For Part 1 of this tale, click here 

On the ground in Budapest with no idea where to go or how to speak the language, I have a shockingly distinct recollection of our first decision – find a bar. While wandering, we saw an ATM and realized money might come in handy too. On my PNC ATM today, I can choose at LEAST 10 different languages to display my options. This Hungarian version, back then, came only its native tongue. Kevin, displaying our vast collective intelligence, noted that the lower left hand option was $20 at home so that should work. Super. Off to the bar, cash in hand. Winning even. It wasn’t until a day or so later that we realized the tip we left was roughly $100 USD for 2 beers a piece. Winning indeed.

Here are my initial notes from our first few days –

  • “This first week was awesome”
  • “Everything is really cheap”
  • “The cars are really tiny”
  • “A beer only costs a dollar or two (290-420 Forints)”

A window into the mind of a genius.

That first week or so, we stayed at Hotel Griff Junior which I’m pretty sure was more of a hostel. Back then, Trip Advisor wasn’t on our radar but judging by today’s 11 different ratings of Terrible, my memory isn’t completely shot. In my notes, I see we shared a room with a “guy from South Korea who seems to think we’re nuts.” Fair assessment.

We also had our first experience of real, actual culture, something I can comfortably say most of us had not yet been a part of. One of the radical city castles was hosting an international wine tasting. Buy your tickets at the door and taste away! Given our newly discovered economic advantage, we may have gone a bit overboard on the ticket buys. I don’t recall how badly we stuck out in the crowd of wine connoisseurs but I do recall guzzling wine, by the bottle, at the end of the night; perched on the castle walls. We may have been speaking loudly at this point as well. Maybe.

By the end of the week, we had secured an apartment for a whopping $80 USD/month. Phinney, myself and 5 other UNH Rhodes Scholars were set to share a 3 bed, 1 “bath” arrangement. Bath is in quotes for the following reasons –

  1. The shower did not have a curtain.
  2. There was no shower head. Only a wand. Hanging from a limp hose. With no method for attaching it to the wall.
  3. The hot water was created by a tiny boiler mounted on the shower wall. Turn the hot knob. Watch the pilot light explode in fury. Scald the SH*T out of yourself for 5 seconds. Shiver in misery for 30 seconds. Try to rinse. Consider a repeat. And God help you should you clip the exposed pilot light with errant water.

A favorite memory of mine from this bathroom was the ever escalating game of “Throw Stuff At The Poor Slob In The Shower”. I believe it started with a snowball and ended with slices of bologna and squirts of mustard. More memories are being released as I type. Stay tuned for Part 3.


  1. Looking forward to following this series. I’ve been in BP for over three months. Can’t wait to see more photos from 2001. Looks like Keleti hasn’t changed much.

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