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Tonight for the first time since leaving the states, I felt a little helpless and culture shocked. In Vienna, I was able to communicate in German or English, but that hasn’t been the case here in Budapest. No one understands us in German or English. After 2 and ˝ hours on the train we arrived in Budapest, actually Buda, at 6:40 pm. Right away I could tell we were no longer in “western” Europe. The people had darker, sharper features, there was graffiti everywhere, as well as beggars, something you don’t see in Austria. The currency was the biggest difference. About 250 Forints to the dollar. (We were able to eat multiple courses including drinks for under $10.)

Getting out of the train station and to a youth hostel was a big challenge. Having just decided that morning to go to Budapest, we hadn’t made any plans, or even looked at a map of the city. When the “Information” booth workers at the station didn’t speak English, we laughed already realizing that was going to be the norm in Budapest.

Our next goal was to buy tram and subway tickets, however the desk clerk didn’t speak English either, and was became frustrated with us very quickly. Luckily, our helplessness attracted several people wanting to help us buy tickets, and we were able to make our way to the hostel. Or so we thought. Thanks to Matt’s great map reading skills we found the first hostel fairly easily, although it was obvious right away that something was wrong. The building we were standing in front of looked like the building in the picture, however there were no people in sight, and the windows were black. After deciding the hostel has shut down, we got back on the subway heading toward the middle of the city.

By now were very hungry, tired, and a little cold. We did manage find the next hostel, still in operation, and very happy to have us. Saturday we were busy exploring Buda and Pest. The highlight for me was visiting castle hill. This was a once in a lifetime experience. I may see Budapest again, but it won’t be from the eyes of an independent 20 year old.

-Justina Bohar

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