I grossly underestimated how long I’d spend in Budapest, booking for four nights and ending up staying for nine – longer than I’d spent anywhere. This was mostly because I was applying for a Ukraine visa and had to wait around until I got it, but that’s a story for another post.
It took me a very long time to actually do any sightseeing in Budapest, as I spent a good number of days sleeping off hangovers or generally just sleeping in due to a few too many big nights. That’s due primarily to the awesomeness of the hostel I stayed at and the people I met there.
I stayed at a hostel called Carpe Noctem Vitae, and it’s definitely one of the best hostels I have ever stayed at. The place itself was great, and in a good location, and the staff were simply brilliant. So friendly, so helpful, and one hell of a lot of fun. The hostel is part of a group of four hostels owned by the same people and they organise activities every night of the week, which people from all the hostels join in on. It started off pretty good for me – when I arrived, I was told that the next night was a fancy dress party…and anyone who knows me knows how much I like dressing up. Thus my first day in Budapest was spent not seeing the sights but searching all the op-shops I could find for something to fit a ‘Boogie Nights’ theme. I ended up finding a bright orangey-red miniskirt, a gold corset that I found some black leather to lace up, and a brilliantly 70s scarf. Coupled with fishnets, I was pretty happy with my costume – not too bad for about $12!
Everyone from Vitae walked to the bar together, through the fancy restaurant area – which was probably a bit embarrassing for the guy wearing a lycra police stripper costume with a snorkel [not sure why – they came from the hostel dress up box]. The hostels had booked the whole bar, and it was also karaoke. This of course means an interesting and entertaining night. They also have a ‘strawpedo’ competition, which involves getting a bunch of very mature backpackers and seeing who can down a Bacardi Breezer through a straw the fastest. Disturbingly enough, on my first night I won with the fastest guest time of 4.1 seconds. I attribute the speed to the fact that Bacardi Breezers are pretty revolting and the sooner they’re empty the better [I beat my time by a second the next week.] I also ran into a bunch of people who I’d met at the Ginger Monkey which was great fun.
It was a good night. I believe that much of the next day was spent recovering.
A couple nights later I joined the hostel pub crawl which visited four different ruin bars before ending up club. I skipped the club part and ended up staying at one of the ruin bars with a few people instead – cheap drinks, great atmosphere – why ruin the fun by going clubbing? Ruin bars are a uniquely Budapest phenomenon, where ad hoc bars are opened in abandoned courtyards or condemned, falling apart buildings. They tend to be packed with young people and local students, and they’re far more interesting than the average bar. Every one is different and what they all have is character. I’ll happily admit that I loved the ruin bars and visited more than once. I especially liked the one that has a pizza stall downstairs…perfect for when it’s time to head home and you’re a little famished. It also helps soak up the alcohol…
On the Friday night I was there, the big water park in Budapest called Aquaworld was going to be open at night so just about everyone from the hostel went over to Aquaworld, which was jam-packed with locals looking to have a drunken party with water slides. Aquaworld was amazing. The bar was pitiful, and terribly overpriced, but the park itself was awesome. They had a big thing in the middle designed to look like Angkor Wat, and there were whirlpools and wave pools and one pool that was really hot and you could swim outside through a little gate in the wall. Outside the air was icy and the water warm, and there were fountains spraying you with hot water. Unfortunately it also tended to be full of couples and so was best avoided after about 11pm.
Before going to Aquaworld I never knew that water slides could be so much fun. They had all different sorts, ones that you went down in tyres and others on ‘flying carpet’ mats; others in pairs in double rings, others that were actually a bit scary as you plummeted what felt like almost vertically through the pitch black dark…aptly named the Kamikaze. For some slides there was always a wait, but others you could go down again and again and again. They also had a Zumba class going on the edge of the pool, which didn’t seem like the world’s most sensible location but was pretty entertaining anyway, big groups of girls in bikinis dancing along with the Zumba instructor. The night got even better when I got back to the hostel in the last taxi, with one of the staff, and we found a huge plate of leftover vegetarian lasagna and a big bowl of minestrone that was more a pasta than a soup. Both were soon empty.
Other nights there were open mic nights and other random things. I didn’t go out every night – neither my budget nor my liver would allow that. It was also nice to have a quiet night in sometimes when everyone else in the hostel was out. I took advantage of this one night to dye my hair. It had been a very long time since I’d coloured my hair myself and it took forever even with my short hair. I discovered that the colour shown on a hair dye box generally bears no resemblance to the colour that it turns out as, but it was still red enough and looked pretty bright in the sun so I wasn’t too disappointed.
My last night in Budapest was a Tuesday which meant another fancy dress-karaoke night and another afternoon costume shopping. But it was good fun – I do love hunting through op shops and they have some pretty good ones there. I was a bit braver with karaoke this time and got up and sang a few songs. It was surprisingly a lot of fun. That night ended a little earlier than anticipated though when I ended up helping to carry one of the girls working at the hostel back there after far too many tequila shots. Given that the theme for that night was ‘Sexual Fantasies’ and she was dressed up in Japanese bondage with a bright red wig it must have looked strange having a couple of people carrying her through the streets of Budapest at 1.30 in the morning.
I was almost a little surprised that I managed to survive Budapest – I hadn’t done quite so much partying since Tallinn. I did have a brilliant time though and am still considering returning to Budapest for Christmas.