Ireland and Budapest

The travel bug has officially hit, and it seems I am away more than I am in Brussels this month! It’s a little exhausting, if I’m being honest, and I do feel bad about leaving my host family so much. However, I don’t know when I’ll have these opportunities again and I am loving all that I’ve been able to do.

Last weekend, I got to visit Ireland, where one of my really good friends is studying. Her family came to visit her so I cam over, too! We spent one day in Dublin, where we visited Trinity College (including the Book of Kells) and the Guinness Storehouse. Guinness was so much fun! We got to see how Guinness is made, and we attended “Guinness Academy,” where we learned how to ‘craft the perfect pint.’ While I liked Guinness before this, I have a whole new appreciation of the iconic beer. Fun fact: did you know Guinness’s true color is ruby red? Hold a glass up to the light and you’ll see. Then, we roadtripped to the other side of the country to a little village where my friend is studying, near Letterfrack. It was the most charming little village I’ve ever seen, where the town consists of two pubs and a church and some thatched cottages. It felt like a fairytale. There we got to see the ocean and the incredible beauty that is Ireland, through rain and sunshine!

All in all, it was such an amazing weekend spent with my dearest friends, and a fabulous way to celebrate the end of midterm exams.

This weekend my “travelling group” (aka some of my best friends here) and I went to Budapest. We’re really into saving money so we took early flights and I probably need to sleep for a few days straight to catch up! Budapest, however, was absolutely amazing. I’ve completely fallen in love with the city. We arrived early Friday morning and were able to visit the Parliament, in one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen. Everything was golden and extravagant, and we even got to see the Holy Crown of Hungary, which dates back from the 13th century and was used during the monarchy. We learned about Hungary’s political history (briefly) and its operations today. Fun fact from this: the two highest buildings in Budapest are the Parliament and St. Stephen’s Basilica, which stand at 96 meters. No building is allowed to be as tall as these, and their equal heights symbolize the balance between Church and State. The number is also symbolic: Hungary, as a unified nation, was first founded in 896 as the seven tribes unified into one.

That night we walked around the city, crossing two of the bridges connecting Buda to Pest and seeing the beautiful waterfront in its nighttime glory, all lit up.

The next day we were fortunate to have amazing weather. We took a thorough walking tour and saw all the major sites of the city, including Matthias Church in the Castle District, with the most incredible view of the city from above. We learned more about the city’s history with a great tour guide!

That night we did the iconic Budapest thing and went to a Turkish Bath. What an experience! The one we chose to go to (there are countless in Budapest) is the biggest, with tons of rooms inside the building and two huge baths outside (heated, of course). Inside, you can also find saunas, massage rooms, pools ranging from freezing (about 10 or so degrees C) to scalding (50 degrees +), and even a beer spa (which unfortunately cost a lot extra). We had so much fun and stayed for a few hours. We loved the outdoor pool, where it was heated, though getting in and out into the cold air was so painful! The indoor pools were fun and we took a stab at a freezing ‘immersion pool’ where we only lasted about a minute before jumping into another hot pool.

We were very sad to leave such a beautiful city after just two days. We lucked out with an amazing, huge hostel (Pal’s Hostel right by St. Stephen’s Basilica- check it out if you’re ever there), found the people of Budapest to be very kind to us, and most importantly as a student everything in the city was super cheap! It was also fun to see a new currency (Hungarian forits, with which things are done in thousands rather than units of one dollar or euro).

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