Once arriving in Budapest, the Eastern Europe ambiance was very present. Harsh military like ticket inspectors lounging around at the metro stations, terrifying disorientated tourists like me. This was the different side of Europe I had been searching for.
After becoming an instant millionaire at the ATM, the adventure possibilities seemed endless. The city had a great grungy un-commercialised edginess that made it feel so different from anywhere else I had visited. There were no beautiful castles, swarming tourists, neat gardens and clean streets.
There were plenty of sights to see and things to do, like enjoying the Turkish baths, understanding the complex communist history and trying the endless combinations of meat and potatoes (there are surprisingly a lot of options).
The early autumn weather was a great time to visit, there were lots of markets in nearly every park, street performers lined the pavements, and the crowds of summer had dispersed.
I recommend hiring a bike and just cycling around the old buildings, of the Pest side. There are so many conflicting lodgements, like a huge new five-story luxury apartment block, next to a dilapidated wooden factory. The dilapidated edge of Budapest won’t last for long, as there is a lot of development happening. This puts my favourite aspect of Budapest at risk.
Budapest has some amazing ‘ruin bars’ that were abandoned buildings turned into awesome clubs and bars. The decorations were so eclectic and quirky along with all the crazy characters that frequented these places. The people who lived in Budapest had an air of nonchalance about their quirky dress sense and style.
Of the many bars I visited my favourite was the abandoned school. The desks and chalkboards still lined the room, along with bathtubs, and beds from the boarding section. It was like partying back in the communist 60s, with the remnants of history still present. These bars never seem to close and have a great atmosphere every night of the week.
Another great adventure is to find a local flea market. These are usually located out of town in the suburbs of Budapest. You will rarely find anyone who speaks English at these markets and everything is paid for with cash or chickens.
The markets are like local garage sales, a lot of junk people don’t want anymore, but if you are lucky and spend some time searching you will come across some old communist era belongings, like hats, jackets, badges and boots. Much better than the mass-produced souvenir versions in the tourist shops.
Budapest is a great city to explore, and I recommend spending more time than you think there because one wrong turn will result in hours of new things to see and explore in that street alone. However, if you spend too long in Budapest, the diet of meat and potatoes might just send you crazy.