After a scenic train ride we were treated to a fun dinner cruise on the Danube, a river which divides Buda and Pest. The city is beautifully lit up at night and while we cruised up and down the river we saw many famous landmarks like Parliament, the Buda castle, and the Liberty statue. When I didn’t think this week could’ve gotten any better, my favorite day was definitely the following day.
We started with a great biking tour around the city. Our guide pointed out some of the landmarks we already recognized and more like Hero’s Square, the Great Synagogue, and Saint Stephen’s Basilica. We learned more about the history of the city, which I didn’t realize how recently the communist rule ended (not until 1989). This has had a great effect on the transformation of the city. After biking all morning, the class relaxed at the Gellert Spas. It wasn’t as if the biking was taxing though, Budapest was surprisingly bike friendly. Obviously not a Copenhagen, but the bike lanes were well connected throughout the city. Anyway, we culturally immersed ourselves by experiencing the indoor public baths. One of Budapest’s only natural resources is its 118 natural thermal springs. Every day, there are 70 million liters of 21-78 Celsius warm thermal water that come from these springs. The spa, established in 1918, is decorated with beautiful mosaics and sculptures. At night, a group of us climbed the liberty statue. It was a steep climb, but well worth the views!
In the following two days, the class learned more about urban development projects in Budapest. A local architect took us on a walking tour of the old and new urban interventions that coexist and have become part of Budapest’s daily city life. We also took a walking tour of gentrification in the Jewish Quarter the following day. We discussed how has Budapest developed, who are its residents, and looked towards the future of the city. It was interesting to learn about the differences with gentrification and its perception in an area that is so recently post-communism. In our free time, we explored the city on our own, finding great places to eat, drink, and shop. This week was an incredible experience. It was great to get to know my classmates and professor outside the traditional classroom and learn so much about European cities by actually visiting them and listening to locals. It was a refreshing change of pace and a great way to travel!
As the class left to go back to Copenhagen, I extended my stay through the weekend. My friend Amy met up with me and it was great to further explore this city, where I now had my bearings. I highly suggest doing this if you have the chance. It’s great to explore a lot of places during your time at DIS, but traveling can be exhausting. It was great to further enjoy and explore a city with some context already. If you want to know more about what I did after class – check out my friend Amy’s blog: https://amyabroad2017.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/budapest-try-budabest/