Strolling Budapest, Hungary // Fungarian Walking Tours
It’d been on our minds for months – years, actually. For Dan, it had always been a dream to visit the city. George Ezra’s “Budapest” was even the song we choose for our wedding video. We had heard it was exotic, culturally diverse, and beautiful. So when I stumbled upon cheap flight with GermanWings a few weeks ago (by way of Stuttgart, not far from Heidelberg), I immediately booked tickets for a long weekend. It was a no brainer.
Within the first hour of arrival there’s a few things that became immediately clear: it’s incredibly reasonable – beautiful coffee and breakfast in a charming cafe set us back the equivalent of $8 total. It’s real – a functioning and vibrant city. It seems like so many of the cities and towns around Europe are stuck in a sleepy spell. Heidelberg most certainly is. But Budapest, no, it’s absolutely teaming with energy. If I had to draw a comparison, I’d say it reminded me most of Berlin. A young, boisterous vibe, funky counter-culture and HISTORY. Tons of modern-era history at every turn.
To get the scoop on the roots and culture of Budapest we joined Fungarian Tours for a two part experience.
Navigating Budapest has got to be one of our more challenging tests. Simply enough, the construction of letters and vowels in Hungarian defy all English-speaker’s logic. For example, a simple “Cheers!” (clinks glass) is “egészségedre!”.
Do you even know where to begin when pronouncing that? I certainly didn’t.
So, to kick things off, we joined Edit for coffee and a quick Hungarian lesson to aid us in our navigation of the city in the days to come. Edit was an absolutely delightful teacher, and with helpful instruction material, Dan and I began to understand how to navigate menus and even how to pronounce the street our Airbnb apartment was on. A huge win in my book!
We tried our best to be good pupils but also enjoyed chatting with Edit and learning about her experiences growing up in Budapest.
Bidding Edit our farewells, we joined her Fungarian colleague Miklos for a walking tour of the Jewish Quarter and surrounding neighborhoods. There’s a lot to see in Budapest- Buda and Pest were actually two different cities separated by the Danube and united only 140 years ago, so we chose to focus our energy on the modern day culture and stayed in Pest.
As a tour guide and former university professor, Miklos knows just about everything relating to Hungarian history and politics. His perspective is unique in that it’s intellectual and also merged with many of these events he witnessed first-hand, like the Soviet occupation that lasted for a total of 45 years, until 1991,.
While we enjoyed seeing some of these famous government buildings, it was the ruin bar Szimpla Kertmozi that absolutely stole the show. Ruin bars are immensely popular in Budapest, appearing to be the makings of squatters, these bars are rough in appearance – with graffiti and bare walls – but are, in reality, converted spaces with an indescribable cool, hipster vibe.
Our tour took place on a Sunday, coinciding with an indoor street market that was taking place inside.
Later our tour led us along the Danube, popping in to see the architecture and metalwork in The Four Seasons. Miklos shared insightful stories on the construction and history of the property while I snapped away pictures of the mesmerizing ceiling.
Then we moved on to see the marvelous Cafe Gerbeaud, not far away. Inside the true elegance of old-world Hungarian culture was evident while locals and tourists enjoyed coffees and beautifully presented sweets.
All and all we really enjoyed our time with Miklos and Edit and left feeling incredibly informed about the Hungarian language and history. I’d definitely recommend the walking tour for history-lovers while I think everyone, young and old, would benefit from their quick one hour Hungarian language course.