Friday, 21 April 2017

Budapest is...

High expectations. Every neighbour and chubby bartender and fellow morning dog-walker giving recommendations, predicting you’ll have the time of your life.

Waking up surrounded by strangers in the same hostel room, travellers from cities you’ve only heard of. And yet, you cross paths, each assigned an old metal bunk with what you can only hope are fresh sheets.

Pints for pennies.

A capital city with the air of a suburban village, bare boulevards and space to walk, talk, laugh, dream.

Midnight boat rides; parliament buildings that sparkle like the champagne swallowed. Corks float on the river, lingers of a night worth remembering.

Decades of history, sad, sad history, disguised with a breath of modernity. A museum making a tourist attraction out of torture chambers. A Starbucks on the exact corner a man was shot dead. A Burger King marking the spot tanks parked before their massacre.

Constant calculator use, checking and rechecking conversion rates to confirm that an entire meal costs a quarter of what you would pay at home. It does.

Free walking tours with guides that grin as they spill secrets that, for them, are obvious, guide you down avenues they could walk with their eyes closed. You keep yours wide open, staring at that which is at once so new for some and old for others.

Clubs in caves, dancing with sweaty strangers to music that you don’t remember knowing the lyrics to. And yet you scream every word.

Locals who smile despite your obvious confusion, or perhaps because of your obvious confusion. They point and gesture while you utter hello instead of thank you, swap yes for no because that’s the first thing that comes to mind.

Late nights that lighten into lazy mornings of mild headaches, fresh coffee and wandering without direction.

Snippets of Vienna, Paris, London, Barcelona: a city that borrows the best from others and moulds it into its own.

Finding familiarity in the unfamiliar. Planning another visit to remedy the first having ended. Having the time of your life.