It was exactly four days into the second term of my final year at Exeter that I felt the need to escape and fly to Budapest. This trip was planned months in advance by the Exeter English Society, yet it came and went so fast. I set off with one of my best friends, a few familiar faces and a couple of brand-new ones. The four-hour coach journey to Luton was not the highlight of the trip, but there is something to be said for coach rides with friends; gross, but also quite fun if you’re cool enough to nab the back seats and have a headphone-splitter. I was also sat next to the editor of Pearshaped – the best university music magazine – so the tunes were decent.
After a three-hour flight, we arrived at Wombat’s hostel late in the evening and decided to grab drinks at an admittedly touristy Havana-themed Rampus Tiki Bar, where I had my first drink of 2018. Hello, slightly-damp January! Despite only taking £120 away with me, it equalled 42,000 Hungarian Forints, which made me feel extremely wealthy, until my Pina Colada bill added up to over 2,000. Although some of the people on the trip were disappointed to have arrived in the dark, blind to the city’s architecture, the main social areas and shops are easily found; completely lit up with coloured lights.
Budapest is a delightful but sooty city. The streets are grey, but the buildings impressive. The people are exceptionally friendly and accustomed to tourists. I’m embarrassed to admit I still don’t know even one phrase in Hungarian, because every place we visited had English speakers. I was distinctly aware that I was in a city that has adapted to cater for tourists, perhaps even more so than for its locals. One of my favourite things about travelling is being immersed in a wholly new culture and language, sadly easily avoided in Budapest, where locals don’t even expect you to attempt a simple “jó reggelt”.
On the second day, we took the tram to Fisherman’s Bastion where we climbed the steps to see the absolutely mesmerizing, panoramic view. The buildings are not particularly old at the viewing point (built between 1895 and 1902), but are incredibly beautiful. There are also turrets that you can climb to get the best view of the city. The skyline was one of the best I’ve seen and we saw it having already explored the city, so we were able to take in all the sights we had seen up close. Matthias Church is also located at the top and is well worth the £3 entry fee. I would recommend visiting during the late afternoon, as the sunset gifted us a soft pink glow and painted the tops of the tallest buildings amber.
Renting a pedal-bike cart in Margaret Island was a great spontaneous decision. We toured the huge park relatively quickly, getting some exercise without it actually feeling like exercise. Contrary to popular consensus, the Baths were not my favourite part of the trip, although I would still recommend visiting them. They were great to relax in, but not quite as majestic as I imagine the Blue Lagoon is in Iceland. Prepare yourself for freezing-cold quick dashes between pools (we visited when it was snowing…) that should qualify as extreme hydrotherapy, as it probably affected everyone’s circulation a fair amount.
If you are feeling the need to escape and explore somewhere new, Budapest isn’t too expensive a trip and is certainly relaxing. The trip completely recharged me and I’ve felt so motivated and grounded since I’ve been back. When I reached the top of Fisherman’s Bastion I completely understood why George Ezra fell in love with it.
– Layla Hanif