Wow so a lot has happened since I last wrote a post so apologies if this is a bit long I have a lot to catch you up on! To say that I have overwhelmed myself for the past week is the understatement of the century. I have run from class, to roman ruins, to incredible meals, to Budapest (crazy, I know) and have hardly any down time. I think that even though we just got here, my friends and I feel how finite this trip is and Europe just has too much to offer for 4 months!
I have had a full week of classes so far and my classes seem pretty interesting but sorry mom and dad, not yet the highlight of my trip. People are still switching around their schedules and buying textbooks so the classes haven’t really picked up yet but I’ll make sure to report back when they do. On Monday night I went to the grocery store and cooked my first dinner in the apartment; anyone who knows me well could probably tell you how much joy this brought me. The produce and food in general here is so fresh and really has little to no preservatives in it so although it doesn’t keep long in the fridge, it tastes SO good. On Wednesday night I tried out for the John Cabot University soccer team and made it! If I am being totally honest they didn’t make any cuts but it felt so great to be back on the field. Our coach speaks little to no English and about half of the girls are Italian and speak broken English but to me soccer speaks a language in itself. Running until I cant breathe, the smile of connecting a few passes in a row, and celebration of scoring a goal under the Roman rain shares a conversation I will probably never be able to have out loud but it bring so much happiness to my heart. Playing again brings me back to my favorite memories from high school on the field with my best friends, and it is definitely making Rome feel more like home.
Early Thursday morning my roommate Sydney and I got on a plane with a few friends to Budapest, Hungary for the weekend; it was a bit of a spontaneous trip. I spent the weekend exploring the Buda Castle, which was the Royal Palace for the old Hungarian Kings, bathing in natural hot springs in the city center, exploring the Ruins Bars and traveling outside the city to attend a Hungarian food and wine festival. It was an exhausting but extremely rewarding weekend.
The first meal I ate in Budapest was a traditional Hungarian lunch, which consisted of Goulash soup (Google this there is no good way to explain it), Paprika chicken and Hungarian pasta, and some sort of Mocha crepe. Although this food was pretty good, I have to say Italy wins out in this category. Unfortunately Sydney and I couldn’t totally get on board with the Hungarian food and ended up eating some American food while we traveled around. After this meal we walked over a bridge connecting Buda and Pest, the two parts of the city, to see the castle. The architecture of the castle and the view from the top was truly astonishing. The Hungarians use so many different colors and details in their buildings and the turquoises, yellows, and reds are like sprinkles on top of the city, making me feel like a child, not sure where to dig in first.
In my opinion, everyone should visit Budapest for the baths alone. In a few areas of the city center there are natural thermal springs that are surrounded by colorful buildings where the locals apparently gather just to hang out. The temperature of the air on Friday was about 35 degrees, while the baths were about 98 degrees. In the bath it is so surreal and so relaxing to be surrounded by steaming water, fountains, and happy people who have come to hang out with their friends, husbands, and many tourists. Although if you do visit I have to warn you that the large, hairy Hungarian men are quite a sight in their speedos; Sydney and I were too caught up the experience to care about it though.
To get to the Hungarian food festival we took the Metro to the Bus Station where we bought a ticket to Etyek, a small winery town about 45 minutes outside of Budapest. I would like to point out that everything on public transportation is in Hungarian and we figured it all out which made me feel quite accomplished considering my lack of sense of direction. At this “Piknik” I bought a wine glass and could walk around asking for tastes of the local food and wine, and if I wanted anything more than a taste I would have to buy it. I tried a couple of wines and some food that I can’t confidently identify but everything was delicious. People enjoying local, homemade food and wine is pretty much what I live for so I thought I would feel at home at this festival.
Ironically, I have never felt farther from home. Sydney and I were DEFINITELY the only Americans there and not too many people spoke English. In these situations it sometimes feels embarrassing to be an American. A lot of people stare at you and when you speak with them its shocking for them to learn that most of us only know one language. I like to think of myself as a considerate person and when someone knows English and I have no idea how to speak their language I feel quite selfish and inconsiderate. It is definitely something I would like to work on in the future. But besides a little bit of a language barrier, people were incredibly nice to us, letting us try all of their foods and giving us some free hot wine, a very common drink at this time of year in Hungary.
I finally arrived back in Rome at about 9am this morning and it felt great to be back at my second home. I missed the Italian food, and my roommates, and the familiar city. It is comforting for me to feel reassured when I arrive back in Rome after a long weekend. As for how I feel about the trip so far, exploring Europe is crazy and amazing but it is hard work. It is so easy to feel sad and lonely about being far from home when I am settling down for the night, but then I think about all the amazing things I have already done, and what I have coming in the next few months and I feel adventurous and accomplished.
There are so many things that no one tells you when you study abroad and when they unexpectedly happen you kind of just have to deal with it. Whether it is going through the long Visa process, the intense Jet Lag, or the stress of balancing classes and travel, you really can’t anticipate these things. The hardest part of this process for me so far is that I can’t be totally independent here. I love to spend time with my friends and I have enjoyed getting to know all these new people, but I can’t go to the supermarket by myself, or go on a nice long run along the river alone. I am hoping that after a few more weeks in the city I will be comfortable enough to do small things alone, but for now it’s the buddy system all the way. I am a very stubborn, independent person and I like things done a certain way (my mom will tell you that I have been this way my whole life) so it is difficult for me to work around other people’s schedules and struggle with doing simple tasks like grocery shopping and exercising. I am hoping and already feeling that this will help me to be less rigid and controlling with things that usually cause me stress.
With another week of classes and traveling quickly approaching and some homework and sleep to catch up on after a crazy couple of days I have a lot on my mind, but I’m just going to take this one day at a time and be grateful for this incredibly crazy experience.
Waldo Blessed to be in Budapest