I admit to took me a night to warm to Budapest. When I arrived it was already dark, the train station was full of the types of people who only seem to emerge at night, the sort of people who you don’t want to bump into at night! Everywhere I turned people were trying to convince me to ditch my host Vanda and come and stay at their hostel instead, or they were trying to offer me lifts and bundle me into their car. I managed to catch the right bus to Vanda’s home but in the wrong direction, gave up, headed back to my starting point – the train station – and caught a taxi. On learning I was English, the taxi driver’s reaction was ‘ah! England! Manchester City! Liverpool! Arsenal!’ He didn’t seem to care that I have no knowledge or interest in football, I just let him ramble on about Wayne Rooney and David Beckham, and I think he felt pretty proud of his knowledge of English football clubs and players.
Vanda was a darling. She greeted me with pizza, which by this point I so needed. She pointed out places to go – and places to avoid – on a map, and just generally she was really lovely.
Budapest is a completely different city day to night. That first night when I arrived I really wasn’t sure if I could like Budapest, but when I woke up the next morning, I swear I didn’t even recognise it. I walked with Vanda into the centre of the city, and everything was misty and already it was far too hot for my then still pale-as-milk English complexion, and I ended up rather sun-burnt – the only day of the whole trip that I burnt.
Once she had finished work, Vanda showed me around the city, firstly showing me this amazing bar:
And then taking me up to Budapest Castle.
And finally to the city’s Statue of Liberty, my photograph of which can be seen on my ‘part one’ post.
Because I’d decided to spend an extra day in Prague and I had my flight to Venice booked, I could only stay in Budapest for one and a half days, but despite the rough start, I have definitely decided that I will be returning to Budapest to see the rest of it ASAP.
Especially as I spent my final morning before my flight at one of Budapest’s famous baths, but I only had time to spend about an hour and a half there – definitely need to come back and explore those little gems further!
As much as I loved pretty much everywhere I visited, I think Venice just about scrapes it’s way to the top of my ‘Favourite Cities’ list… if only it wasn’t so damn expensive!
When I arrived I had no map, no idea which part of Venice I was in, no idea where I could find internet access and no idea where I was sleeping that night – and only about two hours left of sunlight. I ended up in a fit of giggles that made everyone stare at me because I could just picture all of my friends in a complete panic and I felt like I should be a bit more anxious about things rather than casually strolling around, refusing to use a map (I mean it’s Venice – the whole point of Venice is to get utterly and hopelessly lost) and just trusting that I would internet access eventually so that I could find a place to stay.
And I did, of course. Eventually I stumbled across a tiny internet cafe – or rather it was a normal newsagents-style shop with a few computers in the back room. I started chatting to an English teacher who was trying to arrange for his girlfriend to meet him in Paris, and she didn’t seem to be very organised.
My hotel was on the island of Giudecca – which I think is why it was so cheap – no one wants to have to cross the water on a ‘waterbus’ twice a day. These people chose wrong. By being on Giudecca rather than ‘main Venice’ (Dorsoduro, San Marco, S. Polo etc), it meant that I had an incredible view to wake up to of the ‘main islands’ – especially as my hotel was right on the waterfront, so in the evening we would all sit directly outside the hotel’s front door and watch this sunset:
which quite literally stopped me in my path when I first arrived at the hotel, dumped my things and coincidentally decided to go for a walk, not realising the time of day.
The view that greeted me first thing in the morning was damn beautiful too:
I sat around in the shade for hours, listening to this guy place the same piece of music over and over all day long – but it never got boring. I don’t know what the piece was, but it was beautiful ♥
I admit I didn’t go on a gondola – they’ve become too touristy and I tend to avoid anything horrible touristy. I did however enjoy listening to snippets of the gondolier’s stories about Venice’s history and their songs while sitting on the various bridges of Venice – especially the ones that lead to blank walls because then you can’t possible be in anyone’s way by sitting there!
I did, however, spend a lot of time in – for my first day – water buses and taxis, and after that, my friend’s boat. He even let me pilot it, but that nearly ended in disaster when I came far too close to crashing into a 500 year old building that already looked to be on the brink of collapse. After that I just sat back with my camera and enjoyed the view.
When I took this photo below, I was laughing because just on the opposite side of the canal was a very expensive restaurant, the sort where you have a musician – in this case an accordion player – serenading you while you eat. I laughed because they had paid an awful lot of money for, yes, good food, yes, enterainment, yes, shade from the sweltering heat, but I was sitting cross legged on the other side of the water, shaded from the sun by the buildings of Murano, I’d spent 7 euros on a delicious lunch of bread, cheese, ham, wine and – my favourite – raspberries, and I could hear the accordian player’s music just as clearly as them, but I didn’t have to feel obliged to pause my eating to clap, tip him, or just generally be polite and show him that I am listening to him.
I’m sorry but even if I had all the money in the world, I’d still choose to picnic in the shade alongside the canal, eavesdropping on the accordian player, any day.
My last photograph in Venice, which I took while waiting for my train. I found Venice almost impossible to leave. Definitely need to go back there ASAP. And no, to everyone who has asked me, Venice does not smell bad at all – it smells like the sea.