After a long but not unpleasant flight via Heathrow I landed in a foggy Budapest in mid morning of the 16th of November. I had no accommodation, no contacts, no local currency, no clue about the place and no prospects... which in the end didn't prove to be too much of a hindrance.
Lesson 1: Learn your currency
After a quick calculation of the conversion rate between AUD and Hungarian Forints (HUF) I went to the ATM to withdraw money - at this stage I was looking at only withdrawing enough for two days as I was unsure how long I would stay. After successfully receiving my money and receipt the next test was finding some way of getting from the airport to the city. Luckily right in front of me was a counter that had something called an Airport Minibus. The woman behind the counter explained that this bus would actually drop me at the door of the place I wanted to go. I was on to a winner so I handed over some cash. The woman seemed quite surprised and rolled her eyes at the amount of cash I'd just handed over.. At that point I should have realised that something was awry. The bus soon arrived and the driver yelled out my stop so I was on my way.
The trip into the city was relatively uneventful except for a moment of terror when we drove passed a billboard advertising a large flat screen television for less more money than I'd just withdrawn from the ATM. I was walking around with a loaded wallet. Not ideal. Iíve only now just passed getting halfway through the money that I withdrew on the first day (and I'm now 6 days into the trip).
My time in Budapest was very interesting. As I was there alone, most of my time was spent simply walking around the city. With no backpack and no overt signs that I was a tourist, it was a great way to just observe a city. The hostel was small and easy going. Thanks must go to Al and Kate for the recon/ground work on this one...
The city blew me away with its architecture. Coming straight from Australia, I had never really experienced anything over 150 years old so coming to a city where most buildings were at least that old was a shock. I know I will experience that all over Europe.
The language barrier was certainly an issue, though was not impossible to overcome. Basically the only words that I understood were Pék (bakery) and Gyro (Gyro). Suffice to say, I lived on a steady diet of assorted pastries and gyros.
Don't ever drive in Budapest. Just don't. They are the craziest drivers I have ever come across. Example: If I were a pedestrian crossing at the lights in Australia and they went red (and the cars were able to come through) the cars would actually give way until i had crossed. Not so in Budapest - make no mistake - they will run you down. I almost got collected three times.
After four days, I decided it was time to make a move west to Austria. I managed (no idea how) to get an 8 Euro ticket from Budapest to Vienna. Bargain! Thatís less than it cost me to get from Melbourne to Ballarat last month. Also, for the majority of the trip I was traveling in first class. Apparently the Hungarian conductors didnít care but I got kicked out three quarters of the way through the trip back down to 'second class' into a sweaty, smoky hotbox cubicle where people would walk into the box and light up. Not fun but only really for 30 minutes or so..
After a slow 30 minute amble through the outskirts of town... I was in Vienna.