I was so excited about you. From my friends who’ve studied abroad to people I’ve met in hostels, it seemed like everyone had positive things to say about you. “You’ll love it!” they said. “I’m so jealous!” they said. “Budapest is my favorite city!” they said.
Unfortunately, I felt differently. You mean well, Budapest, but I just didn’t love you like they did.
I suppose I understand how they feel. You’re truly beautiful, from the stunning architecture of your churches and government buildings…
…to the natural beauty of your section of Danube that splits the Buda and Pest sides…
…to your incredible sunsets we saw every night.
You are beyond picturesque, Budapest. Which is to say: it’s not you, it’s me.
I hate to use that cliche on you, but it’s true.
You see, when things go wrong while traveling, I often tell myself “it’s all about managing your expectations.” If travelers expect everything to go perfectly, easily, beautifully–we’ll often be disappointed. We miss buses and struggle with the language barrier and waste our money on attractions that aren’t crowded and uninteresting and overhyped. It’s just part of the journey.
I expected too much from you, Budapest. I expected to fall in love. I expected to feel drawn back, to feel the same jealousy when I heard of others headed to your cobbled streets.
While visiting you, I went on the absolute worst walking tour of my life. The guide did absolutely no justice to your history, your culture, your little quirks. He didn’t transform your past into anything compelling. He didn’t illustrate your story. He’s not entirely to blame for my disinterest in you–the hot weather certainly contributed, and the predictable slump of travel exhaustion hit at that exact time–but he didn’t help it either.
Don’t get me wrong, Budapest, my time with you wasn’t all bad. In fact, I’d even consider coming back for your absolutely wonderful thermal baths. Both the Szechenyi and Gellert spas offered relaxing yet invigorating afternoons in gorgeous locations that I’ll remember forever.
I’m not sure that’ll be anytime soon, but perhaps someday. We’ll see, Budapest, we’ll see.
Until then, viszontlátásra.
3 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Budapest”
Nice summary, but it’s important to remember that Eastern Europe is still quite young in the tourism and culture stakes. They’re still finding their feet and not quite the masters of it that we are in Western Europe and North America because we have become so reliant on international tourism. I found this out on my (so far) first and only trip to Moscow in 2005. The wonder of the Kremlin soon gave way to the disappointing tour we had of the museums. So many beautiful treasures and amazing architecture gave way to a long and soulless explanation that was read out with about as much passion as reciting a shopping list.
Still, Budapest looks stunning. I’m jealous :)
That’s fair, and definitely a good reminder. I don’t think it’s necessarily an Eastern Europe thing though, since I had wonderful guides in Kraków, Sofia, and Belgrade. Tourism to these areas is definitely exploding. I know some places in the East also have a troubled past that can bring up shame etc. which may contribute.
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