Every day I've been abroad has been a completely new experience. Whether it's the way someone serves my tea or the dozens of languages I hear spoken on the tram, there's always a new lesson to be learned from every moment. My recent trip to Budapest, Hungary, provided me with eye-opening experiences that taught me to live in the moment and never take anything for granted.
My friends and I arrived in Budapest at roughly 6 on a Friday morning. Bleary-eyed and sluggish from our overnight bus ride, our first excursion was to the Gellert Thermal Bath. Built between 1912 and 1918, the thermal baths are a part of the famous Hotel Gellert and are intricately designed to uphold an Art Nouveau style. Tall pillars embellished with floral carvings encircle the main indoor pool with iconic, puritanical statues standing at either end.
We spent most of our time in the outdoor pool, enjoying the hot, steamy mineral water while it lightly began to snow. Before leaving we hung out in the steam room for a bit, taking in all the relaxing and purifying qualities of the balmy atmosphere before departing. We crossed over the magnificent Danube River and strolled down the cobblestone streets, appreciating all the Art Nouveau and Hungarian architecture throughout the city as we made our way to Flow Hostel, where we resided for the weekend.
After relaxing for a bit and getting settled, we ventured out to explore the city. We came across the Great Market Hall, primarily a produce and meat market that also had various souvenir stands and eateries. The building itself emulated the inside of an old train terminal and was bustling with people.
Later that night we enjoyed a traditional Hungarian meal of potatoes cooked with Kolbasz — a type of Hungarian sausage made with paprika — made by one of the hostel workers. From there we decided to go on an evening boat cruise, which allowed us to enjoy awe-inspiring views of the Hungarian Parliament Building and Buda Castle all lit up as we coasted down the Danube River, a scenic end to our incredible first day in the city.
The next morning my friends and I set out to explore Gellert Hill. After climbing up the treacherous, snow-covered steps, we eventually made it to the top of the hill where we witnessed perhaps one of the most beautiful overlooks of the city. I grabbed some tasty hot wine and continued admiring all the historic statues spread atop the hill.
Once we reached the bottom of the hill we resumed walking along the riverside and checking out Budapest. The Hungarian Parliament Building proved to be just as incredible in the day time as it was when we saw it the previous night on our boat cruise. Perhaps one of the most moving facets of Budapest was the sculpture "Shoes on the Danube Bank." This memorial sculpture commemorates the 3,500 people, 800 of them Jews, who were shot into the Danube River during the time of the Arrow Cross terror amid World War II. We joined the crowds admiring the memorial to reflect on the pain and discrimination that those 3,500 people endured.
Our final day in Budapest was spent wandering through the city and taking in all of its beauty. We climbed up Castle Hill to the famous Buda Castle where we got to appreciate yet another incredible view of the city. Possibly even more beautiful than that view was the outlook from the top of the Budapest Eye, a Ferris wheel in the center of the city. We finished off our day with a scrumptious, traditional Hungarian dinner at the Red Pepper restaurant. I tried the game ragout soup made with deer meat, tarragon and forest mushrooms, as well as crispy pork knuckle, which was served with roasted potatoes and onions. Overall, based on the rich, dark flavors and spices used, Hungarian food definitely gets a 10/10.
My experience in Budapest this weekend gave me a tremendous amount of inspiration. Being at the top of that Ferris wheel opened my eyes to just how much beauty there is in this world. Budapest is a city cluttered with amazing architecture and it truly taught me how much art, culture and tradition deserve to be appreciated.
— Amy Koczera of Dartmouth, a Chronicle correspondent and sophomore at Suffolk University, is studying abroad in Prague. She shares her experiences in this regular column. Follow her blog at advocatesanthology.com.