We set off at around 3pm leaving immediately from work for Munich airport, and returning to Germany in the wee hours of Monday morning (where we made it into work for 9am…). Arriving at Ferihegy airport around 6pm after the shortest Lufthansa flight of my life (45 minutes, and I didn’t even finish my mini glass of plane wine), we proceeded to take the metro (oldest and most rickety I’ve ever been on) into town to our Airbnb nestled in the middle of Pest (Buda and Pest are two districts, separated by the Danube river, historically dividing the affluent and the peasants, but were unified in 1873). We had no time to spare! And ran in the direction of closest ruin bar we could find.
Now- these ruin bars (or ruin pubs) are worth the Eastern European journey. They are scattered around the old Jewish quarter that was left (in ruins) to decay post WWII, and consist of open air or partially roofed condemned buildings that house mismatched furniture, funky art décor, and the sure sign of a good time- reasonably priced alcohol. Each ruin bar is unique, with Szimpla Kert being the patron saint, and tucked away off the beaten track in an attempt to avoid noise complaints (because if there are noise complaints, these bars will get shut down, and relocate to another abandoned building-sometimes without providing customers a forwarding address). As a former bartender (but who knows, drink slinging could be in my future) I thought the whole premise of these hidden hipster hideaways was AWESOME, as I considered the prospect of setting up my own…ornamented with a borrowed clothes theme…
I digress- the following day, we ran to a free walking tour after a slight detour (who we have yet to place blame on…) to get our bearings and enjoy the sights of Pest! This included checking out the magnificent Parliament building and surrounding sites. We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were visiting on a Hungarian national holiday- State Foundation Day (Az államalapítás ünnepe) and the city was crowded with thousands of tourists to see the fireworks later that night. I mean, there were people everywhere- and because of this, the city was trashed. I’ve heard so many accounts from friends and other travelers describing the cleanliness of the city from its manicured green spaces to its shiny cobbled streets-but unfortunately this was not our experience. After the tour, we headed (more like were herded…) to the island in the middle of the Danube, Margaret, for lunch with a view.
That night, we headed out for the firework display, finding ourselves a good spot near the river. The impressive show lasted for about 30 minutes to the tune of Hungarian classics (that sounds more like terrifying chants than music), and after the finale we waded through the sea of people to the ruin bars once again- for a later night than the previous.
On Sunday, with a sore head and little sleep, I wandered out by myself for a hearty breakfast, coffee, some light reading, and much needed alone time in a nearby cafe. When I was rejoined by the group, we crossed the Danube to explore glorious Buda. And glorious it was, from the top of the hill with the Royal Palace and view from Fishermen’s Bastion, to activities closer to the river including a bustling open-air market. After that, I retired to our Airbnb to catch some much needed zzz’s well the others continued to explore, and enjoy some Hungarian delicacies.
In the morning, we rallied and set off for the airport, exhausted, but ready to get back to the clean streets of Germany, and our own beds.
Borrowed clothes: For this trip I did more clothes matching with Nicole Quin (because we thought it was touristy and hilarious) than borrowing, but I did wear my favorite halter top “borrowed” from Jenna McCredie on the Saturday night of ruin-bar-hopping(worn with shorts, it was sweltering even at night).
Pro travel tips:
- If you like avoiding crowds don’t go on one of Hungary’s national holiday. Especially State Foundation Day (August 20th), which is the only historically happy public holiday
- If you like fireworks and crowds, go on State Foundation Day
- The currency is very different, for example 10 EUR is 3,098 HUF, so be sure to do the math and set a budget before spending- when alcohol is involved it is very easy to forget the exchange rate and overspend by thousands (of HUF…)
- Bring a valid ID with you everywhere you go, if you are stopped in the street without one, they can take you to jail
- Stay in Pest (cheaper) but be sure to visit Buda (nicer)