I just turned 30 and sad and Hubby surprised me with this trip. For several days we pretended that we lived in Budapest – we bought cheese at the supermarket, ate at small French restaurants, went to see new Cirque du Soleil show, visited Gellert thermal baths. We went to hubby’s personal places. He bought a shitload of new vinyls. It was very mellow. We did not even walk by the famous parliament building till the last day.
Lot has changed in Budapest – store clerks actually answer in English now. It is slowly turning into youthful party-town, with lots of interesting bars and clubs. Herds of tourists roam places that were quiet and unknown. Locals slowly start migrating away from the bars that used to be unique and underground – Szimpla Gardens for example, this bohemian artsy ruin bar, is now completely in the hands of foreigners.
At the same time, new places are opening all over the place. The party atmosphere of night Budapest creates demand for more celebration. Drunk happy people wander from bar to bar till 2-3 A.M. Local bands provide variety of music; queues form outside 24-hours gyros places (also, Budapest gyros kicks Tbilisi shaurma’s ass).
Budapest this time seemed more like Prague…except no weed dealers approach you at night and no high people smoke in the streets. Of course it is still better than totalitarian Tbilisi regime, but if Budapest wants to establish itself as young and hip and happy, some decriminalization legislation has to take place.
The service has improved markedly. Waiters smile or at least make an effort to smile. Unlike my previous visits, I got no ill-mannered service the whole time.
Budapest also became more interesting in culinary sense, with many little (or not) restaurants that offer staple European food. We visited such a cute French café Bouchon, where I ate pate and it tasted good and I don’t even like liver.
This was a very different trip- usually we run up and down the city with a checklist, seeing this and that, always thinking of the next location to visit. Most of those locations are covered with camera-holding tourists and we have to patiently wait for our 5 seconds to take the picture with the building/monument/clock…but here, we slept in our Ikea-built apartment, walked to our hearts’ content.
And as we did that I realized that goddamnt it, I want to live like this, I want to live like this for an extended period of time, I want to feel European for more than 4 days, I want to take cities like Budapest for granted! I want to just live in those streets, just eat in un-famous local places, I want to have international friends and that I really miss studying. I miss variety in my life, I miss diversity. Recently (especially after the May 17 events) I have woven very special net of friends that include only like-minded people and I cannot force myself to socialize with people whose ideas are too different from my own. It gives me comforts; but it also limits my world view…I need to get out…I need to hear different (but intelligent) people.
The getting-PhD-in-Europe seed has been planted, let’s see if it blooms.
p.s. pic of historic Gellert thermal baths where I spent my birthday