Written over the door of the Carpe Noctem hostel where I just left after two strange, fascinating, and awesome weeks in Budapest. You know what? I think it’s true. I got sucked into the place, somehow. I made friends there I’ll have for the rest of my life. I had the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had there. I seized the night.
I finally left Budapest yesterday afternoon to a very nearly teary farewell. After one last farewell shisha it was time to get on the bus (the right one this time) to take me to Keleti train station and rejoin Western Europe as I stepped out of the busy, loud dirty concrete station into the plush newness of the Austrian railways RailJet train, glemaing and still with that new-train smell. Off to one more night\day in Vienna (one last chance to check out its Christmas Market) before I go to Venice, that dying wreck of opulence.
I haven’t been back in Austria for twenty-four hours yet and I’ve realized something unexpected: I already miss Budapest like crazy. I don’t miss it just like another cool place that I wish I could have spent a little more time in, but more like home. I was in the supermarket last night looking for something for dinner and got really disappointed of course at the prices (I hate the euro with a passion now) but when I couldn’t find any Smack, I almost gave it up and hopped on a train straight back to Budapest. Smack, just so you know, is like Ramen noodles but better. Mainly because they’re called smack.
This is what I miss about Budapest: cso-cso (foosball) is the national obsession, and you can’t go into a bar without running into at least three foosball tables. In my two week residency at the Carpe Noctem, I got pretty good…ok, I stopped being quite so horrible at it. To watch a group of Hungarians play it is like watching some geek rock Guitar Hero on super expert: you’re impressed, wonder how anyone could get that much skill, but aren’t sure if you yourself are dedicated enough to the noble art to actually devote as much time as they have to it. Last night I tried a few games of cso cso at the hostel bar, but I won 8-2 every time without even trying, so that got boring quickly. I miss Ian’s trash talk and Henry’s predictable plays, and Kaitie’s…well, Kaitieness.
I miss the Hungarians, who stare at as though you are a piece of shit and had you been a fly, they couldn’t even be bothered to swat you, so deep does their loathing and apathy for you go. I miss how the supermarket cashiers take ages to ring you up, give you incorrect change, and drop your money on the counter, forcing you to chase after rolling coins while her and the person she’s ringing up after you just stare at you like you just walked on their new sofa with muddy boots on. I don’t know why, but I found that strangely endearing. I miss how the bartender at the no-name shit bar we used to frequent will occasionally lose the ability to understand the word beer, even when sign language, pointing to the tap, the glass, and waving money are all employed in the quest. She will also refuse to serve you if there are any Hungarians at the bar, even if they aren’t ordering anything. She will just chat away to them, giving your imploring face a dirty look every so often. And don’t you dare try to wave her down; you’ll get one scathing glance and good luck getting any more drinks for the rest of the night.
I miss the noise and confusion of the streets. These streets of Vienna are all unnaturally clean and empty. There is a conspicuous lack of homeless people or street stalls selling everything from piles of used books to scarves and tights to wool jackets and underwear. The supermarkets are boring–no smack here.
But it’s not even all of those things. I miss the people I met. And, most of all, I miss the city itself with all of its crazy life, architeccture, and spirit. Someday soon I am coming back to Budapest, and it’s going to be for more than two weeks. A lot longer than two weeks. Deciding on the spur of the moment to go there as I did was the best decision I ever made.
Peace out. Update from Venice. Maybe I’ll have stopped feeling so homesick for Budapest by then.