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Travel Diary: Budapest Day 3

Updated: Jan 11, 2020

This post is a migration of previously documented travel diaries. Budapest was the first stop on a group Europe trip that took place in 2016 with old friends: Will, Vanessa, Dennis, Kim, and Kevin and me.

Day 3 would be our last day in Budapest before heading off to Vienna the next morning by train. That morning we went to the Budapest Zoo. Looking back, I realize it was something I really advocated for, which I wouldn't do if I had the chance again. I've decided that going to a theme park or zoo in a new place isn't something I'd prioritize. Instead, maybe I'd suggest walking around a different part of the city, seeing other sites, exploring side streets, and finding holes in the walls for breakfast and lunch.

Being with a big group helped make this activity special though. We spent a good amount of our time getting separated and finding each other again as different people were drawn to and slowed down by different exhibits. Plus, it was nice to be around "nature" and to pass a slow morning laughing at each other's random animal phobias and Lost Dennis's utter inability to read a map. Going to the zoo and back was also the only time we got to ride the subway, something that Will, a train enthusiast, was very eager to do.

We'd booked tickets for a sunset river cruise on the Danube river that evening (which Dennis insisted on pronouncing duh-NOO-bay), and I'm pretty proud of how much we packed into the intervening hours between the the zoo and when we were due at the dock.

We went to the Central Market, a huge market and food hall that was conveniently very close to our apartment. In keeping with other central markets I've seen in Europe, this was a sprawling, high-ceilinged place. Produce, meat, and other sundries were sold on the ground floor. Clothing, home goods, and souvenir vendors were on the upper level whose labyrinthine layout on suspended walkways gave you a sense of vertigo that was aggravated by the suffocating backups in foot traffic. We ducked into a sit down restaurant and had a cafeteria-style lunch that was much needed and really delicious.

I distinctly remember the feeling I had upon leaving the market and walking into the adjoining square. By then it was afternoon and the sun had found its way to a low angle in the sky, warming the pavement, creeping under the umbrellas over cafe tables, stretching shadows, and casting gold tones all around. Time slowed down for me and I was completely, mindfully, present in the experience of this moment on this day in Budapest. It was as if my inner voice said "I'm here." Golden hour.

I took that feeling with me as we stopped at a wine bar next. There was one little round table set up on sidewalk and we piled six wicker chairs around it. We had such a great time there, eating local cheese and cured meats and slowly getting drunk on inexpensive local wine while chatting with the super friendly shopkeep who had some crazy back-in-the-day stories.

photo credit: Kim

We left this meal somewhat reluctantly, causing us to be in a rush to get to the dock on time. In fact, we had to run to the meeting location specified on the tickets. Sprinting through Budapest was actually pretty fun (now that I know we didn't miss the boat). We were huffing and puffing when we arrived at the meeting place and feeling great relief.

The boat tour itself was fine - I think we ate and drank but I hardly remember. I would still highly recommend it though. The experience takes only about an hour or so, and the view of the Parliament building at night was stunning.

After the boat ride we grabbed some late night food at Hot Dog Cold Beer (it's since shuttered its doors) before heading home.

We'd leave the next morning for Vienna. We had a quick breakfast in the main square by our AirBnB and got to see the neighborhood wake up for the day before we went on our way.

Read about the other stops on this trip:

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