The best adventures are the ones in which you have few expectations. While deciding where to go for spring break, it was difficult for me to choose which cities to visit. There is so much history in all of them, and I can never imagine running out of things to do in any European city. Should I visit other cities in Italy? Would it be beneficial to travel to France or Spain and challenge my knowledge of their languages? Or do I go somewhere completely unknown to me in terms of language and culture? I chose the latter, in order to get the most diverse experience.
My first stop of spring break was to Budapest, Hungary to visit two other Stevens students who are studying abroad there. I knew absolutely nothing about Budapest before visiting, so I reasoned that my best option would be to go while I know people who are living there. This turned out to be an excellent choice; I didn’t have to do any research about the city at all beforehand! My friends were well oriented with how to get around the city, what the best tourist attractions were, and where to go for food and drinks.
Saint Stephen’s Basilica was one of our first stops. This church was absolutely breathtaking, with so many beautiful statues and gold trims lining magnificent paintings. Another site on the Pest side of town that I saw was the Hungarian Parliament, which stands right at the edge of the Danube River. Close by along the river was was Shoe Memorial, for the victims of the holocaust who lost their lives here. We also passed through Hero’s Square in Pest. The Danube River is the border splitting the Buda and the Pest sides of the city. On the Danube side, I saw the Buda Castle, the Fisherman’s Bastion, and the outside of Matthias Church. One might wonder how I haven’t gotten tired of seeing castles and churches in Europe. I think the reason is that they all have a different story to tell; you just have to know where to look. This could range from the architecture of the building to whomever the site was named after.
Budapest taught me a lot about Hungarian culture and language. I learned how to say simple phrases like yes, no, thank you, and cheers – igen, nem, köszönöm, and egészségedre! The food was an adventure in itself for me, too. I had never even heard of any of the Hungarian dishes that I tried, like goulas, leves, or langos. I absolutely could not leave the country without experiencing the baths, too. This was the best way to relax after my week of midterms and over spring break!
After four days in Budapest which absolutely flew by, I had to make my way to the airport for my next destination: Prague, Czech Republic! My original flight was announced as delayed at the exact moment that the boarding was supposed to begin. Thankfully luck was on my side: I was easily booked onto another flight for Prague that same evening. I met with two friends from my school in Florence at the airport in Prague. There was a bit of poor planning on our part, since we arrived at the airport at about 11pm, with no idea that public transportation shut down at about 7pm from the airport. With my trusty prepaid phone, we were able to contact the hostel that we were staying at, who sent us a taxi. So luck was on our side again!
I never thought that I’d be writing a column for The Stute from the common room of a hostel in Prague, but yet, here I am! It just goes to show that life can be very unexpected. There are many opportunities that present themselves to us only when we open our eyes to things outside of our normal routine. Doing things that you’d never expect of yourself is incredibly exciting and you learn both about the world and about yourself in the process.