New Year’s Eve can be a traumatic experience. So much build up, so much hype, so much to go wrong and SO much to regret. To spread the strain, Karl’s friends from school like to go away for a couple of days. In December 2007, I joined them on my first group trip with “the Nottingham lot” to Budapest.
THE JOURNEY THERE
Everybody else drove down together from Nottingham to Luton Airport for the very early morning flight. I had been working and so I got a taxi from my student flat in North-East London, a £40 hole in the pocket. Other, smarter, more thrifty travellers had made their way to Luton the night before and their sleeping bag enveloped bodies littered the check in hall. I like to save money but this must be where I draw the line. I am willing to sacrifice a few more pennies to get a night in a bed, unless the cost is astronomical.
We had made a bit of a rookie error when booking the flights. Karl’s friends had all decided to fly on the same easyJet flight and had booked when the trip was arranged. Karl, being rather liable to ignore these things, didn’t go about booking until much later on. Now we all know that low cost airline fares tend to increase over time, so we ended up shelling out £160 each for the return trip. Two days later, Ryanair released tickets for their new route, London to Budapest and a return would have cost us just £10. I now do a fair amount of research when I plan my flights, booking on a different device to avoid cookies. Lesson learnt!
At Budapest Airport, I realised I had left my phone on the plane, but after that first hiccup, all went smoothly. Just outside the airport doors is the train station which takes you directly into the centre of Budapest city. It’s only a short walk but it was incredibly cold, and we all know how much I love the cold. Honestly, had I been by myself, I may have just turned back and begged to get on a plane to Jamaica. Budapest, however, turned out to be worth it.
We stayed at Marco Polo hostel. The dorms were a very good size with a table in the centre that would seat eight very comfortably. That may have been because we commandeered the table from next door as well, I’m not sure.
At times, there were fourteen of us but we still all fit in the room with space for card games and many a drink. The bunk beds were comfortable and the temperature in the room was suitably cozy. The kitchen was stocked, if a little cramped, and bathrooms were kept clean. The nice mosaic floor was a little chilly so socks/slippers are recommended.
Budapest is carved in two by the Danube. To the West is the old town of Buda, and to the East lies the flatter Pest. Our hostel was in Pest and so we had to cross the Széchenyi Chain Bridge to visit the castle. Snow was falling, and in an effort to keep their feet dry, our friends were putting their be-socked feet into plastic sandwich bags before putting on their shoes. I, thinking I was some sort of genius, had my perfectly waterproof wellies. Those of you who know why this was a bad plan, will know the massive regret I felt for giggling at those sandwich bags. Those who haven’t, stay tuned.
We decided that we only wanted to pay for the funicular that led up to Castle Hill one way, and planned to save it for our coming down treat.
Up the hill we scrambled, a rather ungainly lot, there was significantly more snow here than in the busy city streets. By the time we reached the top, my feet were really beginning to hurt as the cold from the snow froze the rubber boots.
We wandered the castles cobbled streets, stopping to make snow angels in the untouched powder.
My mirth began to dwindle as the realisation dawned on me, that there was nothing inside, nowhere to thaw out. Half an hour later and my feet were screaming! My toes somewhere between freezing and on fire, I began to whimper. People stopped to take photos and admire the view. By this point, I couldn’t focus. In all our photos I have a slightly glazed look and my eyes are pleading through my smile.
When we finally decided to make our way back down the hill, the idea of the funicular was shunned in favour of walking, I was not happy but my boots really came in useful. The steep hillside was descended by way of a path that zig-zagged its way back to the riverside. The whole thing was like a toboggan run. Ugg boots and winklepickers alike, slipped and slid, potentially throwing their owners off the edge. Those of us with better grip hung onto our charges for dear life. We were like mothers teaching their little ones to ice skate for the first time. It took us longer to come down the hill than it had done to go up!
In need of more silliness, we had a snowman making competition in the front garden of a grand, riverside building. My team made a snow woman complete with big snow breasts. The other team attempted to create two separate legs for their snowman to stand upon. It turned out that this wasn’t a strong enough foundation. Unfortunately, the whole thing collapsed in the last seconds of the competition. Being the gracious winners we are, we cat called and did victory dances.
One of the opposing team, who found this more than a little irritating, picked up the trunk of their snowman and hurled it at our snow goddess. In slow motion, and with no thought for his own dignity, Karl threw himself in the path of the flying torso. It exploded in magnificent fashion, into a thousand snow splinters. What a hero.
Over our four day trip, we visited some of Budapest’s top tourist attractions, and you can read about them here.