We have had an insanely busy 2 months! We went from Hungary to France to England and we are currently teaching English at the University of Essex. This blog post is going to be a condensed version of our adventures. We will start with Budapest and post a France blog post in a few days. By the time that post up, we should be done with this program and finally caught up with blog posts! Thanks again and again for reading.
Synopsis: Absolutely my favorite city in Europe so far. Walking down the cobblestone streets and looking around, I was transported to an insanely trendy, hip, Pinterest-inspired world. There were Edison bulbs strung everywhere, chalkboard signs with whimsical calligraphy, and succulents/flowers in boxes lining the streets. Everywhere you look the integrity of the old buildings was intact, but the restaurants and bars and shops that were in them were sparkling new. We stayed in an AirBNB in the 7th District of Budapest near all of the Ruin Bars. It was a week of touring and relaxing (and of course eating.)
Favorite Restaurant: I love sweets and also sweets. We went to eat breakfast near the Danube River at a place called, “Mr. Funk.” This bright and happy café had rows and rows of beautiful donuts in every color, shape, and flavor imaginable. They had canary yellow emoji donuts filled with lemon cream, pink heart donuts topped with rainbow sprinkles and fluffy marshmallows, donuts stacked on donuts to create an even bigger donut sandwich. Now being the sugar loving gal that I am, the next sentence might come as a surprise. I hate donuts. I do. I always have and always will. However, I did not come to this place for the donuts. I came for their ultimate breakfast treat (for Tyler and I to share because calories.) See picture below and no description needed. Just know that every piece of this was consumed, including the chocolate rim.
Massage Memories: We noticed signs for “Thai Massages” all over the city. Essentially a Thai massage is a combination of massaging the body, the masseuse stretching the client in crazy positions, and some (potentially unliscensed) chiropractic work. We saw some dodgy looking places and some amazing spa inspired places. After walking into 4 different storefronts, we found out you have to book these massages well in advance since they are so popular. After walking around a bit more, we found one off the beaten path that had two immediate openings. Should that have been a red flag? Maybe. Here is my experience:
I stepped into the room and landed on a small tile, the only section of flooring in the room that wasn’t a futon-like mattress. The room was a small, dimly lit square with some serious zen. I had chosen the color of the mood lighting (blue) and the muted cobalt uplights casted a soft glow on the wicker covered walls.
I was handed a stack of white material by a small and somber Thai woman who immediately left and shut the door behind her. Unfolding the scratchy white fabric, I discovered it was a pair of pants and a shirt. I started to change into my new ensemble and the woman walked in. I froze, half covered, and she snapped her fingers for me to hurry up. Okay, no modesty. Moving on. I finished, laid on the floor mat, and took a deep breath to relax. Massages are fun! Suddenly, I felt a human JUMP on my back. No warning, no starting slow. She just went for it. Her small feet were digging in my shoulder blades and her hands were in my calves, bear crawl style. Now mind you, I have 3 herniated disks in my spine thanks to a car accident last year and I was not about to risk another. Do I move and knock the carefully balanced woman off? Do I say something? I decided to do both. As soon as I lifted my neck and started, “Ehh…” she jumped right off and started rubbing my neck. Better but still aggressive. For the next 45 minutes, the silent and amazingly strong woman stretched and pulled and rubbed my arms, neck, and head. She dug her fingers into arm muscles I didn’t know were there. She tapped her knuckles on my forehead over and over because that’s not a strange thing to do. I’m sure there is science behind it, but after I changed back into my jeans and left the room, I decided that was my last Thai massage.
As soon as we were close to becoming honorary Polish natives, and getting the hang of converting polish złoty to U.S. dollars, we were off to Hungary. You can imagine my shock when the cash machine asked me to take out 300,000 Hungarian Florint, but I found out this was about $1200 so I opted for a crisp 10,000 Ft bill or $40 ($4,000 technically makes you a millionaire!) We met just one person who spoke no English, which was fortunate, because speaking Hungarian is no joke.
I did learn that ‘nö’ is ‘woman.’ There’s a joke there somewhere.
Budapest was amazing. It was hip. It was happening. Everywhere you looked, in every nook and cranny, was a nifty bar or restaurant, each one we stumbled upon was cooler and more appealing than the last. These spots were either ‘Ruin Pubs,’ i.e. bars built right into the ruins of old buildings damaged and destroyed during the Second World War, or restaurants that would make any frequent Pinterest user faint. It was awesome. It made Austin look like Juárez. We wined and dined for fives of dollars, and had a huge variety to choose from, but IMO, (yay acronyms) Budapest is the unofficial burger capital. I had the absolute best burger I’ve ever sank my teeth into, and putting a fried egg on it was the way to my heart…and arteries. The kind of burger that stops time. The burger you take a bite out of and look to the god of meats in reverence, thanking him for his creation and allowing it to now be a part of you. This savory sandwich that made my fiancée angry because I “have never looked at her like I looked at it.”
And then when it was all done, and I on the verge of tears looked up and read that pub sign:
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
Message Memories: We walked about 60 miles in the four days we toured, so we were a bit sore. Luckily we found a Thai massage parlor and I had a 120 year old Thai lady named Dao digging her heels into my back to help with recovery. She cracked joints I didn’t know I had, and I swear she whispered Ivan Drago’s “I will break you” in a Russian accent at one point. There were many times I felt like tapping out of the holds she was putting me in.
Now I felt amazing when it was all said and done, but I imagine my dad or grandpa walking in and seeing me twisted up and contorted like I had an amateur marionette pulling my strings all wrong and trying to break me in half, and me not being able to meet his eyes out of embarrassment.
I’ll cherish our time forever, Dao, even if you didn’t give me the full hour.