Road trip to Budapest
We’ve been living in Belgrade, Serbia for month five and it hasn’t really impressed me. Yes, the people are friendly and the cost of living is extremely low but it doesn’t have the wow factor of other Eastern European cities. I’ve enjoyed the countryside but found myself feeling restless and decided to join friends for a road trip to Budapest.
We rented a car and headed out early (after a late night before – who’s idea was that?!) Being sleep deprived led to hilarious car conversations, with tears streaming down our cheeks in laughter. Driving the wrong way through a drive-thru, I knew our weekend was going to be an adventure.
We passed fields of sunflowers and quickly arrived at the rural border crossing into Hungary. The place appeared abandoned. We looked around and saw a sign for the duty-free shop, a derelict building with plywood covering the windows, obviously long gone out of business.
As we slowly moved forward in the line of cars, we noticed something unusual – razor wire. Rolls and rolls of razor wire filled the fields from the road to the forests. It covered the fences above and below. We speculated on the harsh security – was it left over from previous conflicts? Was is to keep people in? Or out?
We finally arrived at the crossing and they quickly scanned our passports. Ready to hit the road again, we moved forward, only to be stopped by another guard. (Oops, first stop was Serbian, second was Hungarian!)
Finally on our way, we decided to detour to a small town called Szegad. I had noticed it on the map earlier and wanted to explore so when one of the girls mentioned her friend had gone to university there, we decided we had to check it out. It was a cute little town with beautiful architecture, a large stone church, and quiet riverside.
Back on the road to Budapest, we arrived and easily found our hotel. A mutual friend was staying in Budapest for the moth so she gave us recommendations for dinner. We hopped the metro and began exploring!
Budapest has a great vibe. It’s very laid-back, easy to navigate, and stunning! The architecture reminded me of Prague but with more warmth. Dinner was amazing (adorable outdoor dining at the Vintage Garden) and our friend met us later to take us to Bar 360 – a rooftop bar giving us full views of the city at night.
The next day we went exploring, determined to try traditional Hungarian food (which involves a lot of meat!) We snuck in a quick massage (still tired from our previous late night and early morning) and then made the best decision – a sunset river cruise!
The Danube river runs through Budapest, dividing the city into the Buda side and the Pest side. Sitting on the top of the boat in the night air, we captured the setting sun and watched as buildings slowly lit up. The 1.5 hour cruise hit all the main sights at their most beautiful time of day. There were several river boats, offering full accommodations, cruising beside us and it seemed like a luxurious way to travel.
The next morning we decided to check out the famous bath houses and went to Rudas Spa. What a wonderful way to start the day! We opted for the women only section (bathing suits optional) and enjoyed the five thermal pools, spa and sauna.
There’s something magical about women coming together – the laughter, the chatter, the gossip, the connection of girlfriends young and old. Although we couldn’t understand most of what we heard, we felt many of the conversations involved children, husbands, relationships, household matters, plans and dreams.
We felt the final knots of tension slip away into the hot water and left feeling renewed and relaxed.
Then off to the Grand Market Hall – a crazy combination of food and souvenir vendors selling everything from leather bags to t-shirts to embroidered aprons.
Our final stop before heading home was the Citadella, a fortress located high on a hill with sweeping views of the city. The Danube stretched out before us, the city sprawled out in every direction and we gazed out over the city we had barely begun to explore.
Driving home took longer than expected, with several stops for ice cream, coffee, photo opportunities and silliness. There was even a moment my life flashed before my eyes – diving back inside the car as a semi-truck came barreling down on us at a toll booth!
It was a quick but memorable side-trip and I’m definitely adding Budapest to my list of cities to visit again.
Next up – Valencia, Spain!