I started this post about road trips because of the epic trips I’ve been fortunate to be a part both here in the States and abroad, including Budapest. But I quickly wrote 2 articles worth of content and realized the need to spread the love. Here we have Part 1 of oh, 13 or so just on Budapest.
This little project came about when I stumbled upon a photo album from my “studies” in Budapest during college. Though the album is only 13 years old, it’s pre-social media and insta-everything so the images are scans of real, actual printed images. #Weird. Another reason for writing this is my discovery of several notepages from this trip stuffed in the front. Finally, there’s the trove of photos that left me in stitches of laughter. Here goes.
How does one end up in Budapest? By studying abroad there in college. When the possibility of going overseas as a junior coed arose, the first available location was Australia. Done, thought I. Surf my face off, wrangle reptiles like Crocodile Dundee and drink lots of Fosters because that’s what Aussies do. Not so fast. Going to this remotest of locales meant effectively losing a semester’s worth of credit as I would be unable to take classes for my major — mechanical engineering. My parents, understandably, scoffed – loudly.
1000 forints is aproximately 12 US cents.
Ready to roll – Newark Airport – 9/3/01
Typical day in Budapest
Says here we studied engineering?
My official papers declaring I’m 2 years old
Our glorious apartment lobby
Turned out the only option for maintaining a graduation schedule was Budapest. My school maintained a partner program with a university there so if you were in engineering and wanted to go across the pond, Eastern Europe was it. I believe my initial reaction was like that of a balloon deflating. BUDAPEST? SOUNDS. TERRIBLE. I could not have been more wrong.
After speaking with some friends who were thinking about going, we got together after our flute lessons, poured some Merlot and discussed the merits of immersing ourselves in a new culture. Oh wait, nope, we got wasted and screamed about how AWESOME IT WOULD BE TO GET HAMMERED IN BUDAPEST!! I sometimes thank a god that social-media-photographic-proof of everything did not exist back then. In the Stone Ages. Or 2001.
I was fortunate to fly with my good friend, Kevin Phinney. Our respective parents issued a final declaration before boarding – “Do your best to avoid sticking out over there.” As we would learn upon arrival, flip flops and shorts are about as far from blending in as possible. Not learning a single word of the foreign language turned out to be a poor decision as well. Looking back through my notes, it’s bizarre seeing that we flew on September 3, 2001; right before everything changed.
On the voyage over, we learned that this international flight involved unlimited booze. So we abstained and read A Tale of Two Cities instead. Once on the ground in ‘Pest, I asked Phinney where we were going. He shrugged his shoulders and said “I thought you brought all that crap.” I did not. What I’m saying is that neither of us brought a scrap of paperwork, directions, information or otherwise details of what we were doing there or where we were going. Off to a great start. See you in Part 2.