Where to begin?! We got here after 30+ long, severely sleep-deprived hours via Philadelphia, Frankfurt, and finally, Budapest, the only help coming from the extremely Aryan flight attendant who formed an immediate crush on Candace and was therefore more than happy to cater to our every need (sparkling wine and chocolates not the least of them – and, p.s., you can drink for free on international flights. Who knew ?!?!). Upon our arrival in Budapest, our first step was to navigate the train and tram system with minimal instructions available in English – it’s interesting what one can accomplish simply by blindly putting money in a machine and praying for understanding ticket-takers, should they even come by. The initial train was very Soviet-era, as was the trip from the airport into the city center – I began to fear for a year of industrial buildings and cement blocks. Thankfully, the tram, metro, and most of the city itself are very modern and Western European looking – and no surprise at all, there are now shopping malls, 100% of which are styled after Western malls. Ha!
The apartment itself smelled like old pickles upon first entering – tantalizing, I know – and the remnants of that smell remain even after an extensive bleaching.
Our hostel was lovely, though the single Korean man who runs it was rather depressing, only in the fact that he literally never left – he ran the thing by himself (in order to save money), was constantly there as a result (and also constantly cleaning, the cleanliness of which I appreciate, though his appearance instantly at the conclusion of one taking a shower was rather unnerving), and was also, as a result, exceedingly lonely, so we spent lots of our time there chatting with him. He is hoping to rent out the entire hostel to a school group or such for the month of January so he can go home – so think good thoughts for that!
We spent the first several days walking around the Pest side of the city (which is divided into two parts by the Danube: Buda and Pest), in order to get a feel for the different districts (the city is divided into approximately 13) so we’d have a good idea of where we might want to find an apartment. After meeting with two different realtors and seeing a number of places, we ended up with one in a fantastic location – right on a main street with a tram line, metro stop, grocery store, coffee shop with Wi-Fi, and within walking distance to most everything else.
An interesting nuance to the apartment-rental scene here is, in addition to rent & utilities, we pay a “common cost” – I ‘m assuming for trash pickup (trash bins on the bottom floor by the escalator) and?? Maybe elevator maintenance? Not quite sure what else, as there is no cable or internet…
The apartment itself smelled like old pickles upon first entering – tantalizing, I know – and the remnants of that smell remain even after an extensive bleaching. Thanks to IKEA and Vanilla-Scented candles, we are able to avoid feeling trapped in an abandoned concession stand! Other quirks (a huge part of making the most of this adventure is putting a positive spin on things) in the apartment include a toilet room, utterly separate (not even sharing a door with) the shower and sink room; a shower head that is detached, such that it is necessary to hold it between my knees while soaping up; a hot water heater that is dependent on a gas-powered flame, such that hot water requires turning the hot water knob all the way on, hearing the flame light up, and waiting for the water to become warm/scalding, which it will do only for a moment before becoming ice-cold, and then heading back into scalding territory again; the gas oven/stove that requires matches to light (please let’s not tell Grandmother about this particular detail …;)), and the gas heater that manages to keep the 5-feet closest to it warm, not including the shower room/toilet room, leading to some very interesting mornings …
Oh, and did I mention that all of the apartments seem to come equipped with a washing-machine (yay), but no dryer – so our clothes are positioned on a clothesline attached to a pulley-system that allows them to dry over the course of approximately two days in the upper reaches of our 15-foot tall kitchen?
As hard as it is to believe, it’s quite charming! All part of the Candace and Olivia adventure, which is what we signed on for when we boarded this crazy train.
In good news, yesterday it snowed! Though it is shockingly, horrifying cold – and Candace has no snow boots, only canvas tennis shoes that have done anything but keep her feet warm. There are Christmas lights everywhere, and Christmas music blaring at every available opportunity, which suits me fine, though I find it greatly entertaining that it would seem America is the only place in the history of the world ever to create Christmas music, as I’ve heard George Michael and Mariah Carey Christmas tunes and more than anything else thus far (with a bit of The Rat Pack thrown in, thank goodness). People are very friendly, though the amount of written and spoken English is far less than I naively supposed.
All in all, things are going swimmingly – and we are thrilled! More to come, as this crazy Magyar adventure train continues rolling…