Towards the end of our week in Ljubljana, I was enjoying a delightful afternoon drink at a charming little cafe when Bridgette began texting vigorously on her phone. When I asked her what was up, this was the look she gave me…
She stepped away momentarily to make a call, and when she returned, she looked at me with an almost apologetic face and said, “Mom, we have to pack up tonight and leave.”
Wait, what? We had dinner plans that I was looking forward to, and my mind immediately wandered off to the current state of our Airbnb, filled with our things everywhere. Bridgette reassured me we’d still be able to keep our dinner plans and have enough time to pack up our things. As it turned out, we’d be taking a bus out of Ljubljana after midnight. 🤪
I didn’t know where our next destination was until we arrived 6.5 hours later, because I slept the entire time on the bus. When we arrived, we were in Budapest, Hungary! I wasn’t as surprised that Bridgette picked this destination since we had previously talked about traveling there before but I was still nonetheless excited to be in another new country!
We took a taxi to our Airbnb to get settled in, took a short nap since it was still pretty early, and then ventured out to a special place for lunch. Bridge and I both love the color pink, and we also love to patron cafes/restaurants that are aesthetic, so it did not totally surprise me that Bridge found this incredibly cute restaurant name Vintage Garden as our first place to eat in Budapest.
During our week in Budapest, the only tour we did was a food and history tour that took us around the Great Market Hall. We love food markets, especially when there is a local to take us to the best stalls and introduce us to special local delicacies, such as the Hungarian langos. Bridge even braved a charcuterie plate that include horse meat!
For the rest of our time in Budapest, we explored on our own, mostly by foot. We hiked up Gellert Hill for a stunning view of the city, we toured the exterior of the awe-inspiring parliament building by the river, we spent a leisurely (but chilly) afternoon inside the Szechenyi Thermal Baths, we indulged in sweet chimney cakes, we strolled around lovely Castle Hill, and we ate at some amazing restaurants including the Anantara New York Palace hotel.
We also dove into the painful history of the Holocaust, visiting the House of Terror and the Shoes on the Danube Bank. Bridge and I have educated ourselves plenty about WWII and the Holocaust through her homeschooling, but what we learn through books and videos still do not properly prepare us for the grief and heartache that we always feel when we are physically present on the grounds of these unimaginable acts of horror from the past. It is very important to us to visit these memorials and to continue learning about this part of history, but we have to remind ourselves to not rush the experience because we do go through hours of intense emotions and grieving each time.
And now, I must share that the worst part of this surprise trip happened in Budapest. We got scammed!! While we’ve had our fair share of being targets of scams around the world, this particular experience was definitely the scariest. Long story short, we were approached by fake “ticket inspectors” while on one of the street cars who tried to scam us for about USD $200 for not having proper tickets. When we refused to oblige to their demand that we pay them cash, they were aggressive and intimidating. They threatened to call the police, which we welcomed and they pretended to do so, but ofcourse it was all an act so no police ever showed up. In one final attempt, they led us to the armed guards outside the parliament and spoke to them in Hungarian, then lying to us that they were the police. After more angry back and forth exchanges between us, they finally let us go. Both Bridge and I were pretty shook by the whole incident, and sadly, that definitely left a very bad taste in our mouth for Budapest, but at least we did not get hurt for holding our grounds!