Sunday, November 14, 2021 | Written by Mira
We took an overnight train from Krakow to Budapest. To save money, we reserved seats in a compartment instead of beds. In hindsight, the beds would have been worth it as trying to sleep comfortably in a six-seat compartment with a stranger was nearly impossible. Although, the one good thing that came from the experience was being able to follow along with the last World Series game. I followed along, half-asleep at 4:00am to the last out (Go Braves!).
We arrived in Budapest and made our way to the hostel to drop our bags, change, and freshen up before an early lunch at the New York Café. This is an immaculately over-the-top decorated café that serves coffee with actual gold on top. Needless to say, it’s pretty expensive, so if you do want to experience the grandeur, go for breakfast or an afternoon tea. Live music made the whole experience worth it – imagine eating a fancy meal with a violinist playing a song from Pirates of the Caribbean.
After lunch, we headed to the Parliament building, one of the most iconic buildings in Budapest. While we took pictures in front of the building, we noticed a staircase leading to a memorial labeled “1956.” In the square in front of the Parliament building there is a memorial for those who passed when soldiers opened fire on a peaceful protest. The Parliament building still waves Hungarian flags with holes more than 50 years later to remember the tragic events that transpired there. We re-emerged into the square with a whole different perspective on what happened here, and a whole new appreciation for the rich history around every corner of Europe.
The next stop of the day was a thermal bathhouse! I had no idea that spa culture in Budapest was so huge, but the popularity dates back to the Roman-era public baths. We went to the Széchenyi Thermal Bath (Budapest, Állatkerti krt. 9-11, 1146 Hungary) in the Pest side of Budapest, one of the more touristy, but grand locations. We got there two hours before they closed and got to enjoy the warm, outdoor pools under the stars. This was definitely one of the most relaxing and unique things I’ve done so far.
A quick side note: always, and I cannot stress this enough, buy a ticket for public transportation. Budapest takes public transportation VERY seriously. You don’t want to be the victim of an 8,000 Forint (about $20) fine for not having a subway ticket. Two of my friends had lost their 24-hr tickets, and the transportation guard found them before exiting. That being said, it is super easy to use the metro to get between the two sides of the river. We took it after the baths to see the Parliament building at night, shining against the water.
The next morning, we split up into three groups: (1) go to Bratislava early, (2) go to Bratislava mid-day, and (3) stay in Budapest for the day. I opted for group three because there was just too much to see in Budapest to be satisfied with only one day. In the morning, we went to a market-hall area to grab breakfast on the Buda side of Budapest. From there, we took the tram south to the Buda castle with grand views of the entirety of Pest across the Danube River. We still had time before our train to Vienna, so we saw the rest of the Castle District. Walking around the Fisherman’s Bastion, I realized that my brother had been to this very spot during his study abroad semester, it was like sharing a moment of history with him.
My subgroup arrived in Vienna a little after 6:30pm, and we met up with the others at our Airbnb. The best part about being in an Airbnb for the last bit of our trip was free laundry (minus paying for detergent). We had dinner at a small restaurant near our Airbnb and it was just as sweet as having a home-cooked family dinner.
The next morning, we explored some palaces in Vienna: the Belvedere and the Schönbrunn Palace. Both palaces were extravagant with so much greenery. Unfortunately, it was too late in the season to do the hedge maze at Schönbrunn – it would have been a very easy maze with the hedges thinned from the fall chill.
The highlight of our day in Vienna was an amusement park. For dinner, we ate at a “Roller Coaster Restaurant” (Riesenradpl. 6, 1020 Wien, Austria), where your food comes to you via a roller coaster contraption. After dinner, we walked around the amusement park and went on a few rides, including an indoor rollercoaster reminiscent of Space Mountain at Disney World. I ended my fall break with my stomach hurting from laughing (or screaming) so much. I’d say it was a pretty successful way to spend 10 days off from classes!