Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Chelsea in Budapest Part I

Thursday, October 24 and Friday, October 25

So, last you heard of us, we were embarking on the longest bus ride of our trip to date: 20 hours. We would cross all of Germany, pass through Austria, and finally arrive in Budapest, Hungary. This portion of the trip is what I had been most looking forward to. I've been to Western Europe previously, and I was anxious to see what Eastern (well, central-Eastern) Europe was like. Even more exciting was our accommodations awaiting us; we decided to try AirBnB again, but this time try to rent the entire apartment rather than just a private room in someone's home.

The buses on Eurolines have been extremely hit-or-miss thus far, and our trip from Brussels to Budapest was no exception. We were hoping for either electrical outlets (we have had once on a bus thus far) OR WiFi (also had once). It was pushing it to hope for both. We got neither. The bus was going from London to Budapest, and I think the entire stretch was something like 29 hours. How in the world do they expect people to not use their phones, iPods, iPads, computers, etc, for that long without a charge!! I mean, I know these things used to not even exist, but they do now and PEOPLE USE THEM. Especially when they're bored, which is a frequent occurrence on these bus rides...

Anyway, we did get to see a movie at the beginning. And, it even had English subtitles, something we haven't had thus far on a bus. However, we were so far from the screen, and me with one contact; it was more work than it was worth to try to watch the movie.

Overall the bus ride was uneventful. There were some interesting characters on board; a pack of true-blue Gypsies (one of whom was coughing so much I swear he had Black Lung); a mom and her 2 year old toddler who got quite cranky around midnight; some idiot in front of us who decided it was a good idea to transport fruit in the overhead compartment on a nearly-30 hour bus ride, the putrid liquid result contaminating our bags which had the unfortunate luck to be in the same compartment.

Around midnight, I decided to try to outsmart my body by taking some sleeping pills. I hoped that I would make myself so tired that my body would have no choice but to sleep despite the incredible discomfort. Instead of achieving my goal, I managed to make myself about as cranky as the 2-year-old next to us. I finally got about 2 hours of total sleep between 4:30am and 7:30am (off-and-on, of course). We rolled into Budapest around 12:30pm the next day.

When we got off the bus, we headed to the Eurolines office once again to book our next leg: Budapest to Bratislava. However, we finally hit the one roadblock I feared most on the trip: no seats available. The one time I booked a place to stay in advance, we were going to be unable to make it. There were no seats on Monday (the day we had planned to leave) OR Tuesday. We could get a seat on the bus leaving at 6am on Sunday, but we would lose 2 days and 1 night in Budapest, plus have no where to stay on Sunday night (our BnB was booked starting Monday). After a slight panic, we declined to book anything and chose to look for another way to get there.

But, first, we needed to get to our apartment in time to meet our host, Flora. We took the metro to our stop and walked around a few minutes until we found our street. We walked up to the building at 1:29pm, just in time to meet Flora at 1:30. She let us in the building, gave us the key, showed us around a little, and left us to settle in.

Let me note here that the weather in Budapest was perfect. It was that lovely balance between warm and cool, being neither hot nor cold, but feeling just right without needing a jacket. We had a huge window in the apartment and immediately opened it and let the sun and gorgeous weather shine in and light up the whole apartment.

The apartment was very nice, and just the right size for us. The kitchen was a little small, but it was big enough for us to cook, which was what we wanted to do in order to save a bit of money. But, at the present moment, we were too tired to think about cooking. Instead, we headed downstairs to a gyro place in the neighborhood. I think it must have been the best gyro I'd had in ... well, years. I don't usually eat them in America, and the ones in Korea weren't too impressive. In Belgium, they didn't have very good flavor sauces. So, I very much enjoyed the spicy/cool sauces here.

After properly gorging ourselves, we decided to hit the grocery store to get some goodies for dinner and breakfast. We bought: a baguette, a small stick of butter, a bag of pasta, a small thing of parmesan, a carton of milk, a thing of juice, pasta sauce, a bottle of water, and a bottle of wine. It was the equivalent of about $17. We weren't totally sure of the exchange rate, since we were now using Hungarian currency rather than Euros; I thought it was a little cheaper than it ended up being, but oh well.

We later learned that the water we bought, despite our best attempts to get still, was in fact sparkling. I refused to drink it, and even though Romeo had previously tried to deal with it, he didn't want it either. Thankfully it only cost us about 40 cents. Romeo tried to run down to the convenience store under our apartment for a bottle of still water, but faced with no less than 2 dozen options, he guessed wrong and we ended up with TWO bottles of water we had no desire to drink. In the end, we refilled our bottle from Brussels with tap water and stuck it in the fridge. It tasted fine and google showed no potentially hazardous reasons we shouldn't drink it. It just goes to show how hard it is to read Hungarian!

We headed back to the apartment and had a nap. Traveling is exhausting, and 20 straight hours of it is really rough. After a wonderfully luxurious nap (in a real bed, rather than a crappy hostel one!), we made some dinner and enjoyed the wine. On TV, the only English we could find was on MTV and we watched some TV. At one point, I walked out of the room just as Romeo exclaimed that he found Alf on TV. When I walked back in, there was a black guy on the TV and I asked, "Is this Alf?" to which Romeo just about died laughing. In my defense, I meant "Is this the TV SHOW Alf?" not "Is this guy Alf?" PLUS I've never seen the show! But, Romeo won't let me live it down... It ended up being the Catfish TV Show, and we watched it for a while but it was pretty crappy.

In an effort to avoid watching TV, I started googling how we were going to get to Bratislava on Monday without our Eurolines pass. I looked at other bus lines and found some for 9Euros, but most of them were completely booked. Then, I looked into train tickets. They seemed to be a decent price, only a little more than the bus at around 15Euro one-way. In order to avoid the horribleness that is bus-travel, we decided to spring for the train tickets. They were more flexible anyway. We would head to the station the next day to get them.

However, when the next day arrived, we couldn't get our butts out of bed. We finally got up around 10:30am, and decided to go back to the grocery store for more staples. We ended up with: a dozen eggs, a package of sausages, a bag of potatoes, a zucchini, a small block of cheese, another flavor of pasta sauce (I didn't like the one from the night before), some more bread, tortillas, salsa, a can of beans, more wine, and olive oil. It was about 6000 HUF, double what we spent the night before. But, we reasoned, this would feed us hopefully most of the rest of our meals.

We got back home and made a huge brunch of scrambled eggs with cheese, sausages, beans (for Romeo, not me), fried potatoes, bread, butter, juice and milk. Romeo opted to go for a breakfast burrito style plate, but I couldn't fit all of mine into the tortilla without it becoming too large for my mouth. So, I ate like a civilized person instead!

The rest of the day was comprised of napping, watching crappy TV, blogging, doing laundry (finally!), making some more food, and playing Plants vs Zombies on my iPad. Basically, it was the best day ever! Just kidding, although it was pretty amazing to have such a relaxing break from go-go-go traveling we had been doing the past few weeks. It was the first day we had truly done nothing. We even splurged on going to see a movie in the evening. We saw This is the End with all the celebrities trying to survive the apocalypse. It was truly abhorrent and terrible; I won't get into all the many ways it was awful, just take my word for it. However, it did "entertain" us for a couple hours, and compared to America it was cheap. Tickets (with our student IDs!) were approximately $7 each and popcorn/Coke was about $3.50 together. So, not super cheap but definitely less than America.

Finally around 1am, we called it a night and decided to set an alarm for the next day so we wouldn't completely waste all of our time in Budapest.

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