Natives of Budapest mingled with tourists in the bathhouse, and we finally found our moment of peace
Coming from someone who’s from the United States, …
…Europe is quite an exciting continent. The layout of the continent is similar to that of the United States. Except for instead of states bordering each other, it’s countries. Each country in Europe has its own unique culture, language, and way of life. Sure, regions vary by culture in the USA, but they are still among the same country. In Europe, it’s possible to be in three varying countries with three varying languages, all in 48 hours.
This is what I experienced one fall day when looking up plane tickets to Hungary. I was studying abroad in the Czech Republic and wanted to find a cheap weekend getaway to explore a new country with one of my friends from the program. We decided on Hungary and immediately began looking at tickets. We soon found a round-trip plane ticket that left early on Saturday and returned late on Sunday for only $42. This was unheard of in America, so we immediately decided to book it.
The only catch was that we’d have a stop-over in Belgium on the way back from Hungary before arriving in the Czech Republic. Anyone who knows simple European geography would understand that this doesn’t add up. Rather than a direct flight that would only take 2 hours from Hungary to the Czech Republic, we were now taking a detour across the country in Belgium. The layover was 12 hours, though, so we’d have the entire day to explore Brussels.
The trip was going to be exhausting and confusing, …
…but we were ready. Saturday rolled around, and we headed to the airport at a bright and early 6AM. My friend and I brushed up on simple Hungarian phrases and mapped out where we wanted to go. We’d have the whole day in Budapest and were beyond ready to chill in an old bathhouse and gaze at spectacular works of architecture, like the Hungarian Parliament building. We were buzzing with excitement until a voice arose at our gate telling us our flight was delayed.
Delay after delay, we waited in the airport until we could finally board at 2PM, meaning we wouldn’t arrive in Hungary till about 4 or 5PM. We were bummed but ready to get to our destination. The Hungarian sun was setting when we arrived. We quickly pulled out money stamped with the faces of the nation’s leaders and navigated our way to the train and into the city center. We stepped out onto a street covered with snow that glistened under streetlights. Ahead of us was the parliament building in all its glory. We mentally checked that off our now compacted to-do list and headed to the bathhouse.
Natives of Budapest mingled with tourists in the bathhouse, …
…and we finally found our moment of peace. Wandering through the halls of thermal baths, lap pools, and outdoor baths surrounded by snow, we felt content again with our decision to embark on this crazy journey.
We only got 4 hours of sleep at our Airbnb before we had to head once again to the airport, praying our flight wasn’t delayed. Luckily, the airport gods were on our side for this leg of the trip, and we landed promptly in Belgium. An hour bus ride later, we were wandering the streets of Brussels, eating tiny chocolates, munching on Belgian fries and waffles, and of course, Belgian beer.
We were lost in a daze of confusion the entire trip.
We had hiked across the sky of Europe in the past 48 hours, making that of a triangular shape. We’d (attempted) to speak 3 different languages, eaten a collection of various foods, and talked with people that were living unparallel lives. This all happened in such a short period that left us stunned, out of breath, and hopelessly happy.
Our Hungary trip turned into a Belgium trip with the amount of time we spent in each, but it was a trip that we’d forever remember and never take for granted. If it weren’t for the insanely cheap Ryan Air ticket, we would’ve never step foot in Belgium. However, it’s now become one of my favorite countries. The mix of business culture and art intrigued me the most about the city. The people we met were kind and welcoming, and the food was fantastic. Take that trip that seems out of your comfort zone and totally wild. You’ll make your younger self proud, and you may just find a hidden gem or two in the process.