In the midst of our plans, our wonderful, traveling-gypsy friend Sherrie told us how much she loved Budapest when she went to visit years ago. "Budapest?" I had a vague inkling that I had learned about Budapest in my AP History class, but couldn't recall one thing besides the whole, "I'm Hungary. Are you Hungary?" joke. Lame. Anyhow, she told us that it was a really beautiful city and that it was super cheap to live there, too! We looked into it and found that it was indeed cheap and would get us cheap access to several Central and Eastern European countries. We looked on Airbnb, found a steal of a place, and made our plans to go to Budapest. We stayed in Budapest for 3 months and I fervently wish we will be able to go back.
Here are the 11 most surprising things about Budapest:
- Budapest is broken up into 23 Districts (yeah...kinda like the Hunger Games). Each of the Districts has a name that ends in -varos (P.S. the 's' in Hungarian is pronounced as an 'sh'). We lived in the 8th District, Jozsefvaros (Yo-zhef-va-rosh).
- Hungary's name in Hungarian is Magyarorszag. The language is called Magyarul. "Hungary" is derived from the Latin word "Ungri," which was used to describe the Magyars (Hungarians). Hungarian is a Uralic language...that is to say, it is one of the three European languages (along with Finnish and Estonian) that are not Indo-European in origin. While I was studying Hungarian, it used to blow my mind that only 15 million people in the world spoke the language and it was considered one of the hardest languages to learn. What was surprising to me was how much I enjoyed learning and speaking Hungarian. Even now, whenever I hear someone speaking Hungarian or even someone with a Hungarian last name, I become really happy, like I'm in on a secret.
- Tourists are definitely advised against living in the 8th District. After having lived in El Raval in Barcelona against the advice of most tourist-focused publications, we thought we would chance it in exchange for a more "local" experience AND, who are we kidding, we found a super cheap (like, $350/month cheap) place that looked really, really nice in the pictures. We got to our apartment at night, so we couldn't really get a feel for our neighborhood until the next morning. Suffice it to say, although we grew to like (not love) our neighborhood, it took us over a month to get used to living there. To be perfectly honest, we have never lived in a neighborhood that was so, what's the politically correct way to say it, economically depressed. We weren't used to living among such a diverse group of people. Living in Jozsefvaros definitely provided us with plenty of fodder for conversations about poverty, homelessness, ethnic groups (a lot of Roma live in this District), and history.