Very recently, I had the pleasure of visiting Budapest with my lovely friend (and fortune magnet), Jas.
Budapest was kind to us. We saw a lot, learned a lot – and by the end, both fairly felt like we had always been there – and, more to the point, that we’d accumulated plenty of wisdom to dole out to future Hungary-bound nomads.
So, as the internet is already pretty inundated with tips as per what to do/how to survive on your little trip to Budapest, I decided to contribute a few myself based solely on our experiences and discoveries – creating eight completely exclusive, niche tips and tricks for you. Read on, budding Budapest-ians. Learn from what we’ve learned.
1) Cry over Richard Ayoade.
It’s very important that you do this at least once on your trip abroad in Budapest. In your inner-elbow, your hands, on a damp napkin, on your friend’s (or stranger’s, if you have no friends) shoulder – cry over Richard Ayoade.
It’s even better if you have fitting context, like we did – because HE WAS THERE, on our very first night, in the most popular ruin bar in Budapest – Szimpla Kert. I did not immediately realise who he was which is GREAT, because I’m only ever 2% away (at most) from making a total ass of myself, particularly in the presence of famous British comedic actors with gorgeous afros I want to scrunch with my hands. I only found out afterwards when we met a very nice well-travelled lady who confirmed that I had not been hallucinating earlier, in fancying I’d seen the curly Adonis. I had. HE WAS THERE.
Due to the confusion of the moment (and being only a mere 2% away from assery), I have no visual evidence of the man himself – HOWEVER, I do have pictures of myself and Jas gallivanting about Szimpla Kert which I will include for your viewing pleasure.
Riding a terrifying-looking creature and looking equally as terrifying.
2) Drink shots of Palinka in a quaint tearoom while everyone else is drinking water.
Sheepishly about to become a pálinka animal.
Post-walking tour, we decided to go and treat ourselves to a little cake at a fairly famous tearoom (for only 400 forint! Which is, like, a quid and a bit. Living in the UK is a total rip-off).
While we were there, my friend noticed that everyone else had shot glasses of clear liquid, and we figured it to be pálinka – a clear, “fruity” alcohol, popular to Hungarian natives and people who hate their stomach lining and want to remove it entirely.
Loathe to be the odd ones out, we quickly ordered two of them – our first of the holiday (aka., we had no idea what we were doing). When the waiter brought them over, we realised they were in a different style of shot glass to what everyone else had – and then he brought over some water. In the other type of “shot” glass. Which is when we realised everyone else was enjoying a very normal mid-afternoon tipple of H2O – not communally partaking in a raging display of alcoholism. Again, loathe to lose face, we committed ourselves to shotting it.
Pálinka is disgusting in two ways:
- Taste. It tastes disgusting.
- Strength. It’s disgustingly strong. I’m pretty sure our tour guide told us it had 307% alcohol content in it. And 70% petrol. And maybe 12% paint stripper. I will have to confirm this with Jas – I am not sure she will remember but she will definitely agree it was strong as shit.
So you may be surprised to hear we drank it everyday.
Why? Once you have gone through the vomit-inducing process that is actually drinking the pálinka (pá-drinka) you feel AMAZING. Like, out of your body. We cartwheeled down the mountain that day. Or perhaps we rode down it on a cloud. Or did we find a unicorn and straddle it? I couldn’t tell you with any degree of certainty. But it was amazing*.
*This sounds like the rantings of an alcoholic, but do not worry. I had a couple of gins the other day and basically fainted – point being that I remain to be a curséd lightweight who cannot drink.
Feeling immortal after cherry pálinka (the nicest disgusting flavour).
3) Discover ‘flattes’.
Another drinks-related one – but trust me, you need this. Flattes are one of those things you don’t know you need, until it passes your lips and possesses you, body and soul. Like a millennial’s first taste of avocado. A hipster’s discovery of beard conditioning oil. A kid’s first cuddle with a puppy. As an avid coffee drinker, discovering flattes was a mind-boggling and irreversible experience for me.
We discovered it on our third day. Desperate for coffee, we stumbled into a hotel lobby – which I’M SO SORRY BUT I CANNOT REMEMBER THE NAME OF, BUT if you find the Starbucks on the corner of Fashion Street (promise this isn’t a secret ode to capitalist brainwashing Starbucks), go left and it’s on the right of the street, and the hotel is huge and you won’t miss it, or the signage to the coffee shop within* – to find a coffee shop advertised on the front, which, on finding it, saw it sold ‘flattes’.
A flatte is exactly what it sounds like: a flat white and latte tacked together. Made with the milk of the healthiest cows and the coffee from the strongest, sweetest beans. Beans that have been kissed by an angel. Beans that are the only cure to a night out ravaged by pálinka. Beans that coax your stomach lining back from the shadows in which it has spent the past 12 hours hiding. Beans.
We went back everyday after discovering our first flatte. And now I miss it. Now I feel, like there’s a hole in my chest, where a flatte heartbeat used to be. Now, I know my true calling is to spread the creed of the flatte and bully you all into trying it. So try it. Andbringonebacktomeifyouvaluethelivesofyourchildren. What? Who said that?
Cradling one of our precious flattes. FYI – I have not looked so peaceful or pure since.
I look like this now.
* I can’t remember names, dates or quotes for shit but I can remember the higgledy-piggledy routes to a place in no time. Go figure.
4) Grab gelato from Gelato Rosa, then have a sugar high and break some moves in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica.
We went on a mission to discover a gelato shop which ingeniously carved gelato into your cone in the shape of a rose, after Jas found a pretty picture of one on a(n otherwise terrible) blog*.
Suckers for cool gelato artwork, we took to the streets until we found it – a poky little place on the corner of the square where St. Stephen’s Basilica sits. AGAIN, I cannot remember the exact name of this gelato place, but it had a big gelato with a rose on outside of it (which is telling in itself) AND it was the only gelato shop there, so if you miss it then you clearly have gelato-specific blindness. Tl;dr, you cannot miss it.
We each ordered ourselves a small ‘rose’ gelato and, once out of sight of the gelato artist, inhaled them, attractively and elegantly. Like the pálinka, we then felt amazing, and spent a good half hour breaking a few moves and laughing hysterically outside the Basilica. I highly recommend that you do this, too.
*Which we laughed at one evening, A LOT.**
** If you say something similar about THIS blog to your friends I will cry.
5) Be wary of Pull & Bear.
A lovely Pull & Bear store sits in one of Pest’s two main squares (Vorosmarty Square) which you should BE VERY CAREFUL OF. If you are a girl who likes clothes. Or a boy who likes clothes. Or a person who wears clothes. Nudists can wander around the area at their leisure – you’re not at risk.
It’s beautiful and you will want to give it all your money. And then you will be very poor (but very fabulous-looking) and have to beg for forint at the airport to get a simple cuppa (please see point number seven).
Feeling very pretty in new P&B garb.
6) You will become addicted to sour cream on everything.
Hungarians put sour cream on everything, and it’s righteous. When you go back home it’ll be all you think about. Lovely, gigantic dollops of sour cream, chased with shots of pálinka and strange rosy ice cream-thingies. All of which make you feel amazing… (it’s possible we were spiked).
7) Look like beggars at the airport so a kind, much cleaner looking couple give you all their forint.
While we were waiting at the airport to go home, we realised we were about 13 pence short of two cups of tea, which we were LITERALLY DESPERATE for. We hadn’t had tea in five days – a very lengthy period of time, for people who are addicted to caffeinated leaves.
Jas put me to the task of begging strangers for a little forint to help us out, and I beelined for an exceptionally friendly (and richer) looking couple, for an exchange which went a little bit like this… maybe:
Me: Hello! Ever so sorry to bother you, but it would be amazing if you had any forint spare for me and my friend so we could get some tea… we literally need, like, 50 forint. Ha, ha ha! Ha ha!
Them: Ha, ha ha! Ha ha!
Them: Of course! *hands over forint*
Me: Thank you SO much. You are angels among men. *Walks away, and that is that.*
That is how I think it went… in my head. However, due to about 10 hours of sleep collectively over five days, and lack of tea, and severe mind-addling going on due to an ominous lack of flattes hovering in the distance, it probably went more like this..:
Me: DOFhidfnd, tea, gofhdi, money, help, please, oh my God.
Them: Are you okay?
Me: GODFHIOIW! GOFDOJIDONDIMPFOSI! GOFDOINFISIOP! PLEASE!
Them: *throws forint at me, fearing for their lives, while pressing an emergency button under the table*
(They did actually come to find me later to give me ALL their forint so we could get ice creams too, so either situation is plausible – I was either very nice or very intimidating. Or very beggar-like. You decide. I can’t remember. We were spiked by Hungarian vittles, alright? Leave me alone.)
8) Your friend’s panoramas will give you gout.
My gout panorama.
Be wary of your friends who try to take panoramas on holiday for You Will Get Gout. I am keeping this picture for the sole purpose of showing my grandchildren when I am on my deathbed, to tell them that I got a hideous gout-leg from not picking up peanut M&Ms for grandma like good dears, and that if they don’t help out grandma, they will end up hideous and decrepit like me. (I am banking on the fact they will not be educated in the ins-and-outs of gout when I feed them this self-serving LIE. You’ve gotta look after number one when you’re old.)
Actually useful tips!
- Try the falafel. If you’re a falafel fan (a fanafel). The falafel in Budapest is some of the best I’ve ever had.
- Try the Lángos. If you don’t try anything else traditionally Hungarian, try the Lángos. It’s like a donut with sour cream, cheese and other good stuff on. Unbeatable. Well, beatable, but only by flattes. Which you already know to try. Right? RIGHT?
- DO NOT SAY THANK YOU. When you’re getting your bill, don’t say thanks. You’re not being rude – thanks means ‘keep the change’, basically. So wait until you get your change back before you wash them with praise. Otherwise you’ll have to call them back to ask for your forint. Awkward. Particularly after all the praise.
- DO NOT GET A CAB. Plenty of cabs will try to swindle you. Obviously, there’ll be those that don’t, also, but it’s impossible to tell, really, until you’re in, the doors are locked, and your organs are harvested. To get from the airport to the centre of town, get the 200E bus to the end, then get the Metro line – line 3 – to Deak Ferenc Ter.
- Don’t stick around City Park. We went to City Park to visit Budapest’s most famous bath house (which was cool) but, after seeing Heroes Square and the Museum (okay, that’s a lot), there’s really not that much left. And there’s no cafe/restaurant in sight that charges a reasonable amount. It took us ages to find how to get home. Tl;dr, don’t stick around City Park all day, particularly if you’re hungry and don’t feel like being that cultural, like us.
- Take all the money you need before you go. Try not to withdraw money while you’re there because you’ll be charged a fair bit of dough for it. I’m pretty sure that’s general advice not specific to Hungary, but just saying. (Yes, we made that mistake.)
- Here’s 5(ish) words you can say. We learned 5(ish) words. They were the following:
- Krimpli = Potato
- Bob = Bean
- See ya = Hello/Goodbye
- Nem = No
- Ggdfohfdoieioiopna/fdiosinpsnfihpdofdpoh/fgdhoidhodpuoapnanip = Cheers (we couldn’t actually figure out how to say ‘cheers’ because it’s about 3,000 syllables long. So we just spat out several garbled sounds in a row and hoped for the best).
That’s basically it. Overall, 43692/10 for Budapest. Definitely put it on your 2017 holiday list. I miss it. The flattes are there, goddammit.