After playing in the snow in Austria, I headed off to Eastern Europe right before New Year’s Eve. Specifically, I spent a day in a car to get from Munich to Budapest (roadtrip!) Budapest is cool, and also freezing cold! I do not appreciate subzero temperatures on my vacations. Luckily, the Hungarians are also big fans of mulled wine and something called palinka (more on that later). During my almost-week there, I had several adventures and saw some requisite touristy things.
Okay, first of all I need to tell you about one of the coolest bars I’ve ever seen. (What, Jeannette’s writing about a bar? What a surprise…) Szimplakert, simple garden in English, was an apartment building, once upon a time. It’s been “converted” into a bar, but I’m pretty sure some building inspectors were bribed in the process. The walls are covered in random posters, graffiti, and any bits of junk that the designers could find. Seriously, there’s a room with old computer monitors, keyboards, and mice tacked to the walls. And I saw chairs bolted to the ceiling, as well as shoes. It looks like a year’s worth of drunk people had used the bar as their dumping ground for all the useless crap in their apartments.
Apparently, this bar is just one of many. There’s a trend in Budapest to re-purpose the old, falling-down parts of the city into bars and nightclubs. These ruin pubs often take advantage of the interesting old building and go with a cheap but cool-as-hell decorating system (that also hides the fact that the walls are crumbling and the plumbings from the Soviet era).
Back to my adventures! After I stopped gawking at the decorations, I grabbed some hot wine and we found a couple of free chairs. Of course, I’d unintentionally managed to sit next to a group of drunk Spaniards. How I managed to find Spaniards in Budapest, I don’t know. However they quickly adopted us, insisted that we share their hookah pipe, and then proceeded to sing loud Spanish drinking songs. I faked my way through the songs and listened to an angry debate about regional Spanish accents. I was then asked to demonstrate my Galician accent, which amused everyone. However, about the time UberDrunk Guy dumped beer onto my pants, I realized that George and Paul were too sober for 10 Drunk Spaniards and soon after we peaced out.
After I survived the ruin pubs of Budapest, New Year’s Eve came along. First I decided to defy the subzero weather and wear a short dress, with a fluffy coat on top. Yay cold climate fashion! We all gathered in a convenient flat to begin the pre-dinner drinking.
After realizing I was the only person in the party who DIDN’T speak Hungarian, I decided to investigate the available alcohol. There were several mysterious unmarked bottles of clear alcohol. This is almost always a sign of Bad Life Decisions to come, so I decided to investigate.
“What’s that?” Jeannette asked suspiciously.
“It’s a byproduct of wine-making. This stuff is homemade from my family’s vineyard. Want to try some?”
“Oh, it’s aguardiente!”
Yup, Hungarians and Galicians have an alcohol tradition in common. They both make homemade wine, and then make Moonshine with the leftovers.
Naturally, the entire crowd decided that taking Palinka shots was an excellent idea. Yes, shots, plural.
After beginning our night with shots, we found a tasty Italian restaurant for dinner and wine. Which was followed by more wine at another bar. And then cheap champagne by the bridge while we watched the New Year’s fireworks!
We then found more (surprise) wine, and ended the night at an early 2-3 a.m. Which is pathetic by Spanish standards, but considering I’d left the house at 5 p.m., 9 hours of celebrating is quite respectable.
In between drinking and more drinking, I also managed to get some site-seeing in, exploring the fantastic castles and churches of Budapest. The Danaube River is especially gorgeous, even though the temperature drops about 10 degrees while you are over the water. There is a giant synagogue, which was unfortunately closed when I came by.