By abbieredmon

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Like all of the cities I have visited since arriving back in Europe, Budapest revolves around the river. The massive Parliament building dominates the east bank on the Pest side, and the castle and Matthias Church loom from the hillier Buda side on the west bank.

The architecture of Budapest is similar to that of Prague and Vienna, though maybe slightly less opulent. From the outside, Budapest's opera house looks striking similar to the one in Vienna, albeit smaller -- apparently when it was built, it wasn't "allowed" to be nicer than the one in Vienna.

Aided by an incredibly nice and well-located AirBnB (on the Pest side), my first impressions of Budapest were really positive.

We went for an early dinner. I'd found restaurant Köleves online, which ended up being fantastic once we finally arrived and sat down. We wandered slowly toward it, though, passing through a great stretch of pedestrian-only streets lined with cafes and restaurants, tons of outdoor seating, and really nice atmosphere.

Eventually, we arrived at Köleveso, which has a spacious dining room inside, with high ceilings, in addition to two massive outdoor courtyards on either side, one of which has its own freestanding bar, kind of like a tiki bar.

My meal here was truly fantastic: perfectly flavored grilled chicken with a bell pepper salad.

Thanks for the tasty welcome, Budapest!

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Today was "Budapest for the Tourist": Walking across the Chain Bridge, taking the funicular, and wandering around the castle. Then we braved the hills of Buda and found a place a few streets behind the castle for lunch that was nice.

Inside, Cafe Deryne is one of the most charming restaurants I've seen, but since it was so nice out, with a warm sun, we sat out front.

I had a section of beef served on a lava rock, which kept it hot and sizzling until I was ready to eat it. Also, points for being v. cool (a lava rock!). But first I devoured a cheese and arugula salad with walnuts -- delicious.

Conveniently, there was a chocolate shop across the street, so after we'd each fortified ourselves with the chocolate of our choice (dark + orange for me), we headed off again.

We started across the Margit hid (Margaret Bridge), which is the next bridge north of the Chain Bridge, and halfway across, there is a little offshoot that takes you to Margaret Island. This is a very awesome green space in the river between Buda and Pest where you can rent bikes, go for a run, sit in the sun with a picnic, or just generally hang out in nature. It was a nice break from the city, and if I lived in Budapest, I'd want to live close to this bridge so I could run on the island every morning!

We ended the day back in Pest, and I think I prefer it over Buda, though Buda has its own charming corners, too.

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After perusing the stalls at Central Market Hall this morning with my parents (and buying a tiny framed etching of the Chain Bridge), I spent the rest of the day on my own.

Budapest is a hip city, with lots of thrift stores, "ruins" bars, and cafes for beer-drinking, smoking, and people-watching. I usually only participate in one of those activities, but it's still nice to be European for a while, enjoying literally everything al fresco.

Lots of people ride bikes in the city, and the bike lanes are frequent and well marked. Cars seem to generally respect them, too, which is usually another matter altogether.

My last night in Budapest, while sad, also came with a fun little surprise. I met back up with my parents for dinner at a mostly-outdoor sidewalk cafe called Komédiás Kávéház, which is one street up from the opera house, and thus gets a fair amount of theatre foot traffic. (I think there is actually another theatre on this street, too.)

Halfway through our meal, an old man started playing the piano at the entrance to the restaurant, which made our already-pleasant dinner all the more pleasant.

My parents were catching a show at St. Stephen's Basilica, so I had the evening to myself. I ended up spending most of it in the building next door to this restaurant. They had an event going on and were projecting huge images onto the outside wall, above the door. I was sufficiently intrigued to peek inside, and since it was free, I continued in.

Turns out, the building used to belong to a famous Hungarian portrait photographer, Mai Manó, and now it's called the Mai Manó House, and it's used for photography exhibitions and events. So they had two floors of space showing old portrait photographs of families, children, men, women, and couples. A lot of the kids were holding something -- like a teddy bear or a toy -- and it was fascinating.

On the third or fourth floor, there was a big room with a huge wall of windows facing the street. They had it set up for portraits, and there were period costumes you could wear if you wanted. Actually quite cool! I think I was too late to catch the portraits -- they seemed to be taking down all of the equipment. I bought a couple of cheap postcards on my way out. What a fun thing to stumble into!

I strolled home the long way, and in one of the main squares near my house, I discovered the other cool thing to do on the weekends in Budapest: If you don't want to go to a ruins bar, just buy some cans of beer and take them to a square or a park. They are literally swarming with kids, drinking, hollering at each other, flirting, whispering, smoking, and showing off. Any public square seems fair game to become a massive outdoor BYOB bar once the sun goes down.

Viva Budapest!

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This morning, after a quick jaunt back over to Margaret Island (it really is so nice!), we accidentally ran through the Budapest Marathon -- ever so briefly, haha. The pack was running between us and our destination, and I think they were heading over the bridge. We'd seen them setting up a water station on the island at kilometer 8.

However -- after we'd toured Parliament and came out of the building around 1 p.m., we saw runners going by between Parliament and the river. They looked like the elites, which confused me, because if the elites were still running at 1 p.m., this marathon must have had a pretty late starting time.

I'm sad that my time in Budapest is coming to an end; I can definitely see myself coming back here someday to stay a while. It's a livable city -- and really quite hip! Me gusta mucho.

At any rate, onward!