Early doors, I checked out and went to a bagel place for a filling and rather tasty breakfast. While I was sat there, a young French guy from the hostel came in and we got talking before hopping in a tram to the station. Just before we left, we had a giggle at a cute little baby in a pram who’s mother was being served. She was sat there, banging hear head and playing air drums to music on the radio – obviously her parents have good taste!
At the station, I bumped into a Finnish guy called Nikolas who was also heading to Budapest and we shared a carriage with a Hungarian guy on his way home from working in the UK for 6 months.
As we neared Budapest, some tourist information person knocked on the door. “Uh, oh”, I thought, “People here trying to fleece us.” I couldn’t have been more wrong. Once he ascertained that I already had a hostel (“It is good place, in good location”) he made sure I was loaded up with maps and directions on how to get there. Nikolas chose another hostel, one recommended elsewhere and which I had considered, and we agreed a time for me to walk down and catch him for a couple of beers.
Nikolas jumped in a free bus, while I chose to walk. Budapest struck me as “just a big city” as I hiked down one of the main roads and this is true for the majority of it. As I was to discover, there are some hidden gems but much of the city is fairly modern.
The hostel I picked (the Astoria) was pretty decent with nice staff. I made full use of the shower and internet before walking down to catch up with Nikolas. The kind staff at his place looked up the location of the only KFC in Budapest for us and we went there (via the station) for dinner. This was a huge treat for Nikolas as he loves the stuff but there aren’t any branches in Finland.
Now it was time to enjoy more eastern European beer! The first bar we found was typical of many in Budapest – down a flight of steps and very small, but crammed with atmosphere and friendly locals. We had a couple of large beers for what amounted to maybe 55p each while watching some of the U21s football on the telly. Time to move on and we scoured the streets for another watering hole, aiming for somewhere off the beaten track.
We located one and, again, descended the steps. As could be expected, the barmaid was beautiful (I mean beautiful) and the locals friendly, especially the chap we sat with who was in his 50s and had studied English for three months. He chatted to us and translated Nikolas’ flirtatious comments to the barmaid for several hours as we downed beer and just enjoyed ourselves.
As the bar neared closing time a bunch of backpackers came over and we made plans to meet them elsewhere. We walked off, dropped things at our hostel and found the place they had been talking about… only they didn’t show. It was late and the beer was really expensive, so we had one each and then walked back to our hostels. 3:30am on my first night in Budapest. And a promise that I’d catch Nikolas around 11:00 the next day.