Just as I thought I was getting comfortable enough with the direction of traffic to begin jaywalking (safely, at least), I left the U.K. for the EU.
I didn’t realize just how accessible travel across Europe was until I was looking up Ryanair flights only two weeks in advance of my planned trip. Before studying abroad, I had never left the United States (and no, I do not count a 24-hour trip to Canada).
Travel in the States is expensive. Even just traveling home from Boston, I will rarely find a direct flight, and the budget airlines available cannot compare to the deals on Ryanair. If under 25, renting a car is not an option, and public transportation is anywhere from unreliable, to dysfunctional, to non-existent. As a result, teenage tourists are often pushed to book lodging in the center of the city, but hostels are often not an option, and hotels in these areas have some steep prices.
But travel in Europe appears to have solved all of these problems. And after three weeks in London, I left for Budapest.
I was visiting a friend and former COMP40 partner, another Tufts student just looking for a study abroad program for computer science in English. We survived Arith last semester, so it was time to spend 72 hours together in a far better place.
After an obligatory Snapchat story while in the customs line, I received a response: A Tufts-in-Tübingen student also found herself in Budapest! She had booked a weekend to travel with her sister — anywhere in Europe was on the list — and Budapest just happened to be the first place her sister had rattled off as an option. We had been trying to coordinate a weekend to meet up for the past few days and ended up less than a mile apart in Hungary.
The four of us planned to meet up on Saturday night to explore the ruin bars, but before that, my host and I toured St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Széchenyi Thermal Bath and took a boat tour along the Danube. On Sunday, we viewed the city from Fisherman’s Bastion, visited the Matthias Church and wandered around the perimeter of Dohány Street Synagogue.
At this point, I had seen much of the city but was pining for some historical context. Why was every building on a block the same height? Why was there a Buda side and a Pest side to the city? How did public transit have so much character, while remaining so effective? If I’m being honest, I arrived with no knowledge of the country or culture.
A visit to the National Museum proved surprisingly invaluable. I walked the winding halls through Roman trinkets, 14th-century chainmail and royal portraits. It felt like “The Green Knight” (2021) and, as obvious as it might seem, I didn’t realize such a period really existed until I saw the numerous medieval artifacts with descriptions in both Hungarian and English.