Before leaving the states, I was told that when I was in Budapest I had to stay at Carpe Noctem Vitae. So I thought Ok, why not? I looked it up on hostelworld and everyone had great things to say, it was ridiculously cheap, and it was fairly well located to everything on the Pest side. It was also a “party” hostel, but I assumed that just meant it wasn’t for the light sleeper. I was wrong. It meant party hostel.
Walking in to the hostel was reminiscent of seeing a frat house for the first time. You look around and think to yourself ‘Do people really live here?’ The answer is yes, they do. And I was one of them. Lucky me. But I was told this place was the best hostel ever so I put my doubts aside and hoped for the best. Boy, am I glad I listened to that girl back home. It was absolutely one of the best places I stayed on this trip. Not for the facilities (obviously), but for the fun! Literally, every night is a new activity and there’s always something new to do, with new people, in new places. While I would suggest this hostel to any one going to Budapest (anyone that doesn’t mind being completely sleep deprived, that is), it was especially great as a solo traveler. Unlike other hostels better suited for groups, the hostel was your group. You were going out every night with the whole hostel, staff included, as well as other party hostels around the city so you could always find someone new and exciting to talk to. It was great! Especially if you love to talk as much as I do!
Of course I met a bunch of new people (mostly Australians but we’ll get there), but I had also already planned on joining up with two guys from my hostel in Vienna. Unfortunately they weren’t in the same hostel as me, but they were also staying in another party hostel so many of our nightly outings were synced up. In fact, because their hostel had a restaurant and bar, I probably spent more time at their place than mine! When given the choice between food or no food, always choose food. It’s a no brainer.
So, first night actually out out in Budapest and what do we do? Boat cruise! And for an additional $5 you could get your own bottle of champagne. What a deal! But all joking aside, it was a terrific night. When or if you fine folks ever make it to Budapest, a boat cruise down the Danube should be at the top of your list. Originally I had planned to take one that was during the day and provided you with either lunch or two drinks. But, when I heard about this awesome opportunity, I had to carpe that noctem (seize the night!) and honestly it was a much better choice. Of course Budapest is beautiful in any light or time of day, but the best thing you will ever see is the Parliament building at night. It’s stunning! And the drinking champagne on a huge boat thing was pretty cool too…
And that’s how my love affair with Carpe Noctem Vitae began. It was the perfect little fling at the halfway point in my trip, when I was ready to have some good, clean, European fun! Of course Áron and Lilla already got me psyched up about being here, but then the good times just kept on rolling and I knew this was already going to be one of my top 5 favorite places.
But it wasn’t just about the party. I mean, I’m on a Eurotrip for a reason, right? I have to actually go out and see things in the light of day! Luckily, the hostel agreed and organized daily free walking tours that took you around the city and explained some of the major historical keys to Budapest and also showed you some of the most noteworthy places.
The guide was a real Hungarian (hard to find these days in Budapest since literally everyone you meet is from Australia!) and was clearly passionate about her hometown. She told us about the church of the Holy Right and the Holy Left where you will find the mummified right hand of a canonized saint and the buried body of Hungarian football (soccer) legend Ferenc Puskas; then continued to tell us about some other quirky Hungarian little factoids. For instance, did you know that Hungarian is the second most difficult language to learn? I would have never even guessed that, but when you learn that the alphabet has 44 characters it starts to make a bit more sense. Last but not least, she told as all about Hungarian food, which by the way is sensational. It’s like everything you have ever wanted in your mouth and it’s everywhere. She even gave us little cards with the best specialties and told us where to go for the most amazing goulash, langos, chicken paprikash, and anything else our hungry little hearts desired. It was amazing how knowledgable she was! And the tour was great too! We walked what had to have been all of of both the Buda and the Pest sides and saw almost everything on my itinerary. It was fantabulously efficient.
We ended at Matthias’ Church where you can also go to Fisherman’s Bastion and get the best views of the whole city.
After admiring the views, I thought I might check out the church. I was a little disappointed to see that they charged admission, but it was more than worth it once I was inside. It’s gorgeous! Highly recommended by the tour guide. I’m glad I took her advice because it was really a sight to see.
I know that after awhile, churches all kinda start to look the same, but this place is definitely one of a kind! First of all, it’s not white which already puts it in a league of it’s own. Second, the roof is a cascade of vibrantly colored porcelain tiles. And then you go inside and once again you are bombarded with color and design. On the tour, the guide told us that you can go into Matthias’ Church and find something new every time you visit, and after seeing it I am a believer. It was just so intricate and ornate; something you would fly thousands of miles to see.
Feeling pretty proud of all that I had accomplished culturally in Budapest, I figured it was time to head back the hostel and carpe my noctem vitae once again with a ruin bar pub crawl put on by the hostel.
Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the ruin bars of Budapest, I’m about to familiarize you. During the most talked about war ever (aka World War II), Budapest was heavily bombed. Just like every other beautiful place in Europe. Aside from all the political headquarters that were destroyed, most of the buildings suffering the most infrastructural damage were your average, run-of-the-mill apartment complexes and street shops. However, because these buildings were all heritage listed due to their age, they could not be rebuilt (even though they were almost completely destroyed). So, Budapest being the crafty little city that it is, decided to turn all these junky old buildings into bars. And they’re awesome! My favorite was Szimpla, but there are a myriad of others to choose from. If you ever go to Budapest, definitely check these places out. Who knew that from the consequences of war you could create a space so full of fun? Fascinating!
The following day was my last and it was a crash course to say the least! While Budapest was a great party, all the late nights and even later mornings really left me behind on seeing the things I had originally planned on from the beginning. But no matter, because I was determined to see it all. I started on the Buda side back on Castle Hill where I returned to Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias Church and, of course, the castle. But I didn’t go to the castle for the sake of history or architecture. My agenda was purely food motivated. You see, prior to my arrival in Budapest I had done extensive research into the activities that might be taking place during my stay. The Chocolate Festival being one such activity. So, having gotten an early start, I bee-lined straight up Castle Hill to partake.
It was quite interesting to see all the different vendors and specialties. And it was nothing less than impressive to see all the things you can do with chocolate, but I’m still not sure if it was totally worth the entrance fee. I’ve never understood why you have to pay a fee to get into something if you don’t get anything free on the inside. I mean, now I had no money to actually buy chocolate with! Although, I definitely snagged my fair share of samples. And I did get suckered into a gelato rose. But, who are we kidding, how could you not buy that? It’s so cute!
After the chocolate festival, I got on the metro and headed to Margaret Island in order to catch the musical fountain show that starts every hour, on the hour. I made it on time and with a few minutes to spare; not going to lie, I was a little impressed with myself seeing as how the was my first time taking any form of public transportation in Budapest. It was a cinch. And the musical fountain was pretty cool too.
I hadn’t thought it would be quite as well…choreographed? Can you say that about a fountain? At any rate, it was well-done. It went on for about 15 minutes and covered a lot of ground (not literally, don’t worry; it’s not the splash zone at Sea World). There was some Vivaldi, Van Halen, and even the current hit Budapest by George Ezra. It was a little tongue-in-cheek, but I can more than appreciate a good, corny joke.
After that, I was off to take one of the most beautiful tram rides in Europe; the Tram 2 line. This vintage yellow car is a staple of Budapest photography, and thus, souvenirs. It takes you along the Danube and through the courtyard of the Parliament building all the way into the downtown where you continuously get gorgeous river views and panoramas of the castle and the rolling hills of the Buda side. It was most certainly worth the fare. And, at the end of it you get to where you want to go so it is also equally efficient. For me, that the was Central Market Hall. Here you can find everything you might ever need. From souvenirs to chicken papriakash; you need it, they’ve got it.
After walking the aisles for an hour or so, I had pretty much grasped the general idea so I started to head back to the hostel. Although my Australian friends from Vienna had left earlier that day, I was hoping to maybe find some of the other cohorts hanging out in the bar so I went back to their hostel in search for people. Spending so much time by yourself can get a little lonely. Unfortunately they were gone. But fortunately, their hostel is by this amazing sandwich place that everyone raves about called Bors. Having not yet given it a try, I figured now was my chance! Let me tell ya, it was everything everyone talked about and more! And super cheap! Another must in Budapest, hands down. I mean, the whole sandwich cost me the equivalent of $5, so you can’t claim expense as a reason not to go. I could continue to swoon about my heavenly baguette, but I’ll save you the stomach growls.
Having no luck in locating my friends, I went back to my hostel to possibly locate some other acquaintances. Particularly, Shane and Rhi, another couple from (you guessed it!) Australia. But unfortunately they weren’t home either. While I thought about what to do next, I was looking over my original plans to see if there was anything I missed. There was. The Szechenyi Baths.
The Szchenyi Baths are the largest spa pools in Budapest and one of the largest in Europe. They are one of the principal Hungarian activities and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Budapest. You can see now why I had to go. But two important factors were standing in my way. Number one: I had no one to go with. Number two: I didn’t have anyone to go with because the whole hostel was going to go to the baths that same night for a “sparty“. So, I was faced with a choice. Go by myself to the baths during the day. Or, go to the party with the whole hostel. Having had enough of being by myself, I opted for the sparty, and spending the last of my Hungarian forints.
Before leaving the states, I had heard of these sparties, but had almost convinced myself that I wouldn’t want to go due to all the alcohol and bodily fluids that one would most certainly be swimming in. But, in this case, I had to make an exception because it was my only way to go to the baths, and actually enjoy myself. Hopefully. I was a little nervous, since all of what I had heard seemed terrible, but I kept an open mind; and surprisingly had a really great time.
Eventually Shane and Rhi returned from their day out, and even though I couldn’t convince them the come to the sparty, I did convince them to come with us to the bar beforehand. Before we got to the baths, we stopped at another festival going on in the Hero’s Square area where the baths are located. This was supposedly also where the bar was located, but apparently because of the fish and wine festival currently happening, the bar was inaccessible. No matter. They just turned all us party-goers loose on the festival grounds. There were rides, mini bars, and humongous tents of food. This was also where I tried the Hungarian spirit Pálinka for the first time. While Rhi absolutely hated it, Shane and I decided it was cheap enough to be worth another round.
After getting pretty in tune with the Hungarian liquors, it was time to head to the sparty. All I can say is that I wish I had photos because that was a sight to behold. If you have ever wondered what it might be like to get a bunch of drunken idiots together in a pool, with more drinks, go to a sparty. It’s uninterrupted chaos. But if you can imagine the aforementioned scenario, you wouldn’t expect anything else.
It was a late night and an early morning for me, having to catch my bus to Prague at 7 am, but it was certainly worth the experience. Even though the hostel staff, and Shane, tried to convince me that I would be extending my stay in Budapest, some miraculous force got my lazy butt up at 5:30 am and got me on the bus to Prague. And what happened there, you will have to wait to find out!