Budapest and Prague had always been places I’d love to visit and I made it a priority to see them while I’m studying abroad. I managed to convince my friend Jill to go with me during a week-long break.
The trip began on a Sunday morning with our departure point of course being Clermont-Ferrand. We decided to take a bus all the way from France to Hungary as this seemed like the least expensive option. The bus ride was… interesting. We used the company “Eurolines” and I honestly would not recommend doing the same unless you love adventure. We drove around France for around 7 hours until we ended up in Lyon (which is usually a 2 ½ hour direct trip). Once we’d reached the bus station in Lyon an employee approached us and asked where we were headed. We proudly told him we were headed to Budapest and subsequently learned that we had to get off the bus. Apparently we had a layover in Lyon that we didn’t know about. The ticket office was closed so there was no one to ask which bus we needed to take next. I called the company and they told me that this would be our last bus change and after this our route would be direct. Okay, no big deal. We waited for 30 minutes and the office finally opened. There we got a boarding pass for our next bus. After 30 more minutes of waiting our bus was supposed to leave in a few minutes but was nowhere to be found. We asked the drivers of the waiting busses (we had to ask in English as none of them spoke French) and they didn’t know where our bus was. Our bus finally arrived and we were off!
Somewhere along the way we met Grandma. At one of the stops a man boarded with an elderly woman. She had trouble walking and she seemed to be at least 90 years old. Jill offered her seat to the man who refused, saying that he was simply helping his mother who was travelling alone. An hour or so later the woman offered Jill some mint candy. I was peeling an orange and I decided to give it to the woman. We eventually started talking with her and she was really nice; the only problem was that she was speaking a foreign language and understood no English at all. We decided to adopt her as our grandma and watched over her for the rest of the trip. We had another changeover in Strasbourg so we took Grandma’s bags and helped her off the bus. While we were waiting we decided to figure out what language she was speaking. We flashed “Hello” at her in several different languages with the Google Translate app but no cigar. Finally thanks to lots of hand gestures she said something resembling Macedonia and we decided she was in fact Macedonian. The word Vienna sounds similar in Macedonian and so we knew she needed to get off at the Vienna stop. When we reached Vienna we were sad to see her go, but it was pretty cool to make a new Grandma.
On the final leg of the journey to Budapest we were both exhausted and were getting a little delirious. This wasn’t helped by the fact that we were constantly being awoken for passport checks as we traversed various borders. As we left Bratislava and entered into Hungary the bus driver put on a movie. Much to our dismay the movie was The Pink Panther 2…in Hungarian. The whole experience was kind of funny because the woman seated in front of us was washing her hair with body spray, her son was guffawing at the movie (though he didn’t speak Hungarian), and I was going in and out of consciousness from sheer exhaustion.
We finally made it to Budapest after a 27 hour bus ride. First on our agenda was obtaining money we could actually use. We found an ATM after asking for directions in Hungarian/English (Jo Napót! ATM?). Then we bought metro passes from a man who kept laughing at us. We took the metro to the stopped listed on the hostel-given directions and after a short walk we had arrived! The hostel owner was amazing and gave us directions to an authentic Hungarian restaurant after ensuring we had everything we needed. We ate an AWESOME lunch of goulash and pasta and learned how to say thank you in Hungarian. We spent our first day exploring the city on foot and orienting ourselves in the beautiful city.
The next day we had a free breakfast at the hostel where we met some lovely girls. We planned to meet up later with our new friend Larissa from Holland. We took the metro to the Hungarian National Museum where we figured we could learn a little bit more about Hungarian history. WOW. The museum was so much fun! We learned so much and the artifacts on display were presented in such a neat way. After the museum we were running a little late for our meeting with Larissa so we grabbed some pizza from Pizza King. I’m a bit of a pizza enthusiast and I can say this was the best pizza I’ve ever had. We got pepperoni pizza with corn (it sounds gross, I know) and it was delicious! Two pieces of pizza and a can of Pepsi cost less than 2 euros!
We met Larissa across the bridge and explored the area around Buda castle and an old cathedral. There were men holding falcons and Larissa got her photo taken with a huge fountain! Jill and I decided to take a walking tour which started at 2pm so we had to catch a bus to the meeting point. We got on the bus and almost immediately after the bus filled with a group of at least 30 older women. There wasn’t enough room to move at all! Naturally, my mom called me as I’m squeezed between old Hungarian women, so I told her I didn’t have time to talk.
We made it to the walking tour on time. It was led by two Hungarian girls who explained the history of the cathedral, the parliament building, and countless landmarks. They gave us lots of info about the modern history of Hungary, which was wonderful as the info was coming from locals. Once we got back to the hostel we were pretty tired! We took showers and napped a bit. During our absence some Turkish guy had moved into the adjacent room. That night they invited us to eat soup with them in the private kitchenette of our apartment. After dinner we went out with Larissa and the Turkish guys, Mücahit (sock buddies) and Canpolat, who are studying abroad in Poland. We had an awesome time and ended the night with some kebabs of course! We got home rather late and ended up sleeping for only about 30 minutes before leaving the hostel at 5 am to catch our bus to Prague!