TO DO: RUIN BARS
Something you must check out while you’re in Budapest- RUIN BARS. I wish I had more photos of these places, but I didn’t bring my camera with me because I was consuming multiple adult beverages and breaking out my many outdated dance moves. Not the best environment for my DSLR.
- Szimpla Kert, Kazinczy Street: How to describe? Hmm… The inside feels like you’re outside. There. That’s all I’ve got. It’s a popular place for foreigners because of all the hype from guidebooks and websites, but Hungarians also go here for live music I’m told.
- Instant, Nagymezö Street (“Budapest’s Broadway”): The outside (below) looks normal enough, but the interior made me feel like I was on a really interesting acid trip. An owl head and wings on a human body and a herd of rabbits spiraling up to the ceiling as the centerpieces of the main room, psychedelic lights, a pig disco ball, and multiple dance floors playing different music. Disclaimer: I have never dropped acid, but I’m pretty sure this is as close as I’ll ever get. Just go there, you’ll see what I mean.
TO DO: THE HEALING BATHS
You definitely don’t want to miss the healing thermal baths in Budapest. I went to Lukács Bath in Buda and had a very relaxing day. I recommend this one as opposed to the bigger, more crowded Szechenyi Spa & Bath.
EAT AT: SPÍLER
We luckily stumbled upon this bistropub one night. The atmosphere is amazing, very energetic. It also has plenty of open air and outdoor seating so you can watch all the locals walk by. Stephanie and I shared the goulash soup and the fresh mixed leaf salad with grilled sheep cheese. Unfortunately, I don’t have photos of the food, but it was delicious. We also had a couple bottles of the wine pictured below; a Sauvignon Blanc produced in Eger, Northeast of Budapest.
TO DO: SUNSET AT THE CITADEL & BUDA CASTLE
The Citadel is a fortress at the top of Gellért Hill on the Buda side of the city, constructed by the Hapsburg Empire in 1854. Finding the best view at night is something that I strive to do in every city I visit. There’s something about seeing lights from up high that’s very calming, yet energizing. It humbles me and makes me feel on top of the world at the same time. For a “life is beautiful” moment, hike to the Citadel in the evening and look out at Pest’s beauty at sunset. It’s incredible.
TO DO: SUNRISE ON THE CHAIN BRIDGE
I highly recommend staying out all night at the bars and then walking across the city in search of crêpes. There’s a chance you’ll stumble upon the chain bridge at sunrise. No traffic makes for an excellent photo op. You can spend the next day sleeping, or relaxing in the baths.
TO SKIP: BATH PARTIES
In my opinion, it is more than okay to skip the hyped up Bath Party. It’s just not my scene. I’ll save you twenty euros and an eye full, it’s basically international spring break in a mineral bath.
STAY AT: COME ON INN HOSTEL
It was a bit tricky to spot (check the little writing on the buzzer box!), but well worth the search. The location is excellent, it’s right in Gozsdu Udvar (Gozsdu Courtyard) which used to be the core of Budapest’s Jewish quarter. Now the area is packed with trendy restaurants, shops, and bars. The hostel itself is clean, has a great kitchen, laundry available, and an extremely helpful staff. Plus, you can write on the walls. Who doesn’t love that?
To Stay //
After waiting for Bailie, my friend and fellow Southeast student, at the airport we set off to find our hostel. Our first stay was at the Meininger Hostel/ Main Messe; overall it was a great hostel (really clean, inexpensive, breakfast not included) where we met even better people.
The night before we departed for Schmalkalden, we stayed at hotel Europa Life. I believe it was a bit more expensive than the last hostel, but it was worth it. We had a private room with two beds, and they had the most amazing German breakfast in the morning, which consisted of deli meats, cheeses, bread, different marmalades, cooked to order eggs, coffee, tea, and juice. Europa Life was right near the train station and easy to locate by following the signs on the street. I highly recommend staying at this hostel when you visit. At the very end of my summer travels, I stayed at Frankfurt Hostel, it was a great experience. I definitely recommend this hostel if you're backpacking. They had free breakfast and also a free pasta dinner at night. Such a great deal and also a great opportunity to meet other travelers if you're flying solo.
We got really lucky and happened to arrive on Ascension Day, which meant that almost all of the businesses in Frankfurt were closed but there was a street festival in the Altstade (old town) to celebrate Jesus’s ascension into heaven. The festival had all kinds of food from traditional German to Indian, there was even a burrito truck. This is where I had my first Frankfurter with mustard, of course. I had been a vegetarian for about two years before this trip but I started eating meat so that I could sample traditional German food and I haven’t gone back to my old ways yet because… steak. We walked around, listened to music, and sampled some of the German beers. This is also where I first tried apfelwein is basically what it sounds like, apple wine, and it tasted like a tart version of the ciders that are sold in The States. I loved it. I think the most interesting thing about the apfelwein was that they gave you a Bembel (a traditional apfelwein pitcher) of pure apple wine and then some sparkling water to mix it with. The apple wine by itself was extremely sour and if you added too much sparkling water it seemed too watery, but they left it up to you to find the right mixture to fit your tastebuds. It was all trial and error of course, and we did our fair share of research in Römerburg.
To Do //
Frankfurt is very different than the other cities that I visited in Germany. When walking in the financial district, which is apparently the largest in Europe, I barely felt like I had left the states. A large part of the city was destroyed in World War II and was rebuilt in a modern style, so the city scape doesn't resemble a typical European city. Check out the financial district, the redlight district, and Old town. When you're tired of walking, take an apfelwein train for a free taste and an entertaining ride. We also visited the Old Jewish Cemetery, but it was closed so we just poked around outside.
To Eat //
My favorite part of Frankfurt was dining at Atshel. They have a beautiful apfelwein garten and the food was delicious. If you go, you should try the sauße grüne. It's a traditional sauce, unique to Frankfurt, made from sour cream, hard boiled eggs, and a blend of herbs such as dill, tarragon, spinach, basil, and chives. The atmosphere is traditional garten style with long picnic tables where guest dine in close quarters to other parties or in big groups. The married couple we were seated next to was very kind and taught us a little more about the city and language. For instance, I learned that ß is shorthand for "ss". Don't be afraid to ask questions and talk to locals when traveling, you'll be surprised how much it adds to your experience.
Have you been to Frankfurt? What are your thoughts on the city? Let me know in the comments below!
Schmalkalden is a charming, little-known town in Thuringia. Ohhh Schmalkalden, I loved trying to explain where you are to German people. “Errhhmm, near Erfurt?” Why hasn’t anyone heard of you?! Because we were in and out of Schmalkalden so much, it isn’t one fluid memory for me. So I’m going to do this post a little differently and give you the things I remember the most about my time in this town.
1. Its cuteness. This place is like story book Germany. Honestly.
2. The School
The program I completed is called International Summer School Schmalkalden (ISSS) at FH Schmalkalden University of Applied Sciences. The professors all came from different countries and had different styles of teaching. My personal favorite was professor Richert, mainly because he is extremely knowledgeable about everything to do with International Economics and just a really fascinating person. Professor Richert is from Berlin and was one of the first people to cross into Eastern Berlin in November of 1989. He had just finished exams for his master’s degree and was celebrating at a bar in Western Berlin, watching an American broadcast about the opening of the wall. He and a friend decided to go see if it was true and much to his surprise, the wall guard let them pass. We had the privilege of having him as a walking tour guide on a weekend trip to the city. How great is that? Stay tuned for a post about Berlin!
The welcoming ceremony included students from FH greeting the international students in all of our native languages, an a capella quartet singing German children’s songs (think four adults mimicking a coo-coo clock in song), and all the frankfurters and German beer that you could eat and drink. Oh, it was also in a castle. Yeah.
All of the courses that we took were very condensed, lots of information in a little amount of time– especially the midnight lecture that the school offered. The midnight lecture was held outside on the top of a hill. We watched the sunset, drank a couple of beers, and mingled with other students before we started. Professor Richert lectured until about 4am and we took a test over all of the information at 5am. Yes, a test at 5am after staying awake all night. I fell asleep during the lecture so it wasn’t my best grade that summer, but still a really cool experience.
I stayed with one of the masters students at the school, but most of the girls in the program stayed at Pension Barbara and had the great fortune of having Barb (we called her Barb) as a hostess. She was a little eccentric and didn’t speak much english, but she was THE BEST. She set up the most amazing breakfast buffet in the morning, she had world cup watch parties, and she invited us to see her wine cellar where she stores all her homemade preserves. I will never forget her showing me all of her signed CDs from bands that she has had stay at her bed and breakfast, she was so excited about it. She also let me eat breakfast for free once or twice, even though I wasn’t staying with her. What a gem. If you’re ever in Schmalkalden, I highly recommend staying here. (Side note: My hostess, Mareike, was so welcoming and also really great.)
4. Grandma’s Kitchen
Zum Kirchhof is the German name. The English menu called the place Grandma’s Kitchen, and grandma was one of the servers. We ate there multiple times, and would always joke about how we couldn’t wait to get back to Grandma’s on our weekend trips. It was down a side street that I can’t remember the name of, and I also can’t remember the name of what I ate there. But i know it was delicious. The reviews on trip advisor say that it’s great representation of food from the region at a great price. (One of the reasons we couldn’t wait to get back…)
5. The World Cup
How cool is it that I was in Europe during the World Cup? How cool is it that I was studying in the country that won? Really, really cool. The school showed the games on a projector in one of the auditoriums, and it was packed full of fans. Students were sitting on the steps and on the floor during the Germany/Portugal game. During the game one of the Brazilian international students started yelling for Portugal and the room erupted with retort, it was pretty entertaining. We watched most of the games from Barb’s, she decorated with little flags and had German snack food for us to try. I’m don’t usually watch football (soccer), but I found myself getting pretty into it that summer because of all the energy.
6. The People
As with most trips, the people that I met in Schmalkalden made my experience. Thank you for the memories!