The month of December was filled with cold, snow, the land around us turning into Winter Wonderland and Christmas dreams to go to Hungary. As far as the eye could see, snow had started covering and embracing half of Europe, even the barren lands around seemed to have got life in them. It was truly one of a kind.
A spinster party is something that every girl looks forward to before getting married. It is that one moment and party before the wedding that you will live and enjoy as a single girl. Mostly people plan it with their girlfriends, and audacious accessories basically having princess theme parties, and fairy adorned or angel adorned atmospheres. But I wanted something different and that I would remember to tell stories to my children, things that I had not done before had to be on the list, places that I had not visited had to be on the list, and there was a well planned bucket list attached to this bachelorette trip. My best friends and the group that can never be broken Mahesh, Praveen and Shreya, travel buddies and family away from home made my experience not an enriching but a killer and terrific one that every girl would be thankful to have. The ” ja Simran Ji le apni Zindagi” tag from the Bollywood flick “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” was lived up to its fullest potential. I cannot thank them enough and at the same time want to tell you guys, how fun and crazy it is to have boys travel with you, because you have different ideas and perspectives for planning fun events and incidences. I felt safe, I felt pampered and most of all, trust towards friends who will go any extent to make that moment so mesmerizing and fantastic. People care for you when you have the fortitude to selflessly give back and maintain your true self in friendship.
Over two million people live in Budapest, and it is the political, cultural and commercial heart of the country. After the 1867 Compromise, which gave the Hungarian monarchy equal status with Austria under the final half-century of the Hapsburg Empire and ushered in a high age of Hungarian nationalism, the city was rapidly developed to become a standing celebration of Hungarian culture and power, and the sheer scale of its vast iconic buildings, from the castle to the Parliament to the Gellert Baths, testifies to Hungary’s central role in European history. Since the unification of Buda and Pest in the nineteenth century, the Danube is less a dividing line, more the heart of the city itself providing its most splendid vistas, from both banks. Pest is on the eastern bank of the Danube and Buda on the hilly west bank. Each of Budapest’s 23 districts is designated on maps.
We saw this lively city in a span of two days during the Christmas week shivering and freezing in the winter cold, but it was one of the best seasons we could ever visit Hungary, because the Charles Bridge, the Parliament Building, the tall trees and even the roads were snow clad. Some frozen lakes just stole my heart as people skated and enjoyed the sport in their colorful winter jackets. The gardens became a winter wonderland and walking through the streets during the evening was like one Aahat episode (a famous horror series in India) where tree branches scared you, yet the lights that fall on that place from the street made it look like a full moon romantic night. I was so lucky to have friends around, chilled beer in hands, drinking bit by bit, shivering in the cold and then of course running on the streets like little children. Our best experience was at the Thermal Bath. At first it felt where were we entering?..as the water was steaming hot and seemed to burn our feet but as we glided into the water and floated on the steamy waves that were made with gentle dives and swimming besides the people, a sudden sense of relaxation and slumber bent into our minds and to our surprise as we headed towards the shore for some cold water on our hands to ease ourselves off the steam, we discovered a perfect Luke-warm balance between the warm and cold water, we went off to sleep on the stairs in our swim wear floating on water and that was the first time I realized that you did not need a bed to fall asleep, a relaxing steamy water body was all that it took to make your body calm down. The boys had a nasty time checking out girls while Shreya and me played with bubbles and I taught Shreya to dive in the pool. There were very few hot hunks to check out and alas those who were charming were already taken so we had no option but to just feel and take in the steam. We even went in a whirlpool play at the thermal bath where you could swirl and swirl inside the water. This thermal bath makes you rejuvenate in the shivering winter cold of -15 degrees celsius. One of the oldest and cleanest thermal baths in the world, they also have a changing facility, a jacuzzi facility, a big private sauna and a shower window attached to it, people just come here to relax and shed their inhibitions which can also be taken in the literal sense. I spent five hours here and my God, the Christmas weekend had started above expectations.
That night we all slept like logs. Our apartment was just a few kilometers away from the city and the lady who owned it was Chinese, therefore, the previous night when we reached this spot it was the worst nightmare of Christmas because she was not picking up our call. Sadly only two of us had working roaming connections because we were in a different country altogether. After one hour of trying she finally picked up and send her friend to unlock the apartment for us in the middle of the night. Imagine what happens when you land in a new country like Hungary on the airport, it is shit cold, there is no one to help because of the language, finally you figure your way out to the designated address through sign boards and instructions and then finally when you reach your apartment it is locked. On top of it as we walked down the eerie, dim-lit road, there was a not a sight of a person in the vicinity just one or two dogs strolling and whining away for food.It was scary but we friends were together and so the courage prevailed. And why to get scared when Papa was with us right!…Such was the Budapest first night experience and then the thermal bath. You must visit a bath at least for one whole day to relax, as these are 14th century baths that have not changed a bit, the water soothes you and your skin is cured.
The next few days were spent in hitting each other, teasing, scratching, dancing on some crazy music, pillow fights, nagin dances, booze and indian khakra and mixes to go with it. Going around in the cold did not rob away the fun at all. Once we had reached Budapest and the stay was sorted,the first day after the thermal bath we planned out itinerary through public transport and by buying day passes, checking out interesting places to eat, to try out local food, to get the Hungary Christmas experience and most of all we had to plan till evening, because at night everyone wanted to celebrate for two days on 24th and 25th December, so we even chose our pubs and hangout places with much research on Google and asking nearby friends. Papa was the best planner for this trip, though we all helped, he dominates and takes over, thanks to him everything got done on time and even shopping was in sync. You need one person who is a perfect tripper and practical time saver to get things done quickly and efficiently. We visited all the tourist places that day and even took turns eating and trying out Chinese cuisine in Budapest. The Chinese are the largest immigrant population in Hungary and there are a variety of non veg delicacies which you can try out from yummy fried fishes, to baked momos and some sweet dishes made out of sesame, lip smacking chicken bites and the pork for main course. It did burn our mouths and some little baby paws on the trip even suffered from blisters and then Papa had ulcer in the mouth so we compromised by drinking less beer one night, but teasing each other after trying everything was what we enjoyed the most. At night we went back to the local Christmas market for some shopping and trying out sweets. We ate the spiral potato sticks, the langosh – a typical non veg open sandwich with cheese and any kind of meat and assorted vegetables in Hungary as it was filling. Trying the banana flavored chimney was one level above all. Going on top of the mountain in the city of Buda to the Palace again with snow all around was sickening to be frank, but once we reached there, the top view of the whole city and the church that stole the show with tall minarets and towers was a scene to photograph. We all had become red with the cold and showed off our natural blushes in the snow. I felt like removing my big coat, throwing it up in air and letting it go off with the breeze in the city. Praveen and Papa were acting boring at times, they had to be abused to get enthusiasm back in the group, but we had hot chocolate on top while we walked the palace and there it was.. Peace!
The best thing about this trip was the never stopping chatter box Shreya or baby paws because it is fun to irritate Papa with questions. Praveen is one fellow who does not give a shit to what is happening around and just comes walking with you everywhere as if he is just there for company and making things better with the cutest dimple he possesses. This guy will never let any “girl” be in trouble!!… The last night there was spent at Charles Bridge walking through it and pondering besides the Danube about what life had in store for us youngsters. The bridge is magnificent and looks like a wonder when lit up at night. It is the crowning jewel of the Danube river. An opportunity to go on a cruise at Danube was a win win situation for us youngsters. We had ice tea and red wine at the cruise, relaxed in our cabinets and enjoyed the view of Margaret Island and other gardens around the river that were built by the princess in the 12th century. We heard stories on audio and then also felt sleepy because of the wine. It was drizzling outside and there were little droplets of water on the glass window through which we saw the dreamy Danube and buildings outside.
I regard this trip as the Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani moment of my life and also keep wishing for lots more because I know travel will never stop as the bug has bitten not only me but my comrades hard and tight!
Budapest is comparatively a safe city and very lively too. Transport and restaurants are cheap and the night buses in the city are very convenient. Make sure to get your day passes on time to avoid last minute hassles. There is plenty to watch and do and if you are the relaxed type you can even spent two whole days here just sitting in the thermal bath!
Till a next time with another exciting destination. Stay tuned to my adventures!
Rucha Sudhir Khot