My train from Prague pulled into Budapest Keleti pályaudvar (Budapest Eastern railway station) on a blisteringly hot day in early August just in time for Sziget Festival (festival-specific posts coming soon). After nearly dying on a non air-conditioned ride from Berlin to Prague in similar, 37-degree weather a week prior, I insisted on booking a seat in a cabin with air conditioning regardless of the price difference.
2 days before I was due to arrive in Budapest, it occurred to me that I should book accommodation in advance, considering some 400,000 people from 95 countries were due to descend upon the city for Sziget Festival. At that point, all of the decently rated hostels on Hostelworld were booked up and the remaining ones were less conveniently-located. I then took a look at Airbnb and found a lovely private room right beside Budapest-Nyugati pályaudvar (Budapest Western railway station) for less than the cost of hostel bunk in a room of 6.
At all times, there were several others sharing the other rooms at my Airbnb. Our host was extremely welcoming, providing us with wine and shisha on multiple occasions and telling us stories about Hungarian culture and history. If you, dear reader, ever find yourself in Budapest, I highly recommend staying with her!
I spent most of my first week in Budapest at Sziget Festival. Budapest was in the midst of a heat wave and the city became dryer and dustier as each day went on. On the last day of Sziget Festival, a huge storm swept through central Europe and Budapest was caught in a thundering downpour. The temperature dropped sharply to less than 20 degrees and the Canadian-from-rainy-Vancouver in me rejoiced.
My plan had been to go to Split right after Sziget Festival but my Airbnb host told me that I should stay a bit longer for St. Stephen’s Day, the largest Hungarian national holiday commemorating the founding of the Hungarian state more than 1000 years ago. Each year, there are day-long festivities along the banks of the Danube and fireworks that light up the sky at night.
A Walk Around Budapest
Budapest Keleti pályaudvar (Budapest Eastern railway station) is the main international and inter-city railway terminal in Budapest and has been serving the city since 1884.
My beautiful and very conveniently located Airbnb room that cost less than a shared hostel with bunk beds. The photo doesn’t show it but I even had my own chandelier!
Szent István-bazilika (St. Stephen’s Basilica) was named after Stephen I, the first king of Hungary. It is one of the two tallest buildings in Budapest.
Caught in the rain outside of St. Stephen’s Basilica
Wandering through the rainy streets of Budapest
Caught at a crossroads in Budapest
A church at the foot of Erzsébet híd (Elisabeth Bridge), one of many bridges that connect the Buda side of Budapest to the Pest side
Széchenyi-gyógyfürdő (Szechenyi baths) are the largest medicinal baths in Europe with water provided by two thermal springs.
Országház (the Hungarian Parliament Building) is the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary, one of Europe’s oldest and largest legislative buildings, and the tallest building in Budapest.
I had an epiphany on a cool morning in mid-August sitting alone on the edge of the Danube with a latte and a fruit tart. One of my reasons for going traveling alone was to overcome a number of my fears. A few moments before I snapped this photo, a fear that had plagued me my entire life simply…disappeared. Poof. Gone. Forever. I was free and god…I can’t possibly describe how incredible that felt.
St. Stephen’s Day
Széchenyi lánchíd (Széchenyi Chain Bridge) is the first permanent bridge across the Danube in Hungary. On this day, it was flooded with people celebrating St. Stephen’s Day.
Views from Buda Castle
Statue on the very top of Buda Castle
I blinked. Oops.
View of Széchenyi Chain Bridge and the Hungarian Parliament Building from the top of Buda Castle. Doesn’t Budapest look like a fairy tale?!
The Danube lit up by fireworks for St. Stephen’s Day
The Hungarian Parliament lit up at night
The Halászbástya (Fisherman’s Bastion) is a terrace situated on the Castle hill and around Mátyás-templom (Matthias Church), pictured here.
And with that, it was back to Budapest Keleti station to leave for Split!