4 Day Roadtrip - Cluj-Napoca, Romania & Budapest, Hungary

As stated in an earlier post, this road trip was my last trip of the summer. I should go ahead and say that traveling to Romania and Hungary in late July was not my best idea. Dang, it was HOT! Some places did have air conditioning, but not enough to successfully combat the heat. Nevertheless, I had a great time in these countries and it will be a trip I could never forget. So let's jump right into it...

Day 1
I got into Cluj-Napoca super early in the morning from Malmö. My border control agent was surprised that I willingly wanted to spend my vacation time in Romania. I might have ended up on a list of crazies. I took a taxi from the airport into town to tuck into my hostel for a few hours. I woke up to have breakfast at the hostel which was included. However usually when you have breakfast at a hotel or hostel it's just a buffet where you can take what you please and when you please. This hostel was a little different. When I checked in, I was given a menu and asked what I'd like for breakfast and what time I roughly planned to have breakfast. I decided on the American pancakes with seasonal fruit and I was not disappointed or maybe I was just hungry. While the food was great, the coffee left something to be desired so after getting ready for the day I set off to find a coffee place. To my surprise, there were plenty to choose from. I walked past a cute little place called Marabou with an iced latte ad in the window since it was only 10 am and already about 82 degrees, I stepped in to try out this iced latte. It was wonderful! As I sat and sipped I checked up on the whereabouts of a classmate I was planning on meeting. Strangely enough, she had already arrived in the city and was sitting in the coffee shop across the street (Narcoffee). So I traveled across the street for iced latte number 2 of the day. Again, it was great. Less than 12 hours in the country and I love how much they cherish good coffee.

Delicious breakfast at the hostel!

Romanian Opera House

So I met up with my friend, Madalina, and we planned what we would do for the day. She took me on a grand walking tour of the city. The city is manageable to walk around and see the major sites in a day. We walked through the Old Town and a great huge park stopping of course for ice cream. It was really great to hear Madalina's memories and thoughts of the city as we walked through it. She completed her bachelor's degree here before moving to Sweden. We had a late lunch at a traditional restaurant called Zama. It was terrific! I ordered a grilled chicken, polenta and lemonade for about $8. Seriously, I felt like a queen while in Romania. The quality of the food, coffee and ice cream were great for the small price. After lunch, we walked some more around the city. We went to a rooftop bar where you had a great view of the city. We didn't get anything here but just hung out and took some pictures. We did stop once more at a coffee shop (Meron) before Madalina had to head back home. Once Madalina left I realized how pooped I was. I stopped by the grocery store to get some snacks (snacks are essential while traveling). 

Lunch at Zama

View from rooftop bar

Day 2
For my second and last day in Cluj, I slept in as much as I could. This morning for breakfast I had a bruschetta toast - once again - very tasty! Tonight I would be taking Flixbus from Cluj to Budapest, and I always like to travel at least once to the bus stop because sometimes they can be very difficult to find. I 'd rather get lost 12 hours before departure rather than getting stressed out an hour before. I'm very glad I mapped out my way from the hostel to the bus terminal because I seriously got lost, but I saw a lot of Cluj on the way! Once I found the bus terminal and made my way back to the city center, it was ice cream time. After gobbling up some well-deserved ice cream, I ventured to all of the churches in Cluj that Madalina and I had skipped. Pro tip: if you are traveling somewhere in the height of summer, go to a church or two - for some divine reason churches are usually cool both in architecture and temperature. I probably looked quite holy as I sat in one church just unable to move back into the heat from the chilliness of inside the church. Just thanking Jesus with quality time for making the church so wonderful and cool. As I visited the churches, I came across a small street market with a ton of locally made crafts. I got this really wonderful handpainted "catch-all" bowl with a rooster painted on it for only about $2. I returned to the rooftop restaurant (Klausen Burger) that Madalina and I visited the previous day for lunch. I was a little disappointed in the quality of my burger. It was just alright, but in the whole scheme of things for what I paid, it was a fair deal.

Inside the Russian Orthodox church, pretty incredible! 

After lunch, I walked back to the park, wrote some postcard, snacked and people watched. I may have even taken a short little nap. I had to gather my bags before going back to the bus terminal but not before stopping back by Meron for a fika.

I am greatly surprised how much I loved Cluj-Napoca and Romania. The people are very kind, food very tasty and coming from Sweden I felt like everything was cheap. Flights from Malmö are very cheap and regular with Wizzair, so I have a feeling that I will be back! I stayed at the Retro Youth Hostel and I cannot recommend it more! It is centrally located, comfy, inexpensive, and has a great breakfast. The only downside is that the coffee isn't great, but with so many great coffee places around town - it's a blessing in disguise.

Day 3
I arrived in Budapest around 6 am from Flixbus which went as planned but I didn't really sleep much, so I was already a little moody upon my arrival. I decided to go to the Fisherman's Bastion before going to the hostel since I had read that the area gets crazy packed. I am very happy that I pushed myself to do so. Seeing the morning sun on a sleepy Budapest was awesome. By the time I got to my hostel, it was around 8am. I really just wanted to sit, take a shower and be alone for about 30 minutes. I knew my room wouldn't be ready that early yet when I asked if I could take a shower I was told no because I may wake up the guests... I was taken aback by this comment since I, too, was a guest. I don't think running the shower for 5 minutes would have ruined anyone's stay... The receptionist graciously let me wash my face and go to the bathroom. By the time I freshened up my hunger outweighed my anger. I got a nice big breakfast and coffee in the first place I spotted from the tram.  After breakfast, I walked around for a bit and decided to go to Central Market Hall to shop around a little bit. I didn't really find anything I liked but it was fun to look.

By the time I left the market, I was losing steam again and wandered a little bit to find an *air-conditioned* place to get a lemonade. One thing I have noticed about traveling through some of the Eastern European countries, like Poland (Warsaw & Krakow) and the Czech Republic (Prague), is that they know how to do lemonade and I appreciate that - especially in this heat. After chilling out for a little while, I walked down by the river to soak up and sweat. I saw the Shoes on the Danube monument which lies on the Pest side and commemorates the murder of Jews by the Arrow Cross Party and were instructed to take off their shoes before being shot into the Danube. It's a very different and poignant memorial. I walked some more and came across St Stephen's Basilica. Following my theory that churches always provide a divine chilly shelter, I made a beeline inside. There was a small donation required, but I gladly paid it to be able to sit, chill and admire a gorgeous place. By this time it was almost 1 and the receptionist told me that my room would be ready at 1 (and I could shower). I bought a sandwich and some other snackies from a grocery and headed over to the hostel with high hopes of a soft bed ready for me. WELL. When I got back to the hostel I was informed that my bunk was still not ready so I sat and ate my lunch with the saltiest face I could make.

Finally, I was able to enter my room where I napped for about an hour. I felt 100x better afterward and headed straight to spend the evening in the bath. I am very happy that decided to spend an evening in the baths. There are a few baths to go to while in Budapest and I chose to go to Szechenyi Bath. It's the largest and probably the most well-known. If you have googled "Budapest", you probably have seen some pictures. Entrance set me back $18 since I went on a weekday and just rented a locker. If you'd like more privacy, you can rent a cabin for a little more -- but honestly, no one is looking. Since moving to Sweden, I have embraced the sauna culture and I feel like the thermal baths are just a step up from saunas... it's incredible. I spent four hours there without evening realizing it. I didn't think about time - just about how great it was to saunter between the different pools like the princess I am. I finally pulled myself away from the baths in time to see the sunset on the Danube. It was a great way to end a rocky starting day.

Day 4
I slept in until about 9:30, but didn't really get moving until 10. That means I didn't get to the House of Terror until 11:30, but I didn't go to the museum before a coffee stop. I saw an awesome looking cafe from the bus and my coffee senses started to tingle immediately. I stopped into Flow for a quick iced latte - if you are in the neighborhood of the House of Terror stop by this coffee shop - it's great with tasty artisanal coffee. The pastries looked good too, but sadly I had just eaten breakfast. Plus it's air-conditioned!

The House of Terror is a very well done museum about the eras of Hungary being controlled by the Nazis and Communists. The building that now hosts the museum was once the headquarters for both parties executioners. The longer I live in Europe, the more I learn how little Americans know about the rest of the world. Before my trip to Romania and Hungary, I had no idea that these countries were communist. I was a good student too! My mother is a history teacher! I hate that I have to learn something so huge to a country's history, but I love exploring its past at the same time. The entrance was only about $4 since I have proof that I am under 26 and an EU citizen. I'm honestly only a temporary EU citizen, but the cashier wasn't so interested in investigating my Swedish ID. It took me about two hours to go through the whole museum.

Here's where the biggest twist in the adventure occurs...
As I was leaving the museum and set out on my way to lunch at a place that had been recommended by a Hungarian classmate, it started to rain. I pulled out my umbrella - I was prepared. Yet it started to rain heavier so I decided to avoid the rain and get on the bus. I got on and took it to where I needed to get off. As the bus pulls away the crosswalk signal turns green so I start to walk but I was quickly cut off by a cyclist who ran the light. I didn't realize that I fell back into a puddle until some Hungarian guy was helping me up. I tried to thank him to the best of my ability but he didn't speak much English so I carefully got back into the crosswalk and made it to the restaurant. I sat down to order and pulled out my phone. This is when I noticed the damage- when I fell my booty and bag got the worst of it. They were soaked! My phone had been sitting in the front pocket of my bag and of course, just drowned when I fell. I was hoping that it just needed to restart so I turned it off and tried to enjoy my meal. After a while, I tried to turn it back on but it was a goner. So I asked the waitress where the nearest media store was, luckily for me, it was only a short walk away. So off I went to spend my afternoon in a Hungarian media market. The geek squad confirmed the death of my phone, but with a perfectly fine SIM card- they suggested that I buy a cheapo phone. Not really knowing what else to do, I bought a brand new phone and probably the most unique souvenir one can have from Budapest. The guys at the media store were awesome! They even tried to make a joke and put the Hungarian Parliament as my screensaver. At that point, I was a little angry about the whole situation, but now I think it's the best thing ever. Who else can hold up their phone and tell an awesome story about how it came into their possession in a foreign country?! Me - that's who. Unfortunately, I had not uploaded my Budapest pictures to dropbox before this incident, so I have only an evening of Budapest pictures to share.

Hungarian Parliament

Dusk on Buda side of Budapest 
Looking back on the Parliament building from the Buda side
You gotta admit - this phone takes okay pictures

After that little episode, I just walked, roamed. It was a little hard to get back on track and enjoy the rest of my last day on vacation but I managed to make the most of my last evening in gorgeous Budapest!

your little mouse

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