I arrived in Budapest in late evening and had a relatively easy and uneventful night, watched a movie at the hostel I made my way too and fully enjoyed the unusual privacy I had in having a 8 person dorm to myself. The next morning I awoke to find an array of cereals out provided by the hostel and knew right away it was going to be a good day, how could it not be when it starts with free breakfast? During my happy munching a fellow guest struck up a conversation with me and asked if later that afternoon I wanted to go with a group of people from the hostel to the Széchenyi baths. Knowing little what the baths would be like I agreed and with only a few hours before our meeting time I took a quick walk around the area near the hostel and got back in time to grab my towel and shorts and head out the door. Leading our group was a Minnesotan ( is that the right term?) by the name of Andrew who was using his job as a courier to check out the city for a few days. We also had two solo Australians with us, Beau and Brett, and a pack of three French and French Canadian girls who were studying together in Paris; Amelie, Marina and Anne Laure. Even though I didn't know what to expect with the baths, I certainly didn't expect the 20+ pool complex that I arrived at. You could probably spend days at the place and still miss a pool or two. The establishment was set up in a ring shape with the center having the three main baths (hot, slightly less hot, and a lap pool) and a huge building encompassing the pools that within held many many more baths. After exploring about and getting in a good soak Andrew and I discovered the subterranean sauna that was hotter than any i've ever been in. Thankfully not ten feet from the door an ice-cold plunge pool beckoned to your sweat soaked body and the sensation of diving into the cool relief was for me one of true bliss. To top it off next to the plunge pool an ice machine allowed you to take a small ball of cold comfort in with you when you entered the scorching sauna and I contendly did circuits between the three for as long as I could stand, realizing halfway through that few dishes are as delicious to munch on in a sauna as a big ice ball.
Feeling like a new man I left the sauna renewed and utterly cleansed. On the way back someone suggested a trip to one of Budapests famous ruin bars was in order and after dinner we made our way over to Szimpla, one of the most well known in the city. When Budapest was attacked during WW2 many buildings were destroyed and from the rubble of these buildings bars were created. In Szimpla the bar is actually the remains of two buildings and what was once a street down the center. The remains of windows and doors exist everywhere and the result is a winding, dark and surprisingly cozy place with a great atmosphere that's accentuated by christmas lights and numerous plants. I loved it. The night was topped off by the single best thing I have ever eaten at a bar. Midway through our night a waitress came by with a large bowl and offered us, wait for it, carrots. After my initial confusion I looked in the bowl to see a collection of huge, delectable carrots that you could enjoy for only 200 forints, not even a euro. Everyone at the table bought one and my belly, body, and eyes thanked me for such a great purchase.
I decided the next morning to finally get out and see the city. The Royal Palace was only a couple miles away and I hoofed over to it, crossing the mighty Danube on my way and entering into the Buda half of the city. The palace was impressive from the outside but unfortunately to enter any part of it cost a fair chunk of change and my frugal nature thought better of coughing up the money. On my way back I bought the ingredients for a luxurious spaghetti dinner and back at the hostel I enjoyed the feeling of cooking a meal rather than buying one. Relaxing with a full plate of food I heard voices at the desk that surprisingly had no accent I could detect. Looking up I saw three girls that all looked very decidedly American, a surprise to see as besides Andrew I had met almost no one on the road from the U.S. After they got into their room and made their way out into the common area I asked one of them if they were in fact from the States. As it turned out Gracie, Allie and Allie were from South Carolina (Gracie) and Kentucky (both Allies) and were students at UK but studying abroad in Sevilla for the semester. Since they were only planning on being in Budapest for two days they had planned out a huge city tour that included everything I had yet to see and invited me to come along the next day with them.
Noon the next day found me climbing the final set of stairs and arriving at the Citadella, a monument at the highest point of the city. Along with the girls Andrew had decided to tag along for the days forays as well and we all took a seat at the steps of the monument to catch our breath and survey the amazing vista that now surrounded us. Earlier we had explored the Budapest Market (Andrew and kept ourselves entertained as the girls looked at gifts far outside my price range) and following our rest at the Citadella we visited (or revisited in my case) the Royal Palace that even on a second visit still impressed me. Of course, no Budapest trip would be complete without a trip to the baths and for the second time in three days I ended up at Széchenyi, anything but disappointed at returning to the place for round two. After another long sauna session and swim we got back to the hostel with a plan to visit the club Instant that evening, a place we had all heard nothing but positive reviews about.
Now, if you know me then you know I can get very excited (to put it mildly) if I find myself in celebratory atmosphere with good music and fun people. It just so happened that Instant was one of those places. Losing all track of time I danced and smiled my way through the night without a care in the world, realizing only when the music stopped that it happened to be 6 30 in the morning and that I didn't have to go home, but I couldn't stay there. Luckily, the hostel was only a mile away and with the remaining energy I had left in the tank I got back to find that a couchrequest I had sent to a girl in Cluj Napoca, Romania, had accepted me. Without a second thought I checked the train schedule, saw the next train left in a couple hours, and followed Andrew out the door, who, not being part of our clubbing group the previous evening was awake and could see I was grateful for some assistance in my sleep-deprived state. He bid me adieu as I stumbled my way onto the train and I collapsed into my seat and fell asleep immediately, my last thoughts wondering why nights when your having fun go by so very quickly.