Travels in Budapest

It was a whirlwind trip to Budapest, arriving late Friday and departing at the crack of dawn on Monday. We had no plans or expectations for our short stay and really didn’t do anything. It was fabulous. Hot and steamy and breathtakingly fabulous.

We caught a shuttle bus from the airport to our accommodation and knew we were in an interesting city when the bus driver pulled over unexpectedly, walked up to a woman on the footpath, and gave her a beautiful long kiss.

Our preferred travel style is to walk everywhere – for two reasons. Mainly because being on foot is so free and means discovering all sorts of hidden nooks and crannies as we wander around. But also because using public transport in a foreign country is very stressful so I avoid it whenever possible.

Budapest is a city of statues – there are statues for everyone and everything. The beautiful wide streets, flanked by stunning gothic buildings, have small parks and plazas filled with statues and fountains every couple of blocks. There is not shortage of places to sit down and have a lovely rest.

Our first day we walked the length and breadth of the Pest side of the Danube, following a guided walk I created on Triposo – my latest happy fad. We photographed every statue we found, until we realised every street corner has a statue. There’s even a park dedicated to statues of long, lost forgotten communist heroes – whimsically called the park where communist statues go to die. We didn’t make it there, but maybe one day I’ll return to Budapest and have time to explore a little more.

After wearing out our shoes, feet, and sweat glands on Saturday, I suddenly decided I absolutely had to go to a church service on Sunday, and the only one I could possibly attend was a two hour walk from our inner city apartment. Despite having a plethora of magnificent historic churches within a stones’ throw of our apartment, I wanted something less traditional and more modern, so we traipsed across the city, into the suburbs and arrived a mere six minutes late, drenched in sweat, at the Danube International Church.

I don’t really know why I suddenly had to go to church – for the first time in my life. Except I know I’m searching for something spiritual and churches seem like a spiritual place, and I’ve been traveling through a lot of biblical places, so I figured hey – Church. Why not? I wanted to experience a church service all by myself – with no pressure or expectations from anyone.

I still haven’t been struck by lightning. I have to confess, I’d dearly love to suddenly be “converted” and feel a deep and abiding affinity with God and Jesus and Church. But alas – I’m the same person wondering about the reason we’re all here and where truth begins and interpretation ends.

The church service was quite lovely. Very relatable. I went in with an attitude of acceptance and willingness and to look for what resonates, and ignore what doesn’t. I sang along with the songs, making a valiant effort not to be judgmental (so difficult with a lifetime of musical training). The sermons and prayers were very relatable and while obviously they were all passages pulled from the bible, the messages were universal and spoke to me in a way I haven’t previously experienced in church. [Obviously I’ve been to church services before, usually as a paid musician, or a wedding/funeral attendee, but this was the first time I’d gone specifically for the service and of my own accord.] They handed around a microphone at the beginning, asking visitors to share their name, country of origin, and reason for visiting Budapest. So I chose to participate. After the service lots of lovely people came to chat which was really sweet. Even more sweet was the beautiful offer of a lift back to our apartment as my husband’s feet are in pretty bad shape and walking another two hours in searing heat and high humidity was not an option. The person facilitating the service (pastor? no idea…) invited people to come down to the front after the service if they’d like to be prayed for. So I thought, why not? And I went down and met Louise who very kindly said a beautiful prayer asking for healing in my mental health. It was very lovely. I feel blessed.

That pretty much sums up Budapest to be honest. I feel blessed to have visited – even if it was only fleeting. There is so much we haven’t seen, and we didn’t get to one of the many thermal spas (Budapest has lots and lots of them!) but I spent enough time to know it’s a big, bright, beautiful city, full of vibrance and colour and fun and laughter. And statues. We’re now resting quietly in Krakow. Tales from Poland coming soon.

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