like a faux, modern peasant style? Long, frumpy dresses with poofy white sleeves (or poofy blouses underneath). But no place is perfect, so I’ll let it go.
I’m never going to forget my day there, or my opportunity to see Andrea Chenier at the State Opera House. When I’m older, if I ever have the money to buy a real seat to the opera, I will still have a much higher esteem for the theaters that made my love possible at a young age. The Lyric in Kansas City, first and foremost… Vienna of course, and the Royal Opera in London. There are many more places that make the arts accessible to anyone who loves them. I have a great respect for these places.
I hope I will always remember what they’ve done for me, and choose to go back to them before I go somewhere like Paris where I was turned away. I’m not resentful towards Paris. I’m just disappointed in them, and deeply grateful to the programs that have made it possible for me to enjoy opera in other parts of the world
I took the train to Budapest in the early afternoon. I forgot how intimidating it is to travel somewhere with such a foreign language. Most countries I’ve been to, I’ve been familiar with key words and food names. If not anything specific, I know enough about the origins of words to figure it out. In Humgary this is definitely not the case.
It took me a while to orient myself when I got off the train. The first thing I needed to do was make train reservations for the next legs of my journey. I found out that Poland is not covered by my eurail pass, which is very disappointing. But since the hostels there are €5/night including breakfast, I think it will be alright. My eurail pass takes me as far as the Polish border, at least.
After I finally got these plans all worked out, it was time to find my way into the city. I had no map, no Hungarian money, no language skills, and no knowledge of their public transportation. So, I did what anyone would do. I followed the main movement of the crowd out the doors of the rail station, into the metro, and onto a train.
My instinct was correct. I got off at a well-connected stop in what I hoped to be Buda. There were plenty of restaurants and cafes around, and I did find one with wifi. I love being finally in a country that doesn’t break my bank. Although my blood pressure still triples every time I hear that my total is in the thousands or tens of thousands, it’s only a couple euro. It feels weird to carry around 10,000-florint bills. I don’t understand why they don’t just get rid of the last two digits. They don’t use money in that small of denominations anymore. As it is, 300 florint is about 1 euro. You can eat like a queen for… Next to nothing.
And eat like a queen I did, along with looking up my hostel and directions to it. The directions were clear and it was easy to find. I just should have done more research before I left Vienna. It’s in Pest, in an old city building. I love being in older buildings in cities more than the new, purpose-built buildings outside of town. I like the character, and it feels like you’re really in a city when you walk into an old building.
(That was actually a really cool experience in Florence, too–getting to visit the apartments where my friends are staying. You feel so cosmopolitan walking into a private building in the city center. Yes, I belong here!)
It was too late in the day to visit any museums, but the sun was shining and there was plenty of time to explore. I grabbed a pamphlet for a ghost walk tour that started at 8:30, relatively nearby. Armed with brand new city maps, I went to visit some notable buildings in the area with the idea of ending up at the tour meeting point.
I saw the synagouge, a main shopping street, the cathedral, and the opera house. One odd thing about the Jewish quarter of budapest is that none of it was destroyed in WWII. Hitler wanted to preserve it, to turn into a museum about the exterminated race. Pretty bizarre.
Budapest, what I’ve seen so far, is amazingly beautiful. And, except for when I had my lunch today, I’ve been entirely on th Pest side–and Buda is supposed to be the really awesome part.
At some point I looked at my ghost walk pamphlet for long enough to realize that Wednesday is the one day of the week without the tour. Instead, I ducked into a little pancake place. I had two pancakes, a traditional Hungarian one and a dessert one. The Hungarian one was chicken, paprika, and cucumber… It was delicious.
The place is called Basil Tea, and i would highly recommend it to any Budapest visitors. Its located by the cathedral, where most of the restaurants are running about 2,600 for an entree. My two pancakes and an apple were less than 700. The chefs were really nice, and the wife of one of them kept me company while I ate. Her name is Sylvie, and she was so sweet. She taught me some Hungarian idioms, like “the fences aren’t made of sausage” and “chasing the little fox.”
I meandered back to my hostel, since it was getting dark. I might as well go to bed early so I can make the most of my day tomorrow, when things will actually be open. I am really enjoying Budapest so far and I cannot wait to see more.