The beginning of my first solo trip to Europe began in Budapest, Hungary. I arrived on a Friday evening, around 7 p.m. on May 4, 2018.

I chose to visit Hungary on this trip because I am of Hungarian ancestry and have been doing some genealogy research. While there, I met up with a couple of persons that assisted me with my research and helped to provide me with my great-grandfather’s birth certificate. If things work out, I hope to apply for Hungarian citizenship.

Most of my stays in Hungary were with Couchsurfing hosts, my first real Couchsurfing experience, and it was really wonderful. I have made forever friends with the hosts that I stayed with. All were kind, generous, caring and anxious to show me their cities and surrounding areas of interest. I learned and saw a lot with them.

Upon my arrival, I took a bus from the airport to a designated spot for my first host to pick me up. This spot was directly across from the Budapest Eye, a ferris wheel located in Erzsébet Tér right smack dap in the middle of the city. Now, I drive my own car at home in Wisconsin and have really never had any experience with public transportation. As the bus stopped, a young couple assisted me with removing my bags. Apparently, there isn’t a lot of time to get yourself off the bus, four bags is a bit much and the bus driver had helped me to strap them in. Once off the bus and out of everyone’s way, I tried to call my host to let her know I had arrived; I had contacted her from the airport, but now I was without wifi. A real travel novice, lost in Budapest, not knowing the language, I was a little concerned about what to do. I am quite certain that I had a big sign over my head with “tourist” and an arrow pointing right at me. There were a lot of people around and I finally got up the nerve to ask two gentleman that were nearby if they could assist me. They spoke English and happen to be visiting from Austria. We talked a bit, they let me use their phone and then told me how awesome Austria was and that I should consider visiting there during my travels if I had the time. 

Budapest –

My first host was Erzsi who lives in Budaörs, a little southwest of Budapest. We spent 3 days together and she kept me on the run with a whirlwind tour including the Parliament, Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, the Labyrinth, Margaret Island, the Citadel, Liberty Square, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Heroes’ Square, City Park, Dohány Street Synagogue, Szent Gellért Thermal Bath and the Hungarian Central Market.  I was exhausted after my stay with her. All that in 3 days time.

My second host did not work out so well. He had been staying at an Airbnb and his “lease” was up. He did find a place for me to stay at a friend’s house, but I felt more comfortable getting a hotel room for the rest of the Budapest stay, the Rubin Hotel comes highly recommended, very nice place. We did hang out in Budapest one evening and the next day we took a boat ride down the Danube. I also met up with and lunched with the gentleman that assisted me with obtaining my great-grandfather’s birth certificate while at the Rubin.

Veszprém –

I then took the train from Budapest to Veszprém, a city south of Budapest located toward the north end of Lake Balaton. Here I stayed with Illona. Once again, you have to move fast getting off, so I was a little apprehensive about grabbing my bags from the overhead and moving quick enough to make a nice graceful exit off the train. A little old lady sitting across from me understood my distress and offered to help me get the bags off. I refused her kind offer as she had at least 20 years on me. I don’t know Hungarian and she didn’t know English, but she understood. In the end, a gentleman across the aisle from me and the Porter both assisted and it was a graceful exit after all.

When I hopped off the train, I saw that I had to maneuver down a flight of stairs. While trying to situate the bags to allow me to do this, 2 guys came up, dropped their own bags and carried them down for me. I met Illona at the bottom of the stairs, and then we had to go up another flight of stairs to get out of the station. By this time, I am realizing that 4 bags are too many.

Illona also kept me quite busy. My visit with her was during a couple of week days, so she had to work while I wandered. We did meet for lunch, and I tried some very good Hungarian pork dishes. The Gizella Days Festival was taking place, so there was much to see. On the weekend we headed to Lake Balaton, Tapolca, Sümeg, Tihany and Salföld. Amazing!

After the train experience, it seemed like the bus was the way to go. They put your bags underneath and get them out for you when you depart. So, for my next leg of the journey, I bussed it from Veszprém to the southern end of Lake Balaton to Keszthely.

Keszthely –

On my way once again, heading south. The weather had been seasonably warm so far, so the air was on in the bus. I was a little chilly and couldn’t get the vent to close above me, then a little old man who was sitting in front of me noticed this and plopped his hat on my head to block the air. Hungarians are very hospitable and caring people.

My hosts this time were a young married couple, Ildi and Zsolt. They met me at the bus stop, which I almost missed getting off, and we all trudged the several blocks, uphill and four flights of stairs to get to their apartment with my bags. Again, during the days, they both had to work, but in the evenings we hung out by Lake Balaton, played table tennis, and they introduced me to some authentic Hungarian Lángos. I taught them Left-Right-Center, a dice game, and they showed me the adorable little church high above Lake Balaton where they were married. I made the trek to visit the Festetics Palace one day, which was my first real palace and quite remarkable. Zsolt was gracious enough to give me a lift to the bus stop, and make sure I got on the right bus. The public transit that I wasn’t used to and not knowing the language gave me a bit of anxiety, oh, and not to mention, all those damned bags.

Kulcs –

On to my last stop in Hungary, Kulcs, a small village. Here I would stay with Gábor. First, I spent one night at a hotel in Dunaújváros, it was a long way from the bus stop to my hotel (not really, but with all my bags!), had to stop and sit about 8 times on the way there. Gábor had a family event and would pick me up the next day. I wandered a bit, found a pizza place not too far from the hotel and then just hung out in my room. I was entertained by the events happening in the venue next to the hotel, a wedding was taking place and everyone was hanging out in front. A little Hungarian people watching. Gábor picked me up the next morning and I was honored to be a guest at his mother’s birthday party. Great food and great people! Gábor and I didn’t get out much, one day we walked into to town for ice cream. I took the bus back to Dunaújváros on another day and got a better look around town. Visited the Dunaújvárosi Intercisa Múzeum, the Szoborpark and did some shopping. 

Budapest was my entry into Europe, with a round trip ticket, I would be returning for my flight home after another 9 weeks or so. Gábor was kind enough to offer to keep my biggest bag and get it to me when I returned. It was great to lose that and I really felt so much better about the travels in front of me. There’s no way to thank him for this awesome favor. On my very last day, he helped me get into Budapest, got me on the correct metro to end up at my hotel near the airport for my early departure the next morning.

At the end of my journey, I returned to Budapest via train from the Czech Republic at the end of July. I stayed with Erzsi again, Gábor delivered my suitcase to Erzsi’s and Erzsi delivered me the next morning to the same bus stop I arrived at 3 months earlier on that Friday evening, full circle.



11th Hour Cinema Hostel, Budapest

Rubin Hotel, Budapest

Hotel Kerpely, Dunaújváros

Hotel Ferihegy, Budapest