Dividing this post into two is basically an excuse for me to use more photos–I’m seriously in love with Budapest.

Thankfully, I was too tired to be teary when I said goodbye to my friend and left at 8AM–he drives me up the wall, but I love him to death. Since I was planning to get on the train at 1PM, I knew I had a lot of ground to cover to see what I wanted to see.

My first stop was Nagy Vásárcsarnok, the Central Market Hall, that my high school friend had recommended. I bought a pastry for breakfast, and because I’m dumb and shy I didn’t stop to write down the name, but it was absolutely incredible–some sort of doughy sweet bread topped with a thick layer of berry jam topped with more dough. Sort of like strudel, but with thicker layers of dough. I have a great love for markets, so I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of fresh meat and produce, which I’ve come to expect of Middle Eastern countries, not European countries.

Now, I’ve hiked a lot in my life, and it’s always my lungs that get me. My legs rarely if ever hurt. However, climbing the 771 feet up to Citadella actually got me. My sore foot was killing me and my bruised knee was achy and, gasp, my thighs were announcing to me that they do indeed have muscles. The sleep deprivation probably didn’t help. Still, it was nice to finally get hot enough to take off my jacket and scarf, and the view was more than worth it. Part of the way up, I encountered the COOLEST set of slides I’d seen in a long time, going steeply down part of the hill. Unfortunately, my tights were apparently not very slippery, because I didn’t go half as fast as I wanted to. Citadella is an old fortress that wasn’t open but looked over the whole city, and to Buda Castle, my next stop.

Though the Buda Castle has an art gallery, I didn’t have time to explore. From there, I went over to the Castle District, where Matthias Church looms tall and grand. Halászbástya, or Fisherman’s Bastion, was a super cool castle-ish structure that I was able to climb.

Szent István BazilikaThe Széchenyi Chain Bridge was kind of an unreal moment for me. It’s the bridge that’s pictured in all of the touristy photos of Budapest, and I definitely had a “how in the world did I get here” moment as I walked across. In front of Gresham Palace, a protest of some sort was occurring, and though I was tempted to find out what was going on, I resisted and walked up to Szent István Bazilika, Saint Stephen’s Basilica, just another one of Budapest’s extraordinary architectural feats.

To my amusement, the US Embassy was right outside of Szabadság Tér, Liberty Square. It was also the one embassy with a huge gate around it. Hmm. I finally made it to the Hungarian Parliament Building, which I had been exclaiming over all morning–it was an imposing building, visible from all the major points I’d visited. The security guards outside were as unyielding as the Moroccan ones I’d seen in Rabat, making not a single move and standing stoically as their photos were taken. To my delight, a little girl of about seven or eight took her time carefully examining one, walking around him in a wide circle as if trying to appear as though she weren’t carefully studying him, only to walk in closer and stare open-mouthed. She obviously had no clue if he was real or if he was a statue, and I can’t blame her.

Thankfully, I’m always way too obsessive about time, because I ran into issues purchasing train tickets to my next stop. In theory, there was a train from the train station I went to that connected to another that would take me to Nové Zámky. This was the one place where no one spoke English (and it had taken that long for me to pronounce “koszi,” “thank you” in Hungarian) and the lady insisted that I had to go to the other station. Off I went on the metro (spying an advertisement for the Cure in Budapest in October on the way!) to the other train station, where I walked around the wrong way for a good ten minutes before encountering the international tickets office. My foot was so excited to sit down on the train!

I was sad to say goodbye to Budapest. I had always planned to be studying there this semester, but my scholarship in Dubai pushed it off my radar. While I don’t regret that, I definitely wish I’d had more time in that gorgeous city.