You Weren't the Best, Budapest

view from a bridge, Budapest
I tried so, so hard to love Budapest.  I'm adamant about the fact that there is good in every corner of the world and I found a lot of good in Budapest.  Gorgeous buildings, so much history, cheap food even near the main square, flavorful free-trade coffee for under $3, a hostel with a good vibe (make sure you stay at The Loft!). All the makings of a great city, but for some reason, Budapest and I just couldn't get along.

Let me take you back to my first time in Budapest.  I came to Budapest last year, 2017, at the very beginning of July. I had just spent 3 days in the beautiful High Tatras, Slovakia, and was nowhere near ready to leave that relaxing home in the mountains for a big city.  But I had to leave because I was meeting a friend in Budapest for 2 days and I desperately wanted to be around someone familiar.  On the train from Poprad to Kosice, I finally connect to the spotty wifi a few minutes after the train pulls away from the station when I get a message from my friend:

"EasyJet delayed and then canceled my flight. They can put me on another one but then that would only give me a few hours in Budapest before my flight to France. I'm sorry I won't be able to make it."

I wanted to hop off that train and run back to the Tatras, but I had a route that I was determined to stick to, friend or no friend.  I arrived in Budapest sad and alone.  I was used to traveling alone at that point, but I expected to spend time with a friend so the solitude felt way more evident.  Plus, booking a hostel at the last minute in Budapest means only shitty hostels no one wants to stay at are the only ones left. 

I went on a walking tour and didn't care. Tried to chat with people in the hostel but they had their own friends. Felt unsafe in the city at night so I stayed in. I left for Zagreb, Croatia after my two-night sentence was up. 

watching the England vs. Croatia game in a park

Flash forward a year and I'm reluctantly back in Budapest. I started this year's trip in Slovakia in order to give myself time to rest post-graduation. I also wanted to take things more slowly this time around. Travelling too quickly led to burnout last year, which is how I ended up in the mountains of Slovakia in the first place. 

I was determined to visit Romania and Bulgaria this year, since they were the two countries I "cut off" my travel list in order to make room for a month in Slovakia. However, in order to get from the High Tatras to Cluj, my first stop in Romania, I needed to have a layover somewhere in Hungary and Budapest was the easiest. I still felt hesitant about returning to Budapest after last year's debacle, so I looked into going to Debrecen or somewhere else in east Hungary.  With the way trains worked out, it would have been next to impossible, or at least way more tiring and difficult, to go from northern Slovakia to somewhere with a hostel in Hungary. So Budapest it was!

My second time in Budapest was much more eventful than the first. On my first day, I met up with people I met in Slovakia to watch the England vs. Croatia game in a park and went to a bar after. The next day, the same friend and I went to the thermal baths and got dinner. 

Even though this time involved more friends, activities, laughter, and drinking, I still felt unsettled. Budapest probably isn't the best place to go to after volunteering at the Monkey. It's like a shock to the system. A 1,000 person village versus a big city. Close friends that feel like family with lots of inside jokes versus strangers and a few acquaintances. Lowkey drinking beer on the front porch versus strobe lights and shots at a ruin bar. I was bound to have an adjustment period leaving a place I love no matter where I was headed, but Budapest, with its stag parties and groups of 18-year-old British lads, is probably one of the worst places to be when your heart is aching. 

I'll try you out again someday, Budapest. Just not anytime soon.  

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