Travelling to and from Baden-Baden airport for our trip to Budapest felt like it took more time and energy then the destination itself was allotted Friday morning, bright and early, five chipper, excited, and curious compadres set out to take a 4:21am train to the airport.
The high quickly drained off as our first train experienced a 25 minute delay, which caused us to miss our second train, which, after being rebooked at Stuttgart Hbf, failed to show up. Then, being over 2 hours delayed, we stood at an open train station in the middle of nowhere as snowflakes fell from the murky, gray sky to our frozen feet, trying to catch the runaway train that never showed in Stuttgart. Eventually, we arrived in Karlsruhe with no chance of making it to the airport in time if we continued travelling with the ever-reliable Deutsche Bahn.
A taxi, plane, bus, and train later, we arrived at our hostel, Central Backpack King, in Budapest, exhausted, hungry (Hungary!), and with ambitious expectations for our visit. After defeating the first two obstacles with some authentic Hungarian goulash and a quick little nap(chen), we fueled up with some of the hostels coffee, gratis (this is the kind of service you get for 8€/night), and set out to see St. Stephen's Basilica, a sweet little Christmas Market with handmade Hungarian goods, and one of the most famous ruin pubs in Budapest, Szimpla, in the Jewish District. The ruin pub was adorned with all things imaginable - from bathtub couches to broken fax machine/printers to fish takes filled with handcrafted paper sea animals and accessories. After a quick beer at the pub, we had had enough of the day, and decided to go back to the hostel and sleep in order to be prepared for Saturday.
Feeling ambitious, we awoke at 8am Saturday and took part in a free city tour. After approximately 1.5 hours, we came to the conclusion that we were bad tourists and bailed on the tour early to take a bath at the Szechenyi Bath. Apparently there are 15 baths inside, but we only discovered approximately 4, which I will blame on our inability to read Hungarian. Personally, I was most impressed by the outdoor bath, which allowed you to sit in the warm water while your head was exposed to the fresh air outside, preventing you from passing out quite as quickly. The sauna was also a beautiful experience, even though the shock of the freezing water directly after probably caused irreversible heart damage.
When we finished relaxing at the magical bath/spa, we attempted to have a nice dinner at the traditional Hungarian restaurant, which was recommended to us. Surprisingly, our plans failed once more (since we somehow didn't think to make a reservation for a Saturday night), and after about an hour of searching for a different restaurant (I hope you can imagine how hungry and desperate we were), I can say with confidence that I ate nothing more special than microwaved Chinese food.
Re-energized from dinner, we decided to take part in the hostel pub crawl. Apparently November isn't a big tourist month because there were only like nine people on the pub crawl (including us), but it actually turned out to be pretty chill with the small group. We went to a bar where we could play beer pong, and Chris and I (aka Dream Team) naturally dominated the table. After beer pong, we went back to Szimpla, where a tall Dutch gentleman told me I looked like Zooey Deschanel. So I guess the night could have been worse.
Sunday was cloudy, rainy, dreary, and designed especially for movie-watching and goulash soup. But we carried onward and took the trolley to Buda Castle across the Danube. The view was incredible and we saw a really great art exhibit in the castle. We were relatively rushed at the end, however, because the opera which we were going to see, La Bohéme, was going to begin at 7pm. I know it sounds classy, but don't let me fool you. They actually made us enter from the side of the building, like peasants, and when I hinted that I was considering foregoing renting binoculars, the friendly Hungarian woman glanced back at my ticket and asked, "Are you sure? You're in the last row...". Okay, but it actually wasn't so bad. We had chairs and everything, and the view was quite nice (with the binoculars). After the opera, we headed back home to sleep so that we'd be ready for Monday.
Monday morning, we took a stroll along the Danube to the gorgeous Hungarian Parliament building. Then, we walked back to the Jewish District (Budapest is incredibly easy to navigate) to see the synagogue. After that, it was time to pack our things and head to the airport. Less than 20 minutes after going through security, I heard myself replaying a recent intercom announcement in my head....
"hungarianhungarianhungarian KERTZ JENNA MARIE hungarianidon'tunderstand"
"Guys, did they just say my name?"
After picking up my Aufenthaltstitel, which I apparently dropped, from security (the purpose of which I'm not exactly certain), we boarded the plane, and I sneakily slipped past the Ryan Air flight attendants, who would have made me leave half of my backpack in Budapest if they had had the chance to see how large it was.
Although travelling all throughout Budapest was quite a breeze (there was actually quite a chilly breeze), as soon as we landed in Germany, all of the transportation problems began again. I'll let you use your imagination as to what happened, but the most important thing is that the five curious and energetic students arrived back in Tübingen at approximately 9am Tuesday morning with as much Lust auf the warm comfort of their beds as they had for the trip to Budapest just four days before. It was a magical and unbelievable trip with fantastic people.