Destinations, Europe, Hungary, Italy

Cities on the Water

Venice is a city built up around the water, a city that sits precariously close to the ever rising sea. Budapest is built on the water, that is the thermal hot springs that feed its famous bathhouses. It seems fitting that the two cities that managed to woo me more than I expected would be cities on the water as ever since my days growing up on the California coast, I’ve always had an affinity for water.

Laura and I spent our last couple days in Prato exactly how they started, drinking, eating, exercising, and sleeping a glorious amount. We also befriended two guys who run the wine shop across from our apartment. We had quite the fun time talking with them over the days, buying too much wine, and hanging out with them at their garden pub. But, we had a schedule to keep so we bid goodbye to our little slice of Italian life and from Prato it was off to Venice, all while looking very silly carrying a giant cardboard box filled with our excessive wine purchases. It took us two trains to get to Venice, the first being decent, if a little hot, and the second being an unbearable hell hole of roasting flesh. We were on that train for 20 minutes and if we had to stay any long I was sure we’d pass out. I can deal with the heat pretty well, living in Davis during the summer helped with that, but this heat was uninhabitable due to the non-opening windows and broken AC. Finally, arms aching from toting our wine across Italy and sweating from the ridiculous trains we arrived to the beautiful city on the water, Venice.

People told me not to spend much time in Venice, that it was dirty, smelly, and filled with tourists. Yes, it is filled with tourists, but it isn’t any dirtier than any other large Italian city and only the smallest canals smelled slightly, which is to be expected of fairly stagnant water. The canals closer to the open sea were wide, clear blue, and decidedly not smelly. Some people just don’t know what an ocean smells like. From the first sight of Venice while walking down the steps from the train station I fell in love. Not the type of move there love like Siena, but it’s own love, an appreciation for the unique beauty that is the city. There is a reason this city is filled with tourists, there simply is nowhere else like it in the world.

The next day was our last day in Venice, we only spent one night, so we left our packs in the hostel luggage room and wandered around the city looking for museums and Moreno glass. Venice during the day isn’t the romantic bliss of Venice at night, due to the boiling heat and substantially sweatier tourists, but it’s still beautiful. After we got Laura one last Italian gelato, we hopped on a water bus to head to the train station and the airport. Laura and I shared a sweaty farewell hug on the boat as she headed off to the airport. I was taking the night train to Budapest and she was sleeping in the airport before her 5 am flight to Portland. The night train was air conditioned, thank the lord, but they managed to cram six beds in a room smaller than some closets I’ve seen so it was a tight fit. Luckily I was able to fall asleep quickly so I didn’t mind the crammed quarters much, as long as I had space to lie down I was okay.  Big guys would have a problem with the beds though, I’m just lucky I’m small.

I arrived at my non-party hostel in Budapest looking for a quiet place to hang out and stock up on sleep before Sziget, the music festival that Karen is meeting me for. The hostel was perfect for that and the first night I met a wonderful girl from New York who shared a beer with me on the banks of the Danube before we both went to bed early, as I was tired and she was recovering from a cold. We both went on a walking tour the next day and I had planned to tuck in early again, but the two Welsh guys in my room managed to convince me and a Swedish guy to join them at a special Sparty, a crazy twice annual version of the normal weekly pool parties held in the thermal bathhouses of Budapest. Crazy barely scratches the surface as to what that party was; there were light shows, DJs, plentiful drinks, and the most entertaining whirlpool of my life. However, I paid the price for my big night with a nasty hangover so Sunday mostly consisted of finishing my third book of the trip, Still Alice, and eating lots of carbs (this has been a theme in Europe, so many yummy carbs, so little time). Thank you globalization for letting me eat Thai food in Hungary, the familiar is nice to the hungover.

As for now, I’ve moved hostels to the party hostel that Karen booked for our three nights together again and am enjoying it, but it doesn’t have the character my little hole in the wall hostel had. I traded character for AC. It’s a decent trade considering tomorrow is supposed to be 100 degrees and it will be our first day of Sziget. I think we will be quite happy to return to an air conditioned room after sweating all day at a music festival.

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