Our next two stops on our InterRail trip were Prague and Budapest, and I found them interesting to compare. While Prague is beautiful and sophisticated, both in terms of the place and the people, I personally preferred Budapest. I think the reason for this was that Prague has relatively recently become a top tourist destination, which, especially in a short visit, means it’s hard to get a feel for the place without being overwhelmed by other tourists, who all seemed to be doing similar, fairly typical sightseeing activities.
However, in Budapest, we saw a lot more diversity; even just wandering the streets and soaking up the atmosphere of the place was really enjoyable. A place I felt embodied this diversity was a ruin bar called Szimplakert, which we came across by accident. It had a wine bar, a beer bar, and a cocktail bar, meaning queuing was minimal, because you have to make your decision about what you want to drink before you go to the bar – genius! Yes, I am a tad impatient…
We found ourselves dancing with and talking to a variety of people, both locals and other tourists. My favourite people we danced with were a couple of guys being closely followed by a camera crew, who said they wanted us to be in a “Hungarian Dance Show”, then launched into a Latin-American routine. I’m not sure they were being entirely truthful, but they were hilarious, and dancing is always a good idea.
I also made friends with an American solo traveller, whose favourite book was Hemingway’s “Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises”, which I happened to be reading at the time, and loved. As a general rule, people who like good books are to be trusted.
Image from Pinterest
What made Szimplakert even better was that as well as being a bar, on Sundays it turns into a Farmers’ Market, and one of the bars stays open to serve smoothies. Great hangover cure. I love Farmers’ Markets, I think there’s something really nice about buying something from the person or people who made it. I got little pots of honey as gifts, and spent ages choosing flavours, but the stallholder, who I couldn’t help but picture in a beekeeping suit, was adorably patient and helpful.
My hangover smoothie, the wonderful honey selection, and other stalls at the Farmers’ Market in Budapest
The cheesemonger was equally lovely, letting us try lots of samples, and seemed really genuinely pleased at our appreciative food-gasm noises. (Not in a creepy way. In a nice way, I swear.)
Of course, when we went to Budapest, we had to go to the Baths, which were really lovely, and I had the most amazing massage – I was treated like a princess – if I could have thought of any feasible way of taking that masseuse home with me I definitely would have. More points for the people of Budapest.
The cheesemonger at the Farmers’ Market, and the Széchenyi Baths in Budapest
Prague and Budapest are both places I would love to return to. Prague, to try to find some “off the beaten track” places, and I think I would try to learn some Czech and talk to local people. Budapest, to find more ruin bars, more interesting people, and relocate (possibly kidnap) my masseuse.