Roadtrip, Day 5 // Budapest to Croatia

We left Budapest this morning, and are on our way to Croatia. Every so often, Tim stops and squints at a sign, and says, “But WHAT does it mean?!” And then we just keep going.

It took us a long time to get out of Budapest because apparently Hungarians do not believe in left turns. Or breakfast food. Which is unfortunate.

That being said, they’ve got the coffee thing down pat.

We had coffee this morning at Eco Café on Andrassy Avenue, and I think I’m in love. It’s an organic coffeehouse with some of the best coffee I’ve had in Europe, and the building is beautiful - high ceilings, white walls, hardwood floors, and natural lighting. The front steps are lined with potted herbs, and there are wooden crates filled with fresh oranges, organic pastries in paper bags, and burlap-covered notebooks. It has the perfect feel for a coffeehouse.

Halfway through our drinks, the Nike half-marathon runners filed past the window, and all the running-addicts in the café started twitching. Or possibly it was just me. Life in Denmark has turned me into some kind of weirdo who thinks she has to run whenever she sees other people running. I’m hoping I’ll be able to run in Croatia tonight.

I am a little sorry to leave Budapest. It is one of my favorite European cities so far, and there is so much left to explore. Of course, the upside in taking a roadtrip like this is that you get to see a great deal in a small amount of time, and you spend less. (Our only option, considering time and monetary restrictions, and not a bad one at that.) The downside is that you don’t get to fully explore your surroundings, meet the locals, know the good spots – although sometimes I think that in order to really see a city you must live there for a bit.

... But you do what you can to see what you can, for the love of travel, and you understand the world better for it. (Unless you are five, in which case you are primarily pleased with the helium balloon your father bought for you in the park, and you pose for a series of photographs across Europe only to please your mother … who now has a flipbook of you standing before stunning cities and historical monuments, your expression disinterested and slightly hostile.)

Budapest is overflowing in monuments, museums, and cathedrals, and although the architecture hasn’t been maintained as well as, say, Prague, or modernized like parts of Vienna, it has a distinct cultural and historical feel that makes it beautiful.

We spent yesterday wandering the streets by foot (doing the tourist thing, with the camera, as always), admiring St. Stephen’s Basilica and Buda Castle, crossing the Szechenyi Chain Bridge over the Danube and taking the footpath up Castle Hill (where I took five hundred photos of the river flowing between Buda and Pest), and stopping in at little cafés for drinks, ice cream, and people-watching. I only wish I knew which Hungarian wine the waitress brought me when I asked for ‘dry, white, local’ (which is, sadly, the extent of my wine preference and/or knowledge).

We also took a tour of the Hungarian State Opera House and learned the history of the building, as well as other amusing facts including how the King of Vienna was offended that the Budapest Opera House was more beautiful than his own, although smaller, and left halfway through the first performance. Due to the Hungarian customs, his royal box could not be used by anyone unless he was present (aside from Madonna, who recently occupied the box on a visit to Hungary), and his queen had to choose a new box for herself. She chose the top left, where she could only see half the performance, but could be seen by the entire auditorium - which suited her, because she was exceedingly vain.

After the tour they treated us to a mini-opera in the royal bar room, which was beautiful and moving and the only live opera singing I’ve ever heard (although probably I should stop admitting things like this, what with my recent confessions regarding my cheap shoes, my wine ignorance, and my preference for hostels over hotels). Someday I will go to the opera and it won’t be in a bar.

Unfortunately we missed the circus (it seemed only fitting that we celebrate Tim’s 31st birthday at the circus since we went to the zoo for my birthday), but apparently it doesn’t come to Budapest until mid-October. Eh well, next time, right? Instead, and despite our tired feet, we took a little detour through Hero’s Square and the surrounding neighborhoods, stopped somewhere for dinner, and got ourselves a little preview of the city night life (there’s only so much you can do with a five year old in tow).

We were almost back to our room when we saw the beautiful lights flying above the Parliament building, floating and swirling in the sky like hundreds of fireflies, if fireflies were the size of swallows. I asked a local what they were, and she said she didn’t know, she had never seen them before - but we should thank the city for the view.

If you know, please tell me. I want to buy some and set them free above my someday-coffeehouse - and then, when asked what they are, I will say, “Oh, those are fireflies from Budapest.”

… later that night …

P.S. Hi Mom. We made it to Northern Croatia after many hours driving through the countryside of Slovenia (think West Virginia). We are staying in a small coastal town by the marina, and tomorrow night we’ll be on our way to Venice. Much love.

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