As I sat waiting for my plane to Budapest I toggled back and forth between San Diego and Budapest on my I-phone weather application. San Diego was supposed to be 70 degrees and sunny (typical) and Budapest was said to be 25 degrees and snowy for my first week in Europe. My wimpy San Diego skin made me instantly think that this freezing cold weather would negatively alter my mindset and experiences traveling. I quickly found that I was naive to think such nonsense.

When I arrived in Budapest, I found that the snow coating the impeccable architecture enhanced the beauty and the crisp chill of the air made each sight to see more vivid than I could’ve ever imagined. I’ll admit the routinely Irish coffee each morning might have helped the temperature, too. In fact, my adventures during my five days in Budapest consisted of some of the best memories I’ve had in my entire life.

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Here are five reasons why.

  1. First Hostel experience
    From the graffiti covered walls to sharing a bunk with a man five years older and five times larger than me, I was alarmed from the get go. Considering this was my first hostel experience, I had no idea what I was getting myself into and wasn’t prepared in the slightest. The jet lag didn’t benefit me either.However, the physical exterior of the living arrangement didn’t matter because friendships grew immediately. As I sit here on a train to my new home I find myself already missing the friends I made from Australia, Montana, and New York and that is indescribably special.Much to my surprise, my favorite night at the hostel fell on the day of “Australia day.” I would define this holiday as Fourth of July in the States. Who would have thought that I would be celebrating Australia day in Budapest, Hungary? Madison and I fell in love with the crazy Australian culture, accents and bizarre traditions. For example, we did a “shoey” which is when you drink a beverage from your shoe as if it were a sipping glass. You may be assuming I am disgusting for participating, but I assure you that I brushed my teeth at least eight times the next day.
  2. Chain Bridge – Day/Night
    On our first day in Budapest, we walked from our hostel to the Chain Bridge during the day with two new friends we met in the hostel. We spent the day getting to know these two women and walked up to the tiptop of the mountain where the Buda castle sits.Once we caught our breath at the top, the four of us stood in utter silence and admired the sight in front of us. As I peered over the ledge for no more than an hour, there weren’t any worries or sorrows, just pure joy and appreciation – by far best form of therapy.When we walked down the path to again cross the chain bridge to go back, snow started to gather and the night started to dim. As the night formed, the sky turned the most beautiful cotton candy shade of dark periwinkle I had ever seen. The only thing more beautiful than this postcard-looking setting was the fact that I shared this special day surrounded by Maddie and my two new friends.
  3. Castle Cruise
    IMG_2319My second night in Budapest was spent on a boat, but not just any Carnival Cruise. This boat took my new friends from the hostel and me around the Donau River in the creep of the night. Though it was late, the Buda castle single-handedly illuminated the whole city. As I popped a champagne bottle (for my first time) along side my best friend, I thought I must have been dreaming. Shortly after this moment, Maddie and I were denied at our Jay-Z song request and realized that if someone did actually pinch us, it probably would hurt.
  4. Bath house
    Since I came into my trip terrified that I would freeze to death, you probably wouldn’t have assumed that I would boldly throw on a bikini. In Budapest, there are gigantic thermal bathhouses composed of warm pools, whirl pools and lap pools in the midst of pastel colored palaces.12573968_10154639709657699_7311487078673897884_nWe went to the Szechenyi Baths and it was completely out of this world. Thousands of smiling people covered every last inch of the bath and the steam rose and combined with the blue of the sky. With all of my uneasiness and worries about my first time traveling to a foreign country, I still felt so relaxed in the bath.I think San Diego State could use one of these, especially for finals week. Thoughts?
  5. Cave Diving
    Before arriving to Budapest, I naturally assumed I would be exploring above ground. Nonetheless, my favorite memory of Budapest was spent underground.12509108_10154639709902699_4462869703355704173_nWe first got into hideous red jumpsuits and lighted helmets, and traveled down a ladder to our death. I mean, a dark cave. Our half psychotic and half monkey-like tour guide mockingly said, “This is where I kill you,” as we got down. But, we went with our new friends from the hostel and my nerves were eased.There were a few moments where I felt like I was a square peg trying to get through a round hole as I was trying to dive through the rocks. There were a few moments where I felt sweat drip from my forehead and fear tingled through my bones. There were many moments where I thought of how claustrophobic my mom is and how this would be her literal nightmare.When we got to the very bottom of the cave we sang Bohemian Rhapsody as a group, I closed my eyes, and those moments of fear were clouded with my feeling of accomplishment.

I’m so happy that Hungary was the second country I’ve been to and I’m sad to leave my new friends. But, I am now I’m on my way to my new home away from home – and I am beyond excited to get settled and have my own room!

Maastricht, Netherlands, get ready because you have another Van der Linde coming to town. Spoiler alert, my last name may be about as Dutch as it gets, but ik spreek Engels (I speak English).


HannasmallHanna Van Der Linde is earning a bachelor’s degree in Rhetoric and Writing Studies at San Diego State University. She is blogging from Maastricht, the Netherlands, during spring semester 2016.

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