Published: Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 1, 2012 04:10
It’s Sunday night in the City of Spas and the courtyard of the Grandio Party Hostel is abuzz with a symphonic blend of global tongues.
To my left a Finnish boy and girl are engaged in casual conversation. To my right, a group of wayward Aussies are bottoms up on the Jager train and all around me the four corners of the world are converging in drunken revelry.
Like many hubs in the Eastern bloc, the city of Budapest is still emerging from a dark period of cultural suppression courtesy, of the Soviet Union. The scars left by the Soviet occupation are slow to fade, but the historical and cultural allure have endured and today the ex-pats of the world supply a lively pulse for this captivating city.
I travel in the company of two friends, one a fellow Bear and the other a student from Finland. We arrive at our hostel late Friday night to find that the majority of the staff is already inebriated and the process of checking in is near hopeless. Luckily, we find a partially sober staff member from Wisconsin who assists us with a friendly regard. After a few drinks, we call it a night, bracing ourselves for the more riotous nights to come.
Saturday, Sept. 29
In my experience, the most effective way to discover a new city is to lose yourself in it. My friends and I do precisely that on our second day in Budapest.
Our lax tour of the city includes visits to the Buda Palace, the Parliament Building and the Great Market Hall. The experience is surreal as each destination radiates historical appeal. Growing up on the East Coast of the United States, I was fortunate to be surrounded by historical monuments dating as far back as the 18th century. Still, the timeless monuments of Europe transcend any semblance of history that I have ever encountered; the experience is truly intoxicating.
Sunday, Sept. 30
My friend Casey and I wake late Sunday morning hindered by post-booze cruise hangovers and find that our Finnish companion is nowhere to be found. The preceding night was spent aboard a cruise ship trolling leisurely down the Danube River with 200 young people aboard each enjoying complimentary champagne.
After a few hours of considerable worrying, we discover that our friend has crashed in another room at the hostel. Reunited, we collect ourselves and set out for some genuine Hungarian relaxation at one of Budapest’s signature thermal spas. After a couple hours of soaking, we leave the baths rejuvenated and head to the city center to enjoy our last meal in Budapest.
Rarely is Eastern Europe considered a target destination for gourmet cuisine, but in my opinion it is a hidden gem. On our last night, we feast on goulash soup, Hungarian-style steak and a dessert of tiramisu and crepes, all washed down with domestic beer and rich coffee.
Sunday night has arrived and we find ourselves at the tail end of our journey. Once more, I cannot help but be humbled by the amazing opportunity I have been given. In that spirit, I again encourage anybody who is reading to recognize the expansiveness of this beautiful planet and to indulge in all that it has to offer.
— Alexander Armani-Munn is a sophomore journalism and political science major and a reporter for The Mirror. Armani-Munn will contribute weekly columns about his study abroad experience throughout the semester.