Visiting the Motherland with the Ol’ Ball and Chain Bridge

For the second half of my travel break I met up with Will in Budapest to visit the country that my grandma’s family is from. It sounds weird, but I really did feel a connection with that place. I loved the people with their brown curly hair, loud voices and sunny dispositions. I finally didn’t feel so out of place like I do in the land of giant blonde runway models that is Denmark. We had the most perfect weather you could ever hope for. It was sunny everyday with the occasional cloud to cool us down. Our hostel, Lavender Circus, was amazing! Here’s a picture of the lobby that I pulled from their website.

It was the perfect amount of bohemian and messy to make you feel right at home without feeling cramped and cluttered. There were sweet notes pinned up all over the walls and lots of little knickknacks like the old Hungarian passport nailed to our door. The owners were also really fun and helpful and would just hang out in the community room all the time to chat with the guests. They gave us a lot of advice on where to eat and what to see.

That night we just walked around Budapest and then went to get dinner at this place they recommended called Castro Bistro.

On Friday morning Will found the free walking tours and we went on one. Here I am waiting for the tour to start with a bunch of other American study abroad students.
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Our guide, Bridget, was adorable and funny. She took us all around the Pest side and then over the Chain Bridge to the Buda side.

This church is St. Stephen’s church which is tallest point in Budapest (the Parliament building is the exact same height). St. Stephen was an old Hungarian king who brought Christianity to Hungary and cleaned up their act since they are descendants of the Huns and were acting a bit too barbaric for European standards. Of course it wasn’t a bloodless takeover of Christianity, but the Church still named him a saint and he’s actually a bit of miracle in Hungary, but I’ll get to the miracle party later when we actually went inside the church.

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Below is the Opera house which was gorgeous! Budapest was always in competition with Vienna and constantly asked the king to give them money to fund different projects around Budapest. They begged for ten years for an opera house and were finally granted the money as long as it wasn’t as big or grand as the opera house in Vienna. From the outside it seems like they held up their side of the bargain and made a relatively small opera house.

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But when you got inside there was nothing quaint about it. IMG_5641 IMG_5644

After the opera house we circled back around to the church and Bridget took some pictures of us. She said she wasn’t a great photographer and while she’s not the worst I’ve ever seen she definitely wasn’t the best. All the sun reflections give it some character.

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After the church we started heading towards the water and we came up to this statue of the artist’s grandfather. Apparently he was quite the lady’s man and rubbing his mustache will give you good luck in your relationships. Will rubbed the stache for a good amount of time. I figured that I’ve got all the luck I need.

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I zoned out during this part of the tour so I have no idea what this building is, but isn’t it pretty?

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Then we headed over Budapest’s Chain Bridge. Will says it’s called the Chain Bridge because it chains Buda and Pest together. I think Link Bridge would be much more fitting and sound a lot less like they don’t want to be chained together. Link is much more positive. Come on Budapest get with the connotations.

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The sculptor claimed that these lions were carved to perfection and he would jump off the bridge if anyone could find something wrong with them. Everyone said they were perfect until one day a little kid climbed up on top and found that the lions didn’t have tongues. The man was so upset he actually did commit suicide by jumping off the bridge.

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But other than that sad story it’s a pretty happy bridge.

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Then we climbed up the Castle Hill on the Buda side of Budapest. At the top is a giant bird. Bridget kept saying there’s my father up there and we were all very confused. Apparently this bird came to a young girl in a dream and had sex with her and from that the first Hungarian is born so this bird is the father of all Hungarians. I’m still a bit fuzzy on the logistics of how all of this happened and why bestiality is a totally normal way to start a group of people, but hey that’s my father up on top of the hill.

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At 2 we got to see the changing of the guard which was pretty cool. There was an old man taking a picture and not paying any attention who almost got run over by the soldiers. Apparently they stop for nothing and nothing phases them. Will and I agreed that standing outside in that outfit and not moving for hours and hours might be one of most terribly mind-numbing jobs.

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This church has the special Hungarian tiling on its roof which has a top secret production process. Very few know how to make these tiles and they cost a lot of money. I had been thinking I’d want to tile my house with them, but I think they might be a bit out of my price range.

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Here’s a statue of St. Stephen. You can’t quite tell from the statue, but he had an enormously large head. Not in the Napoleon ego type of way. His head was actually huge. They would use his crown in the coronation of all the kings and queens, but never placed the crown on the head because it would have just become a very fancy necklace once their head slipped through it.

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After hiking all around Budapest our tour was finally over so we started our descent back down the hill. I stopped to take a picture with these knights.

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Will made us take a detour so he could get the perfect picture of his favorite building, Parliament. I must say it’s pretty good. And I guess the building is alright too.

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I made Will stop and take a picture of me and one of my favorite things- spring! Also this is a dogwood in full bloom which is the tree my mom planted for me when I was born so I kind of feel like I have ownership of all dogwoods now.

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Then we went and got a late lunch/early dinner. I got hungarian beef stew with hungarian dumplings and Will got curry chicken. Both meals were amazing and not only did I finish my plate, but I finished before Will. Unheard of.

For dessert we went to the market and got a kilo of strawberries for about the price of one strawberry back in Denmark. And yes we ate the whole bag in less than ten minutes… We’re starving college students in Europe.

We walked around some more and went back to our hostel and passed out. We woke up on Saturday morning and got breakfast from this great place called Cafe Alibi. I got french toast complete with a milkshake.

 Then we headed back to St. Stephen’s so we could see the relic and Will could climb the dome. So the relic is St. Stephen’s hand which was supposedly mummified, but recent tests have revealed that it was never mummified and yet it has somehow stayed intact. I find it a bit creepy, but many people come and pray to the hand every day.

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So then it was time to climb the dome… I was not a happy camper.

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But as usual, the view was worth it in the end.

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And as a reward I got the most amazing gelato when we got back down! Will bought me gelato from a place that shaped it into a rose!

Then we walked up Andrassy which is one of the main streets in Budapest and was designed after Champs-Elysees. It was beautiful and the trees weren’t even in full bloom yet.

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The road ended at Heroe’s Square which is situated between a few museums and is pretty impressive.

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Then came the moment I’ve been waiting for. We went to the zoo! My friend in DIS went to the Budapest zoo, which is one of the oldest in the world, and posted pictures of him touching sloths on the first travel break. From that moment I knew that we had to go. I thought the zoo would be run down and gross but aside from the atrocious smelling bathrooms that made the animal exhibits smell like fields of daisies the zoo was in tip top shape. We saw so many types of animals and just about all of them had babies. Baby sloths, baby gorillas, baby goats, baby elephants, baby giraffes. You name it, there was a smaller version of it running around somewhere.

So here I am having my Kristen Bell moment with a sloth.

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But then this guy kept teasing the sloth with an apple that it couldn’t pick up with it’s claws and it freaked out and kind of scarred me for life. It also made us further question how this is even legal. Seriously. I was petting a sloth.

Luckily there were several other sloths who were much nicer.

A dream come true.

Here are a few of the other awesome animals we saw and touched. I didn’t include a picture of the bat because it’s honestly too terrifying to see how close I got to it.

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I came so close to stealing one of these baby goats.

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After our trip to the zoo we walked through the amazing park to the baths. They were beautiful and so relaxing. We just laid in the warm water until we turned into prunes.

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Take note of the unnecessary number of speedos. No thank you.

When we left the sun was setting in Heroe’s Square. A storm was starting to roll in and the clouds were perfect.
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We beat the rain back to our hostel and then went to Castro Bistro for the second time on our trip. That place was just so delicious. I got a Hungarian beef stew with these special noodles. Again. Again. It kind of became my thing. And I’m pretty sure Will got curry. Again.

They also had this amazing lemonade that had huge pieces of lemons, limes, oranges and mint sprinkled in a sparkling lemonade. It reminded me of a very intense version of Debbie Phillips’s summer muddles.

We went out that night and got to see the awesome Budapest nightlife. We went to a bar called Szimpla which means Simple even though it was very far from it. There must have been at least 20 different rooms all designed uniquely with an open courtyard and several bars. The room we were in had a switchboard that controlled the lights and the ten or so tiny TVs in the room. It was the coolest place.

The next morning we woke up and had to say our goodbyes to Budapest. I know that we’ll be back. We agreed that it was our favorite place either of us have visited so far.

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