Oh Budapest, you far off land that once seemed like it was so far from reach. How I already miss you so! For some reason, the city of Budapest always seemed like a mysterious destination to me and its been one of those places I didn’t know much about. I had heard people talk about it, seen a couple of photos, but it had never ranked on my short list of ‘must-see’ places. Not for any reason in particular, but more so because of my lack of knowledge and information about the Hungarian capital. Just having the name Buda in the title made me think of a far-east type of city that was more dominated by eastern influence as opposed to sitting somewhere just east of west and just west of east. I didn’t know what to think about it, and wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.
The city of Budapest was once two separate cities; Buda and Pest, and sometime in the late 1800’s they merged to form a single city. For centuries before, the city had been conquered and destroyed, conquered and destroyed again, and reigned by various kings and cultures. It endured hardships after initially siding with the Axis powers and Nazi Germany during WWII, only to eventually engage in armistice negotiations with the U.S. and the U.K. This obviously pissed off Hitler, so the German dictator decided to invade Hungary in 1944. By the end of the war, Hungary had lost more than 1/3 of its Jewish population to the Holocaust, and the city of Budapest was heavily bombed. However, the nightmare did not end there; the Russians soon took over, and occupied the country until 1991. It’s been a rough and rocky ride for Hungary, but emerging from the rubble and tyranny, the city has triumphed and now ranks as one of the best places to travel in Europe.
Today the city of Budapest is thriving and there’s a feeling in the air of excitement, adventure and a turning of the tides. The city of nearly 2 million people seems much smaller, and the hustle and bustle of bigger cities like London or Vienna is replaced by mostly quiet streets. Despite its size, nobody seems to be in a big rush. It’s a very carefree lifestyle that the Hungarians appear to live, and it’s very pleasant roaming the streets and stopping in and out of cafes, bars, and restaurants. The locals were very receptive of us, and it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the place. For six nights I lived like a Hungarian, eating some goulash, liver, soups, breads, and lots of really good comfort food. I visited the sites like St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Chain Bridge, and the Szechenyi Baths, but mostly we walked around admiring the beautiful architecture, parks, narrow streets, and clear blues skies that greeted us throughout the stay.
At times I need a reminder just how fortunate and blessed I am to discover and explore some of these far away lands. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Europe nearly ten times now, and my travels have now taken me to 13 different countries. I’ve seen some sites and areas of the world that I never could have dreamed about ever visiting, and I’m grateful for all of it. I consider traveling to be my healthy addiction, and there’s few things in the world that I have as much passion for as discovering different cultures, engaging with the locals, and feeling a bit out of my comfort zone when I step into a city and find the signs and the languages unrecognizable. It may not be a Worry Free Life that I live, but it is a life that has taken me to destinations that have stolen a piece of my heart. I always have a strong yearning to discover more when I return from trips, and I know that my next journey is just around the corner, but that does not make it any easier. I’m determined to find my way back very soon, and eventually with some hard work and perseverance, my future explorations to the other side of the world can last longer and longer.
Thank you, Budapest. While you have tugged at my heart strings, you have also scratched a desperate itch. I already hear you calling me, and I know that one day we will meet again. Szia!