The summer I took the long way home from Hong Kong–via Southeast Asia, China, the USSR, and Eastern Europe–I found myself in Budapest. But to me, it was only a stepping stone to the ultimate destination in 1991: Prague. If you don’t believe me, there was an acclaimed novel published about this very subject, down to the very timeframe.
I was so eager to get to Prague that I wasn’t very excited when I got to Budapest. It was either that or Bucharest, and I figured the food might be better in Hungary. Boy was I in for a surprise.
Budapest was magical and beautiful and so light and airy after 7 days on a train through the Soviet Union and Mongolia, plus 5 days in Moscow.
I should have known better because I rode first class on the train from Moscow to Budapest (not my choice, but looking back, I can’t believe I was outraged about that at the time). When I arrived at the Budapest train station, I found a little office that helped travelers find rooms to rent. I was put in touch with Judith, a lovely Hungarian woman who ran a hostel in her building. My room had a balcony. Every morning I would eat breakfast on this balcony. I can’t remember if it was the orange or red building, but does it matter?
I walked around Buda and Pest during the day and rode the street car and train. These photos are from the Fisherman’s Bastion on the Buda side.
I also found the Jewish Museum and the Dohany Street Synagogue.
The Parliament Building
And Castle Hill
It was just a lovely city for walking around, especially for a solo traveler. I met other travelers at Judith’s, especially in her kitchen (which was open to all of us), but went around the city on my own every day.
The Iron Curtain had come down a couple years earlier and Budapest was still waking up after decades of living under the shadow of the Soviet Union. It was the first place I’d been to in weeks where I could buy something other than bread. It was in Budapest that I became a shopper. Books, ceramic dolls, paprika, you name it, I bought it. I was traveling with a backpack and three changes of clothes for almost four months, but I still had room for my purchases in Budapest.
So was Prague just as captivating as I’d expected? Yes, most definitely.
But Budapest was a great surprise and a place I’ll always love for its tranquility and beauty.