Europe Week 11: Budapest

Ciao,

The SS officers and Nazi-era cars are back on my street again. What a weird sight to see on my walk back from class. The movie shoot is only happening for one day, so they should be gone tomorrow. Bruce Willis knows where I live now too, so thats something. Who knew my neighborhood was such a hotbed for Hollywood.

Having someone plan a weekend for me was a special gift. This was by far the most relaxing and easiest trip of the term. Budapest reminded me a lot of Prague, just a little bigger with considerably better food. Hungary and the Czech Republic were both under communist rule until 1989, so they are culturally and aesthetically very similar. I met my friends Josh (who lives in Budapest) and Jenny for a weekend full of relaxing thermal baths and touring the ancient city. Josh was our own personal tour guide for the weekend who was full of knowledge and random tidbits about the city. You name it, we saw it in two days, including a 2.5 hour walking tour of the Jewish neighborhood. Fun fact: the largest synagogue in Europe is in Budapest.

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Budapest was an unexpected treat and by far the cheapest weekend in three months. The city surpassed my expectations, by far. The first night there we spent the evening in a rooftop bath looking over the city after sunset. Life could not have been more perfect if you tried. This place had everything 7 different baths of varying temperatures and sizes to fit anyones needs. You can even order drinks from the bar, but alcohol and hot tubs don’t mix well, or so I’ve heard. Then we celebrated my birthday with perhaps the best beef short ribs and mushroom risotto I’ve had in a long time. Did I mention the food in Budapest was surprisingly amazing? (I’m not sure why but I always seem to write this just before I eat dinner, so food is all I can think about.)

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One of my highlights was a tour of the Hungarian parliament. It’s breathtaking by day and night. Perhaps more astounding was that a couple tons of gold were used to decorate the interior staircase room. It’s worth a look at my photos. This was the first weekend of the magnificent Christmas Markets. The first one I’ve ever been to, too…apparently marzipan is huge there. Admittedly I ate way too much. Other than that we went a ruin bar with 16 different themed rooms with varying energy levels, which was pretty cool. In short, it was a fantastic 48 hour whirlwind trip. I always wish I had more time.

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Yesterday was a national holiday in the Czech Republic commemorating the end of communism and Velvet Revolution. Demonstrations protesting the government were happening all over the city, and some were pretty rowdy. Apparently they are trying to force their current president out of office. He’s an alcoholic and no one in Prague likes him.

Finally, my thoughts on the Paris attacks. Some people have expressed concern with me traveling in Europe and potentially being in harms way. The attacks were terrifying and extremely upsetting. I had five friends in Paris over the weekend when it happened. This could happen anywhere. I was in New York this summer and you could argue I was more in danger there than I am anywhere here. Not traveling and changing my plans is exactly what the terrorists want us all to do. Changing my life is letting them win, and that can’t happen. I will continue with my travel plans, I have just over three weeks left.

Tomorrow I leave for “Brussels” and Bruges, to find out for my self it it actually exists with the one and only Deb Roth. (Read this if you don’t understand what I just said: Belgium does not Exist)  You could say I’m excited. I only have Vienna left after this weekend. Can you believe it?

Finally, for all my pictures follow this link: Mark in Europe

All the best

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