February 20, 2011

budapest, you da best

One of my favorite things about living in Europe is that a weekend getaway to another country is super easy. So, late in January, Jaime and I met up for a long weekend in Budapest, Hungary. Just a hop, skip and a 2 hour plane ride away and there I was waiting for Jaime at the airport trying to figure out the Hungarian word for arrivals so I could actually find her (it's Érkezés if you ever need to know). I was just happy to be on solid ground after developing a increasingly irrational fear of flying over the past year. Flying gets to me more and more because I don't trust machines to function correctly all the time and I don't trust people to not make stupid mistakes. Seeing as flying is a combination of these two things, I'm always expecting a wing to fall off or the pilot to push the wrong button. With every flight I've taken recently, something happens that pushes me a little closer to insanity every time I board a plane. This trip was no exception.

It started while I was boarding the plane. First of all, I should say that I was flying with easyjet, a low fare airline that flies in and out of obscure airports all over Europe, let's you check in online 60 days in advance, only allows one carry on item per person with a 10 kg (22 lbs) max weight limit,
sometimes you have to walk out on the tarmac to board the plane and it also has a first come first serve seating policy once you're on the plane so there's no prearranged seating assignments. It's kind of terrifying. Sometimes people clap when the plane lands and in my mind I'm wondering if they're clapping because successful landings are rare. I'll never understand it. Flights like this are super popular in Europe though, so I do it - but I'm always watching everything and everyone with a critical eye (as if I have any control over the situation). As I'm boarding this particular flight to Budapest, I spot the pilot in the cockpit right before I get on the plane and I see him scribble something on a piece of paper, jab a hole through the middle of it and stick it on a knob on the control panel. Once I choose my seat, I've got time before take off to think about what the pilot wrote. Actually, it's all I could think about. The more I thought about it, the more it bothered me and finally I convinced myself that he had written one of these:

Needless to say, I spent the majority of takeoff and landing in panic attack mode hoping that he would at least read the reminder about the wheels. I hate landing. Naturally, I decided that I would look online later to calm my fears about the intelligence level and experience of easyjet pilots because I'm still convinced that my pilot's note held more importance than something like call mom or buy milk. So I look at the website. Bad idea:

Recently we’ve been looking for pilots with a minimum of 1,500 hours, but as a result of the feedback we have received, we will be relaxing this requirement, in favour of placing more emphasis on “quality” of hours achieved.

Relaxing requirements? I need Xanax.

But I made it to Budapest. Wheels on the tarmac and all. And the city was beautiful.

Jaime and I crammed a lot of fun things into a few short days. We did a lot of walking around and, since it was January, a lot of warming up in caf
és. We were both surprised with the food and wine in Hungary. Everything we had was so delicious...Jaime and I both ate dinners that placed within our top five meals ever...who knew Hungarians can cook?!

One day we hit up Budapest's famous
Gellért Thermal Baths. It's not normally my thing to sit and stew in other peoples' filth, but these baths are something Hungary is known for so Jaime and I wanted to at least try it. Mostly, we had heard/read that the inside of this particular bath was beautifully decorated with stained glass and mosaics; the interior had been compared to that of a cathedral so we had to see it. It was basically us two Minnesota prudes amongst shameless naked 70 year old women. We stayed for a little over an hour, mostly people watching and turning into prunes. All in all, it was pretty (err..the interior was pretty- not the old women), relaxing and entertaining. I'm not sure if the thermal baths healed me in any way, but at least I now know the general idea of what my ass will look like at 70.

We went on quite an adventure one morning trying to find a flea market that was mentioned in our travel books. We have both been to flea markets in other countries and were super excited for the potential of this one because it was talked up in our books. It was definitely off in its own part of the city, a little difficult to find but finally we stumbled upon it at the edge of a park. Jaime was excited to find some vintage pottery and I was on a mission to find an antique skeleton key. We get to the entrance and it turns out we have to pay to get in. We look at each other, a little confused because that's not normal, but we assume that good things in life aren't free and we have to pay the price to get into the awesome flea market...

Fold out table upon fold out table of crap. Useless crap. It's like the clearance shelf of a gas station convenience store. Batteries, cracked cd's, diapers, hairbrushes, a scumbag selling Hungarian porn, expired crackers, cigarette lighters, etc. We cruise around to make sure that's really all there is and promptly leave.

It's ok though - the city was cool enough to compensate for the
piles and piles of crap flea market debacle.

me, on a bridge

Jaime making friends with a German language enthusiast to get directions

My favorite thing in Budapest - the vintage metro cars

one of our coffee breaks

Jaime leading the way to Buda Castle

Parliament at night

Buda Castle at night