I opened my eyes to the bright morning staring me in my face. Replete with life and action, the last couple of days had breezed away like a dream. With just a little over 24 hours left in the Hungarian capital, I wanted to take it easy and just let the feeling sink in. I chose to relax and take it easy, even if it meant missing out a few of the places on my list.
I guess my laziness got the better of me – by the time I left my hostel room it was past breakfast time. Having survived on mom’s theplas for the past couple of days I wanted to try out something new. Keeping in mind my walking tour Susie’s advice the day before, I decided to visit Budapest city market. Really hungry, I was looking forward to a brunch-y place. My heart sank at the sight of long queues at McDonalds there, and I finally walked into MyCanteen.
I soon realized that being a vegetarian teetotaller in Europe was not exactly helping my case – the only options I had in the canteen were pumpkin soup, breaded and fried mozzarella, and boiled vegetables.
Although I usually am one of the biggest advocates of cheese, my heart sank a bit at the thought of having only that for lunch. However, I was more than satisfied with the portion sizes – the food kept me going until well in the evening.
Celebrating the last few hours of my stay, I ended up buying a few souvenirs (basically fridge magnets) at the marketplace. I roamed around for a bit before heading back to the hostel. The most interesting place to me was the Great Market Hall.
The building was bright and beautiful, and had its roof decorated with colourful ceramic tiles, on the lines of Matthias Church. Thanks to my inability to comprehend or read Hungarian, I mistook the market hall for a church (and didn’t realize it until much later, after I reached my hostel).
The plan for the remainder of the afternoon was to hike up to the Gellert Hill and get a panoramic view of the city. This was one thing I didn’t want to miss – I had seen the Liberty Statue during the Boat Cruise and really wanted to check it out.
The hike to the Gellert Hill was probably the highlight of the afternoon. Google Maps proved to be a real saviour in my case – it saved me a ton of time with the route and the bus timings. Fortunately for me, the pleasant weather added to the beauty of the mini-hike. The fact that it was a Monday ensured that the place wasn’t really crowded either. The Liberty Statue is situated at the top of the Gellert Hill.
It is the statue of a lady holding up a palm leaf, built by the Soviets after World War II to commemorate the ouster of Nazis from Hungary. Personally, I felt that the name itself was ironic – the Soviets went on to occupy Hungary for more than forty years after the World War II! Gellert Hill is also the home to the Gellert Thermal Baths, one of the famous thermal spa baths in Budapest (which I unfortunately couldn’t visit owing to lack of time).
The view from the Gellert Hill was definitely worth the hike. The panoramic view of the city is just stunning – one can see all the bridges that connect the Buda side of the city to the Pest side. I liked the Chain Bridge the most. The lions looked majestic even from a distance. I spent quite some at the monument lost in the beauty of the panoramic view.
The contrast in the different halves of the city was evident – the youthfully lively Pest, as opposed to the calm, serene and classy Buda. Come to think of it, the city is the definition of coming-of-age – the bridges connect the brightness and exuberance of youth to the classiness of adulthood.
I wanted my last evening in the first country I visited alone to be special – the plan was to spend it walking through the Andrassy Avenue and watching the sunset at Hosok Tere (Heroes’ Square). The boulevard is lined with trees and is the home to beautiful historic buildings – the perfect place for a lazy evening walk.
It was nice to see people from all walks of life enjoy the evening with their pets or by themselves, sometimes on rollerblades or skateboards. I reached Hosok Tere a little before sunset. The monument is dedicated to the seven chieftains of the Magyars who founded Hungary. The statue of the archangel Gabriel holding the Hungarian Holy Crown tops the column in the centre.
I was left spellbound by the beauty of the monument. It felt really special standing in a place that hosted a number of significant historical events that shaped the Hungarian empire. With some time on my hands, I stood photographing the monument while watching the darkness envelop the evening sky.
In the process my eyes darted to the other people who had come to experience the monument – the guy with the brand-new DSLR who was experimenting with different angles and props for his photography class, the travelling couple who was very much in love and wanted to capture the perfect shot together, the cyclists who ditched their cycles and sat staring at the monument in awe, young parents who brought their enthusiastic toddlers out for an evening picnic; and finally a busload of Chinese tourists who appeared out of nowhere, snapped a ton of photos, and disappeared into thin air.
I began to walk back to my hostel as it began getting dark, and bumped into my roommate Jos on the way. Just like the one before, the rest of the evening was spent packing up, talking and discussing our lives, experiences and culture. The three of us – Jos, Julia and I, had planned to leave Hungary and continue on our respective journeys the following morning, with the hopes to meet again sometime soon.