Saturday, July 5, 2008

My guidebook hates me, but Budapest is GREAT!

There were minor battles with my Let’s Go Eastern Europe guidebook earlier in the summer. For example, it told me that my hostel in Vilnius was located in the center of town, only to find out that the hostel was actually located very close to the bus station where I had arrived (this, of course, was after lugging my suitcase & backpack through Vilnius’ winding cobblestone streets). But in Budapest, war has broken out with the guidebook. The Budapest section must have been written by someone who was high, or drunk, or both. It lists restaurants at grossly incorrect addresses, has the tourist information centers marked on streets that I have confirmed are not home to anything tourist-friendly, and other annoying inaccuracies.

Crappy tourist book aside, we are really enjoying Budapest. Our hostel is cute and fun and centrally located. We have indulged in the extravagant Széchenyi public baths (even prettier on the inside!):

…taken the funicular to the castle district on the Buda side of the city (Buda & Pest used to be separate towns on either side of the Danube but they merged to form one city):

…eaten some tasty Hungarian food (highlights for me were cold sour cherry soup, garlicky potatoes, and crepes; Alicia liked the goulash), and more. There’s also plenty of architecture to admire here. One of my favorite buildings houses the Hungarian Parliament:

Any linguistic knowledge that may have aided me in other countries is useless here in Budapest. Hungarian is a difficult language, unrelated to most other languages in Europe, and though the people are in general nice, there are some interesting behaviors that we've found difficult to interpret. For example, on more than one occasion we've asked questions and gotten a weird, disinterested shrug as a response. E.g. at the liquor store: “Do you have any cold wine?” // Response: weird shrug. Or at the metro station: “Do I need to purchase another metro ticket or is this one valid for a transfer?” // Response: weird shrug. If only I spoke some Hungarian I could perhaps uncover the mystery of the shrug.

On a more serious note, today there is a gay pride parade in town, which has apparently been crashed (vandalized?) by gay-bashers. I heard this from other hostel guests, but suspected as much when I saw a long line of police cars with sirens zooming past an hour or so ago. I may try to see what is going on from afar, but I’m a bit wary since Budapest isn’t known to be a gay-friendly city like Berlin (for example), and I don’t want to get caught in the middle of any hate crimes.

Lastly, I discovered that Barack is potable in Budapest. For fans, here’s proof:

This is no gimmick! It's really a local liquor! Barack means peach in Hungarian.


iwanagain said...

I just met someone randomly who told me Budapest was one of his all-time favorite cities. I'm so jealous. For one, I love goulash. Love it. I ate some pretty good stuff in Tulsa, which I'm sure pales to the stew your friend had. I'm not sure I'd like cherry soup, but I'm intrigued. Also, interesting pic of the incline. There's one in Pittsburgh, which is what my poor dead cat Duke (Duquesne) was named after. Again, I'm thinking much cooler in Budapest.

So you want to know what's up with the shrugging? I have no idea, but I'm shrugging weirdly at you right now.

A said...

Maybe your guidebook was written by that dude who simply surfed the web and wrote a Lonely Planet book for Europe! I don't remember the country, but it might be yours! And in the land of BelAmi, the boys on your team look just the same, so where are the pictures of them??? You know everyone, including Sandy!, wants to see!

As for the shrugs, is it just a guardian country? But I do remember that my first time in France everyone was nasty, but last year when I tried speaking French everyone was super nice and switched to English immediately. Most of the bookstores have mini phrase books that might help reduce the shrug effect.

And I want BelAmi!

iwanagain said...

So maybe (most definitely) I'm not as hip as I used to be, which is scary because "hip" was never really my thing. But I had no idea what a BelAmi boy was. So when you look it up on the Internet, and your husband suddenly comes home from work, it's good to have an explanation. And fyi... I think those boys are too young for even each other!

But I agree. You should post some pictures.