The Scamp in Budapest: Day 5

Okay, so day five was a couple of days ago, but I was too busy moping about having to go home and face the real world to sit down and write. I’m also overcoming traveling without the use of steroids in my system, and that is a bit of an adjustment process. I’m feeling more pain then I have in the last 8 years, so that takes a little getting used to….or maybe it is because I am about to turn 30 and I’m just getting old.

Day 5 in Budapest was a really important one for me. I was staying in the Jewish Quarter, and had already wandered around the district, but on day 5 I got to visit the Great Synagogue. I was hoping that I would get the chance to go in since I tried to see it the day before Christmas and it was closed. It was a lot of fun to be there during Hanukkah and seeing Jews from all over the world come to sit in the pews and admire the place. the synagogue was built in the 1850s, and was modeled on Moorish architecture with influences from Islamic culture in North Africa. When I first arrived in the city and saw the building, I thought it was a mosque. Inside it is fairly simple and unpretentious, but there is a lot history in it. Within the gated walls of the synagogue is a cemetery. While that is not usually done, an exception was made for the people that died in the ghetto during WWII. The synagogue was behind the ghetto wall, and acted as a sancuatary for many of the Jews. The bodies of about 10,000 Jews were found in the area. Many of them were moved to a cemetery, but 2,000 were buried in the garden. There are tombstones for those who were able to be identified, but there are plenty buried there that were never identified.

While I could go on and on about the synagogue, what really struck me was some of the people visiting. While I was on my way out I heard a guy complaining because, “once you’ve seen one synagogue, you’ve seen them all.” He was American. Go figure.

This made me angry. I don’t say that when I am dragged through churches on guided tours, or have to listen to how amazing and great they are. I’m respectful and make sure my shoulders are covered, that I do not taken chicken out and that I do not do anything that would be offensive. I wish that people had that same respect for my culture and religion.

I bought a new Hamsa necklace and then spent the rest of the day walking through the Christmas markets one last time with the express intent to eat my way through them. I was able to cross another things off my list by eating an exotic meal. I sampled a Romanian Kürtőskalács, a circular cake that is warm, large and tastes like a churro. There are different coatings you can get, but I opted for Cinnamon and was not disappointed. I also had a Hungarian version of a gyro which was perfect. It was tasty, warm, and the size of my head.

I had to roll myself back to the hotel. It was worth it though.

But now I am in Scotland and having to face the reality of going back to work and being a student again. I don’t really want to. I have zero motivation. I’m just wishing I could fast forward through the next two years and be done with the thesis. Of course, then I would have to find a job, and who knows what or where that will be. I’m more than a little terrified of the future.

  1. Learn how to drive in the UK.
  2. Present at an academic conference
  3. Start a new tradition
  4. Go back to therapy
  5. Visit three new countries
  6. Ride in a hot air balloon
  7. Quit the tutoring centre
  8. Volunteer for a literacy programme
  9. Read a book that has more than 500 pages
  10. Make my bed everyday for at least three months
  11. Have a solid draft of my thesis completed
  12. Master scorpion pose
  13. Attend the symphony
  14. Learn a rap song from start to finish
  15. Host a dinner party
  16. Create a  budget so I can pay down my student loans
  17. Create something original
  18. Create a solid workout regime
  19.  Go on a long hike (6 miles or more)
  20. Learn to dance
  21. Eat an exotic meal
  22. Learn to cook a fancy meal
  23. Yell at a football match
  24. Go horseback riding
  25. Master British spelling and punctuation
  26. Create a good sleep schedule
  27. See my favorite group in concert
  28. Fall in love
  29. Stop holding grudges
  30. Let go of my expectations
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The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 51

Day four and my love affair with Budapest continues. Today is the very first Christmas that I have spent on my own. For the last few days I have had very very limited contact with other people, and tonight I sat in an Irish pub and had a burger and some stew with a large glass of wine and watched tennis. The world around me swirled and twirled and danced with lights and mulled wine, but I sat in a balcony in a pub watching tennis.

I hate tennis. I have no idea how the flippin sport is scored, and there was no sound, so it was really just an odd series of interpretive dance.

The day wasn’t all bad. I spent most of it walking around the Christmas markets with a hot chocolate and a muffin. When the rain got to be a little too much, I wandered back to the hotel and watched bad Christmas movies. I went back out at sundown so I could see the menorah at the Great Synagogue lit. I wandered down to the Danube so I could see the castle lit up. I couldn’t figure out what was being served in the market (and I don’t eat pork) so that is how I ended up in a trusty Irish pub with my red wine and tennis.

My beacon in the night. Plus, they had a menorah outside. My friends and family text me through the meal, so I wasn’t exactly alone either.

The writing challenge for the week is to write about something that I’ve created. I’ve had almost a year to think on this….and create something.

I’ve come up blank. I think in the last year I have created a lot of good memories. I’ve been to weddings, birthings, new countries and new cities. I’ve met some amazing people, let go of some not so amazing people, and have tried to work on creating a better me. I guess for right now that is the best I can do.

So, my lovely readers, family and friends, have a Happy Hanukkah, a Merry Christmas, and happy almost end to 2016 and that however and whatever you celebrate, you do it surrounded by love and happiness.

The Scamp in Budapest: Day 2

I am in love with this city. It may be cold (in fact, it snowed while I was out and about walking around), but I love wandering around, being surrounded by history and culture. I set out today with my trusty guide book and really warm gloves to see the Buda side of the city.

I started the day by crossing the Szechnyi Chain Bridge. This was the fist bridge built to connect Buda to Pest, and is arguably the prettiest bridge across the Danube. Even better? It was built by a Scotsman.

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Once I crossed the bridge, I took the famous funicular to Buda Castle. It was built in the 1860s but destroyed during WWII and then restored in 1986.

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Once at the top, I headed to the Hapsburg Steps. It was one of the entrances to the castle built in 1903.

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I wandered around the castle grounds for a bit, saw where the current government is housed and then moved on through the city. It took me to a place that was recommended to me by a friend when I first booked my trip: Labyrinth in the Castle District.

This place is terrifying. The cave is said to be half a million years old and was once a bunch of different chambers that have since been connected. They have been used as wine cellars, prisons, torture chambers, and host to masked balls and all sorts of other sinful activities. It also holds the famous Dracula Chamber where King Matthias had him brought after capturing him in Transylvania.  That was a scary chamber, half concealed in the dark and lit by blue lights that put a scary look about the place. I was the only one down there for most of my wander, and there were a few times where I was a bit scared to go through to the next section because it was dark and creepy (and I was listening to My Favourite Murderer). I made it through though and feel a bit braver for it.

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From there I continued my wandering up to the Fisherman’s Bastion. It  was built as a viewing platform in 1905 by Frigyes Schulek, the architect behind Matthias Church. Its name was taken from the medieval guild of fishermen responsible for defending this stretch of the castle wall. It started to snow while I was wandering around, but that did not make the views any less beautiful. I’m a little sad that the day was a bit foggy so I missed on some of the views, but well worth the trip. img_1487img_1507

After a quick visit inside the church to warm up, I moved to the Gates of Vienna and the edge of the boundary for the Castle District. I wandered down the colourful streets and in and out of some more Christmas markets. I passed the controversial Hilton Hotel. It has part of a Jesuit College and an old Dominican Church as part of its property. It is a bit odd to see. I wandered back down to where I am staying and found some nourishment in the form of cake. Yummy Hungarian cake. It is amazing. Wonderfully light and tasty. I waddled to my room afterwards and have been laying in bed in a slight cake coma ever since.

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Tomorrow is the first night of Hanukkah, so I feel like it is a good day to wander through the Jewish Quarter and see the Great Synagogue….which is a quick five minute walk from my hotel.

The Scamp in Budapest: Day 1

So here’s the thing about me: I am a gypsy soul. I am the most alive when I am traveling. I’d rather collect stamps in my passport than do most anything else. When I am in the dark and twisty I like to plan trips, and sometimes I actually spend the money and go on these trips. I went to Malta in August, Paris in November, I’m currently in Budapest. This summer I will trek through the Balkans with my hetero life-mate. I love Scotland. It’s my home. It will always be my home, but man oh man do I get itchy and need to see other parts of the world…and run away from my problems. I have a paper that needs to go through some major revisions. I am still a bit upset about my relationship busting up in a spectacular fashion. I’m in the middle of a health mystery. I have a draft chapter due at the end of the month and because I don’t have the balls to tell my supervisors that I feel really disrespected in the office, I haven’t been going in to work.

But, it is almost Christmas so I am sitting in a lovely hotel in the centre of the Jewish Quarter and enjoying being in a place that is both a city and country (didn’t know that until today). I booked this trip months ago because I could not face the idea of being at home alone on Christmas. If I couldn’t be in California, I did not want to be in my flat where I spend way too much time alone. I have internet, gps on my phone and a thirst for adventure, so I think the next five days will be just what I need to recharge. I promised my mother I would be in by sundown, so I can get plenty of work done in the afternoon.

I got here early in the afternoon so I started my trip with a jaunt to the Basilica of St Stephen and the Christmas market set up in front of it. The Basilica is beautiful in a dark and gloomy sort of way. It is named for the first king of Hungary. Fun fact: the ‘incorruptible’ right hand of King Stephen is on display in the Church for all to see. I’m not sure how I feel about this, but the people here see it as a rare and wonderful gift. It was stolen during the second world war, but they were able to get it back.

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After the Basilica, I decided to take a stroll along the Danube to the monument dedicated to the Hungarian Jews that were stripped, shot, and dumped into the river. The memorial is 60 pairs of vintage shoes sort of scattered along the bank. The shoes are all sizes and styles to show that there was not just one type of person affect by the war.

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It made me sad to see people posing with the shoes and taking selfies, but I have to say, it is really nice to be in a country with such a large Jewish population. There are memorials all around the city and many temples to visit. I have a whole day in the Jewish Quarter planned.

I wandered around the outside of the Parliament, and sorta wish I had gone inside. I was tired and cold and ended up walking back toward my hotel in search of a hot meal and a comfy chair. I have to say though, this city is really easy to get around, very pedestrian friendly, and so far has been very welcoming and lovely. I’m looking forward to what the next few days has to offer. I’m here on my own, but so far today I have not felt the least bit lonely. Only once did I wish someone was with my in Liberty Square so I could take a goofy picture with the Ronald Reagan statue.