Central/Eastern European Vacation: Budapest

This is my last little blog post from my vacation last month, I promise! If you hate, they are gone. If you love them, enjoy the last one. Budapest was never on my list of places to visit until Roomie suggested it. After researching it for 6-months, I could not wait to go. It is allegedly the hipster capital of Europe, and if that meant good food and drinks then I was in. 

Most of all, Budapest has a rich and extensive history dating back to the Huns. They always seemed to be at battle for their freedom and would always lose. They were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire ruled by the Hapsburg’s, then controlled by the Nazi regime and then Communists until 1989. It’s crazy to think about how different my parents grew up vs the baby boomer generation in Hungary. 

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We arrived in Budapest by train in the early afternoon. We stayed at the Hotel Palazzo Zichy which was highly rated on TripAdvisor. It was a great hotel with clean and quiet rooms, comfy beds and reasonable rate with breakfast included. The breakfast was amazingly fresh for a free buffet. 

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We knew if we could bike around the city we would be able to maximize our time. Despite the hotel concierge discouraging us from attempting the city bike share program, we successfully managed to pull it off with a little planning ahead. We registered online ahead of time and were emailed a code to use to unlock the bikes. For our initial rental, we had to go to one of the bike kiosks that accepted credit cards, not all of them did. Once we figured this out, the bikes were heavy but very helpful and cheap to use for sight seeing on our own.

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We rode around the gorgeous city taking pictures of the parliament building, castle, Margaret Island and more. It looked just like the Viking River Cruise commercials but slightly more impressive in person of course.

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In Budapest, we planned to go on a bike + bite tour that took us on a bike ride to start through the city and then finished with a mini food tour. It was 65 Euro each but well worth it! We started around 10:30 am and finished after lunch well fed. Our guide Barbara was simply wonderful. She spoke fluent English, had spot on recommendations and was easy going. 

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After giving us a general hour long history lesson on the pest side of Budapest, we mad our way to the great food hall.

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 The ground floor was filled with produce and butcher shops. It was interesting to see how in Budapest, they literally use every part of the animal for something. 

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Upstairs was filled with touristy snack snacks. Rick Steves said not to eat lunch here and Barbara agreed but we did have a few tastings, including the traditional Hungarian liquor Unicum. Barbara said her mum used to give her some when she did not feel well as a child. It tasted a bit like Jaegermeister to me! It was a fun shot at 11am that I proudly took down.

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Next, we tried the Langos, one of the top foods people said we must try. Langos are seriously like a salty version of fried dough, traditionally topping with garlic and butter.

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I actually loved it! I mean, who doesn’t like fried dough? There are other topping options, including sweet ones, but we were told, those were more of a tourist option than something traditional.  

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Next, we headed down to the floor for a sampling of sausage and other meats. i don’t event want to tell you what these were. I for some reason, swallowed my pride and any vegan thoughts and tried them all. I like to think of my travels as practice for competing in The Amazing Race one day. Or is that just survivor where they eat weird shit?

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Lunch was by far the highlight. Roomie and I rode our bikes past this lunch spot on our first day and it was packed! Good thing we did not stop because they do not speak English and it’s very chaotic indoors with no tourists. 

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Barbara ordered for us and brought over the plates to enjoy family style. The food was actually so freaking good! We had sausage, duck, thick fresh potato chips, a traditional bacon, potato and sour cream dish, pickled vegetables, red cabbage, waldorf salad and grilled haloumi cheese.

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The cheese went with the waldorf salad, the duck with the chips and cabbage, the sausage with the horseradish and mustard. Even the pickled veggies were outstanding. 

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Lastly, we visited a spot known for their cakes and pastries. We tried traditional cakes and I attempted not to eat the entire thing. It was not as sweet as your might expect. The top cookie was covered in a caramel layer which was my favorite. 

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By the end, we were stuffed and fully appreciated every euro spent. Barbara gave us some additional restaurant recommendations that were again delicious, she even made a reservation at one of the most popular places in the city for us! I would highly recommend this tour if you like to exercise and eat, like we do. 

Afterwards, I kid you not, we put on our bathing suits and went to the Szechenyi Thermal Baths. Open to the public for a small fee, it is the largest medicinal bath in all of Europe. Built in 1913, the naturally warm springs are open year round. There are lockers that are included in your entrance fee but you must either pay in cash for a towel or bring your own. We did not have an cash at the time and did just fine without however. 

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The water was a comfortable kind of warm – not too hot. it was probably between 60-65F outside and felt quite nice to hang out for bit considering we had been on our feet so much the past week. They say the waters have healing powers so I hoped any lasting marathon aches and pains would now go away. In addition to 3 large baths outdoors, there were also a variety of warm and cool baths inside as well as steam rooms and saunas. Did it feel slightly dirty? No, not while bathing but I was excited to shower after. I hate thinking about how many people probably pee in these things. 

Budapest was my favorite city we visited on this trip for the activities we enjoyed as well as the food, restaurants and bars. We visited a tourist bar called Szimpla Bar, a bombed out WW2 building turned into a large bar. I tried to take some pictures but it just was too dark to post on here. The Jewish Quarter is filled with nightlife, many of the spaces in old buildings that were destroyed during the World War 2. It gives each establishment a unique atmosphere. We loved this one beer garden we went back to a few times. It reminded me slightly of home. 

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On our last day, we visited the House of Terror Museum. You are not supposed to take pictures inside so I don’t have any, but I highly recommend going if you are in Budapest. I don’t recommend the audio guide as you can read what the guide tells you in each room faster. We were inside for almost 4 hours touring the building that once housed the Nazi regime in Budapest and then the Communists headquarters. It was a place were many people were imprisoned for no good reason and tortured. It was a sad and humbling but worth the time. 

On our final night, we found a bar right by the chain bridge and waited for the sun to go down so we could see the palace all lit up. It was cold but in the end, I was glad we waited it out, despite being hangry. 

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The best part of our trip to these three Eastern European cities was how affordable these cities are for Americans. Our last night, we had 2 appetizers, 2 glasses of wine, and 2 entrees for a total of $40 USD. The food was outstanding and known as one of the best in the city. Similarly, a dinner with a bottle of wine and two additional desserts was just $60 USD. For history, culture, good food/drinks and nightlife I highly recommend Budapest. You won’t regret visiting this unique city. 

I didn’t include and healthy eats or workouts, because I didn’t do any on this trip. By Budapest though, my legs were getting jumpy!

Where will Sarah Fit be going next? Well, Cape Cod this weekend and then I’m back to LA and then Vegas for a bachelorette party! I can’t stay in one place very long, I know. 



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