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“The little Paris of Middle Europe”

Posted on: 13th March 2019

At the beginning of March, a group of Surval staff and students journeyed to the beautiful city of Budapest, the capital of Hungary, for a long weekend discovering its fascinating culture. Cristy, (Ecuador), a Winter Camp student, for whom it was her first experience of travelling without her parents, and Faith, (Botswana), G11, have each written an account of their impressions of "the Little Paris of Middle Europe".

What does Budapest look like? Will I have fun? From the moment I got onto the plane, the only thing I wanted was to land and explore Budapest. I was very excited and nervous, because it was my first time traveling with Surval and visiting a new country without my parents. I can say that Hungary is a big and young country compared to others in Europe; they became independent in 1989. During the trip, I had the opportunity to meet two tour guides and I discovered that Hungarians have interesting traditions. One of the guides taught me how to differentiate tourist couples from locals. You will be wondering: how? And the answer is simple – back in the medieval times, gentleman carried a sword in their left pocket so the woman needed to walk in the other side; so that’s why, even today, Hungarian women walk on the right side of their partner. The guide also taught us about the history of this capital.

The city is divided by the Danube river into two parts Buda and Pest; that’s why it is called Budapest! We stayed in the Pest side, where the Parliament and city centre is. The historical part is Buda. The day that we arrived, we had dinner on the Buda side, so we crossed over the Danube. We saw all the city illuminated – it looked very magical and it felt like being in a fairy tale.  On the second day, we had cooking classes. I was very glad that I was in the Hungarian dessert group, making Palacsinta, which is thicker than a crepe but thinner than an American pancake. I had so much fun flipping the pancakes along with my friends.

In the afternoon, some girls and I decided to visit the Parliament during our free time. The building has gothic architecture and is ninety-six meters tall. We had the opportunity to see the Hungarian Crown, which is the symbol of the country and the only one. We also took a ride on Budapest Eye, a large Ferris Wheel, and we saw the sunset from high in the air!  On the third day, we walked in the city and stopped by St. Stephen’s Basilica and Heroes’ Square, where there is a tall column with St. Gabriel at the top, representing the Catholic religion in the country. Then we went to Széchenyi Thermal Bath. Later that day, I saw my aunt and uncle, who were visiting the city and we had dinner together, where I enjoyed a live performance of a typical Hungarian Dance. On the fourth day, the Surval group took the funicular up to the Castle and visited the Fisherman’s Bastion, where we enjoyed a great view of the city and its eight bridges. To end our trip, we had this incredible dinner on a boat on the Danube. Now I can say what Budapest looks like, and exploring it was a lot of fun.

Going on the Budapest trip as part of Surval Winter Camp meant that I learned how to be independent, because I was the one who called the taxis, carried the money and researched tourist places to visit. It was the first time I had had to do this, because my parents weren’t there. Now I feel confident of myself and know that I can do anything that I propose.

Day 1

There were fifteen girls ready with their suitcases at the front door, with eager faces lit brighter than the sunlight that peeked out over the top of the frozen mountains of Rochers de Naye. The buses were all set with our luggage in the back, ready for our journey to Geneva airport. Soon, we were flying above the Alps. Then the plane landed smoothly on the tarmac. We were in Budapest!

Budapest was once a divided city, known as “Buda” and “Pest”.  We stayed in the “Pest” part, where our hotel, “Hotel Courtyard Marriott”, was. Later that evening, once we were refreshed from the journey, we journeyed across the Danube river to restaurant “Pierrot” in the old castle in the “Buda” part of the city. The food was delicious, especially the marinated salmon with caviar - even though it was only the starter! And the chicken supreme should get 5 stars. Afterwards, we went back to the hotel and retired for the night.

Day 2

The following morning, after having a variety of choices for breakfast, we all gathered for our first activity of the trip, which was cooking Hungarian food! We were all ready for the cooking lesson, since we were all “Hungary”!  I couldn’t believe the kind of food we were making - complex and delicious. My favourite was the pea soup, which was tasty and healthy.

After the cooking class, we were given free time to see the extraordinary city sites. A couple of girls and I decided to make a personal tour of the Parliament Building, which is known for housing the Royal Crown jewels. When we arrived in the building, I couldn’t believe my eyes: the crown itself was so beautiful (as well as being fully guarded!); so much glimmering sparkled in the room. After the tour, we all met up the hotel. I decided to rest in for the night since I was tired after the busy day.

Day 3      

The next morning, after a good breakfast, we met up in the foyer to begin our walking tour of the most interesting sites in Budapest. First, we saw the outside of the Parliament Building, where there was a changing of the guard. Then came the Basilica and Heroes’ Square. The square was my personal favourite, since it was where World War II Russian soldiers are remembered. To finish the walking tour, we went to a fancy restaurant, called Grundel, to have lunch. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles of the UK have also visited to have lunch there as well.

After lunch, we all went to the Szechenzi Baths. It’s known for being the second largest thermal bathhouse in Europe. The pool temperature was a delightful 74 - 77 degrees. After the baths, we all had the chance to choose where we wanted to eat in our small groups. I went with the teachers to a Hungarian restaurant. Finally, we made it back to the hotel to our comfy beds.

Day 4

The entire next morning was free time and freezing, but I wanted to stay in. Around noon, I went up to the rooftop of the hotel and saw the city from up above. In the afternoon, we all met in the foyer for a guided tour of Castle Hill, which is in the Buda part of the city. There, despite it being super windy up in the hill, we saw the Buda Castle and the Catholic church. There was even a beautiful wedding there!

After the tour, we took a bus down and over the Szechenyi Chain Bridge. We had a little free time that early evening before going on a boat ride for dinner along the Danube river. It was spectacular to witness what Budapest is like during the night. Our four-course dinner was delicious and we took a lot of photos of the Parliament Building and the Buda Castle. After the boat ride, we got our transfer back to the hotel for the night.

Day 5

This was the last day. In the morning, we all checked-out and then had some free time. We arrived at the airport, and went through security with no problems. The teachers bought some Hungarian sausage and chocolates for all of us to say thank you for being such good students! The plane ride was comfortable with lots of munching on snacks. We arrived back at Surval Montreux in the evening. In all honesty, it was an extraordinary trip, even though I had previously thought visiting Budapest would be no higher than number 37 as a place to travel on my bucket list!

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