The trip started ordinarily enough. The flight was one of the most turbulent I've ever experienced, but it took off and landed on time, so I really couldn't complain. We had to take a bus and then a metro line to get to our hostel, so we followed the instructions the hostel gave us. When we got off the bus, we went to a little newspaper stand next to the metro stop to buy our ticket onto the train, and then got on said train. We got off the train, got onto the fastest escalator I have ever ridden on, and were greeted at the top by the metro patrols. They asked to see our tickets, which we happily showed them, and said, "These aren't validated. You have to pay a fine." We had not seen any validation boxes at the first stop, and when we tried to explain that to them, all they responded with was, "Well, instructions are on the back of the ticket in English, you should have read it." (Actually, they weren't, just that the ticket was non-refundable.) So, we had to pay a 6000 forint fine. The problem was, while Jared and Izzy had pulled out money from an ATM at the airport, Katy and I had only exchanged 5 euros at the airport, enough for the bus and metro tickets. Katy borrowed some forints, I asked if I could pay in euros and paid 25 euros as a fine. This actually worked out really well for me, since at the exchange rate I got, 6000 forints equaled 27 euros. (This is a first for me- normally, paying in the local currency is always cheaper than paying in some other currency.) What a start in Budapest! "Welcome to Budapest, please pay the 25 euro fine."
We continued on to our hostel, griping and complaining the entire way. Did it do any good? No, but it sure made us feel a bit better. The hostel owner was very sympathetic and told us they had just changed the law, meaning there were more officials out checking tickets. He showed us to our room, which ended up just being for the four of us, told us that the coffee and tea in the kitchen were free for us to drink, gave us our keys, and we were on our way. We were all pretty hungry by this point, so we headed out to a restaurant that Izzy recommended to us. The food was delicious, if not a bit expensive, and it was of course traditional Hungarian food and a lot of it. None of us could finish our plates! Katy and Izzy then went out clubbing with some other people in the hostel. It's a great deal in Budapest- no entry costs, and the drinks are cheaper there than I've seen them anywhere else- but Jared and I were far too tired, so we stayed back.
Sunday morning, we met up with Izzy's cousin and a couple of her friends, who offered to show us around the city a bit. This was really more of an overview of Pest, rather than actual sight-seeing. We started at St. Stephen's Basillica. It's a beautiful church, but no St. Peter's. We walked over to the river and then got on the tram to get to the National Theater. They had an art museum inside, although we didn't go in. There were some sculptures outside, including a fountain made to look like a ship. After some more walking, we ended up at the Opera House which, amazingly enough, it's cheaper to see an opera than take an a tour inside. We didn't do either, and instead continued on to our last stop, Heroes' Square. After taking many pictures, we finished the afternoon in the traditional Budapest way, by going to a cafe and sitting around and talking. Izzy's cousin and her friends were so nice to us, being willing to show us around the city for the day.
When we were visiting St. Stephen's, Katy said that she wanted to go back that evening to go to Mass. Jared agreed to go with her and, considering I'm actually Catholic, I didn't need to be asked twice. Izzy really didn't want to go, so she took a nap at the hostel while the three of us headed back to St. Stephen's. Even though the service was in Hungarian, I was able to follow along decently, since the general procession of events is the same. The other two were completely lost, though, since they are not Catholic and didn't understand what was going on. That night, we went out to a bar with a billiards table, and thus spent several hours playing pool and enjoying some Hungarian beers as well as confusing the people at the table next to us by switching between German and English.
Monday, we went to a large market hall near our hostel for lunch and a bit of souvenir shopping before heading off to our walking tour of the city. We started at- where else?- St. Stephen's, and from there went across the river, learning about the history of the city in the process. While we didn't go into very many of the buildings, it was cool to see the entire city from the hill. We saw the Royal Palace, Mathias Church, the Parliament building from across the river, and ended up in some underground caves. The entire time, Jared was saying he wasn't feeling well, but continued to power through the day. In the end though, he just wanted to go back to the hostel and sleep, so we went back with him.
Tuesday, Katy and Izzy woke up early to go to the baths. As Jared and I had no interest in going, we slept in and agreed to meet the other two early in the afternoon at a cafe. Unfortunately, Jared's mysterious illness got even worse during the night, and before I woke up, he actually looked to see if there were any flights back to Berlin that day, he felt so sick! I don't know if he ended up not finding any or just decided it wasn't worth the price, as we were flying back the next day anyways. When I woke up, however, he told me he didn't feel well at all and needed to find a doctor or go to the hospital! I pulled out my guide book to see if it had any information about medical services in English, and we found an American health clinic to go to. We went off to the cafe to meet Katy and Izzy so they would know about the change in plans (we had been planning to go to the House of Terror that day), and then trekked off to Buda and the clinic. I won't go into too much detail of what happened there, but we spent a few hours there and Jared was prescribed several drugs to help him feel better.
We had basically lost the entire day of sight-seeing so that Jared could get the medical attention he needed. By the time we got some food, it was five o'clock. At this point, we were about a 10-minute walk from Mathias Church, so I asked the others if we could make a short detour to see the inside of the church, which was really the one thing I personally wanted to do in Budapest. The only responses I got were, "No, that's boring. I don't want to climb up the hill." It was finally decided that I would go on my own while the other three went to a small Hungarian market to go shopping, and I would meet them back at the hostel. I agreed to it, but on the way to the church, I was fuming. I was really upset that they weren't willing to spend half an hour of the entire four days doing something I wanted to do. As it turns out, I got there too late and the church was already closed, so I walked back to the hostel, meeting the other three about an hour after I left them, where they had been freaking out because they couldn't call my phone. "We never should have split up!" I was perfectly fine, it was still light out the entire time I was walking and only stayed on the main streets, but it made me feel like saying back to them, "Yeah, I know, you guys should have come with me." A bit snarky, maybe, but I didn't say it, and it really felt like nothing compared to being told what I wanted to do was "boring."
Wednesday we woke up, and Katy, Izzy and I headed over the the Parliament building for their tour. Unfortunately, we got there too late and they had sold out of tickets for the 10 am tour. We took a few pictures of the building and then walked back to the hostel, stopping inside St. Stephen's once again, as we had yet to see his mummified right hand. We headed back to the hostel to pick Jared up, then went over to the market hall again to spend the rest of our forints on lunch and more souvenirs and gifts, before finally heading off to the airport. We looked for the validation box at the first metro stop, of course, and lo and behold, there it was...blended in with the orange wall. Honestly, there is no way to see it without specifically looking for it. Let this be a warning for future travelers!
Overall, I can't say this was the best trip. I've learned that some traveling partners are better than others, and having a medical emergency while in an foreign country was no fun at all. But Budapest is a very beautiful city, and I would love to go again- maybe not this year, but definitely sometime in the future. It's definitely easy on the wallet, too. For food, the hostel, souvenirs, tourist attractions, and even the non-validated metro ticket fine, I only spent 150 euros over the course of the entire trip!