On “what if”s, forks in the road and also: how do waves work?

I started this blog about four years ago to deal with my post-travel blues. I always expected to kick out the travel blues by now, and get my backpack from under the dust again. But four years after putting the backpack in storage and the post-travel blues moving in, going on the road again is not what’s next for us.

Four years ago, I met my then-boyfriend-now-husband while on the road in Australia. (I still get SO excited calling him my husband!) We were both there on a working holiday visa and whereas he didn’t really plan to go back (or plan anything at all, as a matter of fact), I had a job waiting for me back home. My plan was to go home after one year so I could pursue a PhD, starting in October 2014. It was the opportunity of a lifetime and I just had to try it. And I did. And it wasn’t for me. But I’m not one for giving up, so here I am, almost four years later, absolutely and totally ready to move on from my life in academics. So after my one year down under, I moved back to Belgium and the husband came with. We always said that after my contract would finish, it would be up to him where we go next. We might go back on another working holiday someplace else, we might move to England (where he is from), or do something different altogether. But as it turns out, making plans, even these kinds of super vague ones, for something that is four years away, didn’t work.

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(I absolutely loved waking up in a tent to absolute nothingness when we were first on the road together.)

I am now 27 and the husband is 30. Yes, I think that is freakishly old. But it is definitely too young to make long term plans. Four years ago, I was a silly 23-year old! I thought I would still have all the freedom in the world after my PhD. And don’t get me wrong, we do. We don’t have a mortgage, no pets, no kids. Nothing really ties us down. But we have opportunities. Just like my PhD was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, the husband now has a very exciting job. It drives him crazy a lot of the time, the last month more than it used to, but we know that in this job, he will get opportunities he might not get anywhere else. He’s been there for about two years now and his job has already changed so much. The company is expanding super fast and he gets to ride the wave. And he’s riding it to the top! (Is that a thing? I think you might actually ride a wave from top to bottom, or maybe from side to side? But you get what I mean, right?) So if we pack up and leave now, we would always be wondering, what if…

Ah, the million dollar “what if” question. It’s how I’ve figured out every dilemma I’ve ever faced. Which decision do I need to make so that in five years time, I WON’T ask myself “what if”. If I do the One Thing, will I regret not doing the Other? Will I ask myself: What if I did the Other Thing? Or if I do do the Other thing, will I ask myself, what if I did the One thing? It works pretty well. It made me go to Australia.

Me talking to myself five years ago: “Fast forward five years in time: will I regret not having gone to Australia for a year because instead I chose to spend time with my grandparents, or will I regret having actually gone to Australia because I didn’t get to spend more time with my grandparents?” My grandparents thought it was a stupid question with an obvious answer, so I went and sent them lots of post cards. And after these five years, me as well as my grandparents are indeed super happy I went and found my now-husband. Not once did I ask myself the question “what if I would’ve stayed home?” Even writing down that question makes me giggle because it is just too stupid for words.

For the PhD, I asked myself the same question: in five years time, will I regret not having tried the PhD to travel for a bit longer, or will I regret not having traveled longer to try the PhD. Honestly, at this moment, I’m not so sure if I made the right decision. This PhD really changed me into a much less happy person. I’ve asked myself the horrid “what if” a thousand times already. But on the other hand, if I wouldn’t have tried it, I would’ve always felt like I let an opportunity slip through my fingers and still wondered “what if”. Seems like there was just no way to win there.

So I guess my “in five years time” method isn’t as failsafe as I thought it was. Which makes it so much harder now that we are stood in front of the next fork in the road! If we want to go adventuring again (and then I mean proper adventuring, just the backpacks and us, for a long long time, with no ties to come back to a “home” any time soon), we let a lot of opportunities pass us by. But if these opportunities turn out to be the same kind of buzzkill like my PhD was, then we might end up regretting not having taken the leap.

I’ve read many a blog of young couples like us, saying that nothing prevents us to pack up and leave now or at a later stage in life. But I don’t agree. There are other things in life we also want. And what these hipster travellers fail to mention, is that you can’t have it all. The husband, he is ambitious. The jobs you get on the road hardly are. Me, I like a little bit of stability. Just knowing that we have a place to come home to. When I was younger, that was my parents house. But now, for the husband and me, that wouldn’t be a home. It would be a short-term solution. And also, we want to have a family. Tick tock says the biological clock. One baby on the road, exciting! Two babies on the road, exhausting! Not to forget wanting to give your children all the opportunities you can, including a stable home.

Does that mean this is it for us? The last fork in the road where at least one of the two options involves a crazy travel adventure? I don’t know. And I won’t know. Not all the planning in the world can help me out here. We just have to ride the wave, whether it goes up or down or sideways or maybe it’s just a really calm day and there are no waves at all. Maybe it’s time I stop thinking so much of the future and of the future “what if” moments I may have. Because if there’s anything I learned during my four years of PhD hell, it’s that you just don’t know what will come next. So rather than picking the option you think you’ll be happy with five years from now, maybe we should just pick the option we’re happy with now?

DAMN THAT’S SCARY! And: what does it mean!

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One Month From Now…

In exactly one month, it’ll be March 11th. It will be a special day.

Let me run you through the next month. Tomorrow, it’s Monday. Which means, back to work. It’s been really tough, I’m in the last year of my PhD and I’m SO done with it! Turns out the PhD really wasn’t for me, and I’m really getting more annoyed with it by the day. I just really hope I can finish this thing sooner rather than later and move on to something new and exciting. And also, I really really hope that I won’t regret having spent four years of my life on this. I hate getting stuck in “what if”s, so when it comes to decision times I always try to think: “What will I regret the most?” Like when I was thinking of going to Australia for a year. “What will I regret the most? If I go to the other side of the globe and maybe something happens to my grandparents and I won’t be around? Or if I don’t go?” I figured I’d forever wonder “what if” if I wouldn’t have gone, so I did it. And thank goodness I did, because not only did I have a spectacular year, I also met the love of my life there.

So tomorrow, back to work. I made myself a deadline for the end of the month to have a first full draft of the dissertation. That is so not going to happen, but I’ll now try to have a first draft of the first part (out of three). The second part is roughly finished, and the third part still needs a lot of work. And then there’s the intro, conclusion, methodology, appendices, bibliography, etc. Worries for later I guess. Ugh.

The day after tomorrow, my students are coming round to look at their exams. January was exam period, and now that the students have gotten their results I’m getting emails left right and centre for them to come look at their exams. Now this year, my students were quite different from the last few years. They have this weird sense of “that’s not fair”. Maybe it’s to do with this whole millenial business, you know, the fact that millenials feel entitled and stuff (watch this super interesting video by Simon Sinek if you don’t know what I’m on about). Maybe that stuff has finally reached Belgium. I think technically, I’m a millenial too, but I’m not half as bad as my students this year! The course I teach is a tiny tiny course in the first year. Just some terminology of (Dutch) linguistics that’ll serve as a base for the next few years of theory. Really, it’s just getting a hang of the linguistic vocabulary. This is a pronoun. This is an adverb. This is a pronominal adverb (which is only called like that because linguists can’t make up their minds on whether they are adverbs or pronouns, I guess). Now, the grading for the course is a bit peculiar. During the semester, the students have to make tests online (with all their materials available to them), multiple choice. At the end of the semester, there’s also an exam, again multiple choice but this time without their course books and stuff. On a multiple choice test with 4 answer options, you have one chance in 4 that you’ll pass by guessing. So to control for that, students have to get 80% of the questions right to pass the course. Considering that it is such a basic course, I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Also, they only have 7 classes and the course book consists of not even 30 pages. But yet, every class we spent about 15 minutes discussing the grading system. And they’re only first year students! I feel like one of the things you learn at school, is that in some cases, you just smile and nod! You need to learn to pick you battles, right? And battling with me over some silly tests about absolutely basic knowledge for your academic career, that’s just such a waste of time for all of us. So Tuesday, when the students come by, I’m not quite sure yet how to play it. Either I listen to their “concerns” and try to justify the grading system, or I calmly tell them to deal with it. I hope I won’t lose my cool!

Wednesday, I go to the gym and try again for the stupid dissertation. Thursday, same story. Friday,… You know what, I’ll just skip ahead. Friday the 2nd of March is my last day of work before three weeks of holiday. That’s why I wanted to get that first full draft done, that way I could just relax and wait for the reviews to come in with absolutely no worries because there’d be absolutely nothing that would need to get done. I’m annoyed it won’t happen, because it is my own fault. I can be so damn lazy and I stopped enjoying the PhD a while ago, so it’s really hard to motivate myself to do anything. And then I slack. And then nothing happens. And then I don’t make my deadlines. Ugh.

But back to the fun stuff. The 11th of March in particular. Because, the 11th of March will be the first day in my life being married to my soulmate! I’m so excited to start calling him My Husband, put that ring on his finger and show the world that what we have is truly something unique.

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Scotland in Love

I feel slightly guilty saying this, but I went on a holiday and I didn’t blog! To be honest, I even forgot about the blog. You see, this holiday was going to be an “away from everything” one. We were staying in a cabin by Loch Ken close to Galloway Forrest Park in the south west of Scotland. There were no plugs, no phone service, no appliances. The whole cabin operated purely on solar energy and some gas for the cooker and the hot water. So it didn’t really make much sense to bring our electronics as we wouldn’t be able to charge them anyways, and as we really wanted to get away from it all!

I can’t tell you how amazing it’s been to be away from all emails and social media! I really haven’t missed it for a second. And now that we’re back home, I really notice how different my day is when I forget about social media for a while! It’s amazing! For the Boyfriend as well, since he is always checking his emails for work and is a mad social media fan. His phone was out of power for a few days and it really changed our days! Sadly, his camera was out of juice as well, so there went his planned past time. But I secretly may have liked it. At least for that big hike we did. 21kms! Booyah! Longest hike we’ve done so far. And there was NO camera, NO phone, just us two and the forest and the sea and the birds and the sun. A whole day of each others company with nothing intervening. Fun fun fun!

Especially because at that point, we had something to celebrate…

Ladies and Gentleman! The Boyfriend is now the Fiancé! He proposed at the shore of Loch Ken at sunset, with the sky all purple and pink and the most perfect peace and quiet and oh man it was SO romantic! And spontaneous! Apparently he’d had the ring for a while and planned to do it in Scotland, and that night he just felt like it was the right moment. It really was. It was perfect! I have never been so happy before in my life, blahdeeblah cliché I know, but I really don’t know how else to say it. I felt a rush of emotions I had never felt before, I was crying and laughing and jumping up and down and kissing him and felt like there were fireworks of fluffiness exploding in my chest. (My  brand new Fitbit put my heart rate at 120bpm! Madness!) I am so happy that I am going to marry this most extroardinary person who makes me smile and giggle and burst with laughter every single day! Who gives the bestest cuddles and makes me feel so comfortable and at home. Who still makes me feel so insanely in love and fluttery just by smiling one of his thousand different amazing smiles of me. And now I don’t only get to tell everyone about how perfect he is for me and how I want to share my world with him, we’ll get to show everyone by marrying each other! I AM SERIOUSLY BURSTING WITH JOY!!!!

I was going to write a whole post about our holiday and what we’ve been upto but oh well, I got distracted again. I might just leave it at this and go cuddle my FIANCÉ 😀

Pinterest Failures – Improvised Cooking

A few months back, a friend introduced me to Pinterest and I became wildly enthusiastic about trying new things, mostly for cooking, gardening and DIYing. But so far, the results are just slightly off course 😉

You see, I lack any sense of perfectionism. Like seriously, if you look up the opposite for ‘a perfectionist’, you find my name. Which comes in handy once in a while. At work for example, you don’t find me stressing about finishing stuff and working until 11.59pm on the day of a deadline. At some point, I’ve simply had enough, and that’s when my work is finished. Which has always worked for me so far. (Although the question if it will actually get me as far as writing my dissertation and actually finish this PhD remains a bit of a wild guess.) Also, I do not get the point of cupcakes. I love baking, but for me it’s all about the flavour. And I do think I sort of got the hang of that part. But cupcakes usually are just boring cakes with insane decorations. And I just don’t have the patience for those decorations! Or actually, I’m not sure if it’s patience related, I might just not see the point for them 😉

Now for Pinterest, this has been a bit of an issue. Whenever I try to make recipes on Pinterest, I just sort of look at the picture and the title, and then go to the shop to buy ingredients. When I come home, I realise there’s more to the dish than its picture told me, and I start improvising. I do this really often, improvising dishes just from a first recipe glance, and usually they turn out fine. But the thing with the Pinterest ones is that I’ve been trying some rather new stuff. And it doesn’t always turn out the way I expect.

The other day, I wanted to make Black Bean and Spinach Enchiladas. Now, I have no idea what black beans are. This happens to me more often when cooking of English recipes. I’m not a native speaker, and when it comes to food, I simply lack vocabulary. For example, I still don’t know what lentils are. I haven’t really come across them in Belgium, so I have NO idea what they are called here and where to find them. Also, I have this suspicion that sour cream, which is really hard to find here, might just be the same as platte kaas (which is something we consider a cheese rather than a cream). But let’s get back to the Enchiladas. I went for kidney beans instead of black beans. Also, salsa verde: never heard of. I asked a friend of mine who studied in Spain for a while. She said it’s a green paste. So I used pesto instead. Another one: green onions. I assumed they were spring onions, but I have to say, the spring onions really didn’t work in this dish for me. They totally overruled all the other flavours. The sauce also turned out way too salty because of the stock I was using. And I could not figure out how to wrap up the enchiladas so they wouldn’t fall apart as soon as I tried transporting them from oven dish to plate. Needless to say: not the best food I’ve ever had. But I will make it again though, this time my way. Mostly, I need to figure out something with that sauce. And get rid of the spring onions.

Yesterday, I tried making Creamy Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna. Sounds delicious, right? Well, I have to say, it was! I did pimp the recipe a bit though. You see, as I was grilling my mushrooms, I realised the recipe wanted me to make a roux-like sauce out of it. As much as I like my rouxs, I did not see how I would bring this to a good end. I was using a wide low pan to grill the mushrooms, and the recipe wanted me to add flour, and then whisk trough milk. This would end in roux splatters all over my kitchen. So I just threw in some platte kaas which I still had lying around in the fridge and added just a little bit of flour to thicken it. As it turns out, when platte kaas is heated up, it just sort of disappears. There was no sauce to be seen. How mysterious! I also added a tomato sauce to the dish. I figured that both a roux (or not) and ricotta cheese as only sauces, might just make a bit too creamy for my non-cream-loving boyfriend. So the result: a vegetarian lasagne with mushrooms, spinach, tomato sauce and ricotta cheese. Not bad I must say! A lot lighter than your usual lasagna because of the no-roux, and the ricotta cheese makes a wonderful alternative for this! Although since this was a vegetarian lasagna, I might just add a few more veggies next time. Maybe some courgette and fresh tomatoes? Or some celery in the tomato sauce. Umm, I already want to start cooking again just thinking about it!

But thanks to Pinterest, I totally found a love for lasagna. I never used to make lasagne because I always figures it’s waaaaay to much work. But it’s actually quite allright. You do have to make a few sauces, but because the lasagna has to go in the oven for a while, you can clean up the kitchen while you wait for the lasagna to cook and it makes the whole event of cooking a lot less stressful. If you would see the state of my kitchen sometimes when I’m cooking, you would understand. It’s like a bomb exploded in there. And if you then have four pans on the hob of things that need to be cooked at the same time, and then put on a plate before they get cold, and then want to eat them, it’s like freaking armageddon. None of that while making lasagne though!

I also tried a Zucchini Lasagna, where you replace the pasta with courgette (or zucchini, whichever way you like your English) and add loads of veggies. I figured this would add a lot of juice to the dish, and to fix this, they suggest you add a little bit of quinoa underneath each layer of zucchini. Didn’t really got rid of any of the juice it seemed, but man that was a tasty dish! (I did just make a normal lasagna tomato sauce though, rather than the weird turkey thing with a jar of basil tomato sauce like they suggested. Instead: diced onion, garlic, chilly, mince, red wine, canned tomatoes and tomato paste in that order. Perfect tomato meat sauce, I tell ya!) So to remember for next time: this one needs serving in soup bowls, with a big piece of brown bread to sop up the saucy soupness.

What are your experiences with Pinterest cooking? Any recipes I should try? Are you an improviser too? Or do you know what happens if you follow these recipes to the letter? I’m curious to hear about your stories 🙂

Tech and Games for Non-Geeks

I’ve gotten myself a Fitbit! Why? Really, it’s the boyfriend’s fault. Have I mentioned how he loves his tech toys? Not in a million years would I have guessed I’d be living in an apartment with a television that big. Or even a television at all. I always do everything with my laptop and my phone. That’s the only tech I need. I never buy anything new until one of those two falls apart completely because I don’t like spending money on that stuff. But now the boyfriend has all this fun tech that he gets so enthusiastic about and it’s so contagious!

For example: I now watch him play Playstation games. Let me tell you, I am not a gamer and don’t think I’ll ever be one, but watching those story games is just like watching a super long movie and playing a board game at the same time. It’s something really fun to do together if you also happen to have a partner with a much higher level of ‘geekiness’ (which I use in a very loving way) then you have yourself. I for example really enjoyed Firewatch, about a ranger in a national park where someone disappeared, and some weird stuff happens. I also weirdly enjoy Hitman, because it’s kinda like an interactive Bond movie. You go to different places like Bangkok, where you get a target and a bunch of information, and you spend your game trying to find ways to get to your target without being caught and all that. Great fun! I tried playing it myself once but man, those controls are tricky to use! It’s much more fun having the boyfriend do the hard work while I just watch and make suggestions. And that way he gets to do his thing and play games, and I get to do my thing, which at that point is sitting on the couch and figuring out stuff, think riddles like in escape rooms and all that.

Also, he now has this super fancy super fast gaming computer (which he got under the pretence of needing a faster computer for editing his videos, as of course, he’s a bit of a vlogger) with some really fun simulator games. (This is when I found out that name The Sims comes from the fact that it’s a simulator game 😉 ) Once in a while, I enjoy a good Cities Skylines marathon. (It’s kinda like a new Sim Cities, but better apparently.)

I even didn’t let my old phone fall into pieces before I got a new one! Well, new one. My phone was starting to get slow and it didn’t really have much space for all the apps I like using (most of them recommended to me by the boyfriend, of course), so naturally the boyfriend had another phone lying around that I now get to use, an LG G3. Bigger, faster, newer. It does the trick 😉

And my latest addition: a Fitbit sports watch and activity tracker! The boyfriend somehow managed to get a free upgrade from his dad’s old broken Fitbit, and ever since he’s been super conscious about his physical health. We’ve always tried to be healthy, go for walks and runs and eat decent food, but only to the point where we enjoy it. We’re definitely not fitness freaks and still love our pizza and chocolate, but we’ve found it does help us to be happy if we’re healthy. And now, we’re really trying to change our lifestyle for the better!

This Fitbit also has a great app where you can have a little energising social network. The boyfriend’s been doing these challenges with his colleagues to see who gets the most steps and all that, and it really makes him get out and about more. For me, I always enjoy going for a run but I never really know if I’m making any progress, because I always end up running longer and longer but never really any faster it seems. Also, rather than just training on cardio, I should really try to burn some fat if I want my general fitness (which isn’t bad at this point really) to get any better. I’m overweight, so the best thing for me to do is train on a slightly lower heart rate until I have a more healthy weight. And then, my general fitness should start improving like a rocket. But obviously, apart from checkin my level of ‘red face’ in the windows of the houses I run passed, I have no idea how hard I’m actually training. So finally, now, my brand new Fitbit Surge tells me all I need to know! It tells me my heart rate, how fast I’m running, and on top of all that it also does the daily activity tracking and it’s super user friendly app totally let’s me keep on top of my health, which so far, I’m really enjoying.

Whether I’m enjoying it because it’s a fun tech toy and the idea of being active is sort of game-ified or I’m just enjoying being more active, at this point I don’t think it matters. All I know is that I feel healthier, happier, and I hope I’ll keep enjoying it like I am now.

So even for people generally suspicious of tech who might think, just like I did, that ‘you don’t need any of this stuff to be who you want to be, or to be happy’, I say true. But it definitely a lot more fun to have than I expected 😉

Budapest Highlights

So I was going to blog day by day as me and the boyfriend citytripped our way through Budapest, but I got stuck after day 1. Not because I didn’t have loads to tell, if anything, because there was too much to tell! And before I knew it, I was back at work being busy. Sigh. But I am not quite finished with my Budapest story, so here are the two things from this holiday I will never forget, for which I thank you my dear Budapest!

The Parliament – On our second day in Budapest, we decided to explore the area we were staying at a bit more: Parliament District. One of the first things I noticed, was that it was very quiet in the neighbourhood. Which basically went for our whole stay. (I guess it wasn’t really the tourist season, but still, at some points I almost started wondering if there was a zombie apocalypse on the way that no one warned us about. So if you do want to take the risk of the weather, which for us turned out absolutely wonderful, visiting Budapest in late winter is definitely a recommendation!) We relaxed a little bit on Liberty Square (Szabadság tér) whilst sipping a coffee in the sun before we headed down to the Parliament (Országház) . And wow, what a Parliament! That is by far the most impressive building I have ever seen! We spent quite a while just walking around and around and ended up ordering some Sacher Torte (I know, not very Hungarian but very Austrian, but I couldn’t help myself) on the sunny terrace of a nearby cafe overlooking the parliament. What a peaceful and wonderful morning that was!

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The Danube – Most big cities are built around water, and I always think it’s so nice to get that other perspective by seeing the city from the water. Especially at night, when the whole city lights up. I had a chance to take an evening cruise in Saint-Petersburg six years ago now and I can still remember how impressed I was at the different feel I got of the city. So naturally, an evening boat tour on the Danube was a must do for me. It took us a while to decide what tour we wanted to take (so much choice!) but in the end we just went for it and booked a four course dinner one. Every holiday needs at least one fancy splash out, right? Well, this one made it to the top of my list of fancy!

Our boat had a top completely out of glass, and we were sat right at the side with a perfect view. In the corner, there was a small band playing some very agreeable jazz tunes. Romantic set up: check! We were welcomed with a nice glass of bubbles and off went our boat. The views were absolutely stunning! And because the boat did the same tour around three times, you didn’t have to worry about missing out when focussing on the food. Which was totally spot on as well. I started with the goose liver pate, then had a pumpkin soup and as a main both me and the boyfriend went for the duck, which was served with a berry sauce on a mountain of roasted vegetables. So very tasty! The ingredients were superb and the combinations just perfect. The desert was a bit too heavy for me (a chocolate cake), which hardly ever happens , but nothing a fresh breeze out on the deck couldn’t fix. After our coffee, we headed outside to be amazed once more. Seriously though, that parliament building!

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So to finish off my first holiday report of 2017: if you have been to Budapest before, I hope you enjoyed my little trip down Budapest memory lane. If you haven’t: you simply must go! It is such an interesting city that will surprise you in many ways, and there are a thousand and one things to do! Go to a ruin bar in the evening and drink cocktails. Visit the caves underneath the castle if you want to learn about Budapest’s slightly creepier stories. Go to not one but a few spas, because a lot of the smaller ones are just so cheap it would be silly not to end a day of walking this way and that in a hot relaxing bath. Eat, because those hipster Hungarians really know their way around the kitchen! Drink, because they also know a little something about wine! Relax, enjoy, and be amazed 🙂

Budapest Day 1 – The City and The Bath

What to do on your first day in any city? Well, take a free walking tour of course! It’s the perfect way to get to know the city, what’s there and what’s hot, and to figure out what main sights you really want to explore. Generally, these tours take you along all the classic tourist spots and fill you in on their standard need to knows. Not just names and dates, but also loads of interesting stories. Like for example that Disney got some if its inspiration for the castle in its opening sequence from a particular view of the towers at the Fisherman’s Bastion. Fun fact!

We started off with some beautiful sunshine, which, I’m sure you fellow way-north-of-the-equator bloggers can agree with, was everything I could’ve ever wished for on this holiday. So when the sun did disappear later during the day, I wasn’t too gutted because I really felt like I sufficiently charged my batteries for the day 🙂

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Buda Castle, as seen from the Pest side of the Danube

We walked down to the Danube and overlooked the Buda hills from the Pest side of the Danube, were told about Budapest’s ruin pubs (*added to the to do list*) and its wines and desserts (*also added to the to do list*),  had a quick stop at Saint Stephen’s Basilica which was one of the prettiest cathedrals  I’ve ever seen from the outside (I don’t know the difference between a church and a basilica, but since this one was big, I’m calling it a cathedral). Then we walked over the Buda side on the Chain Bridge and admired the Castle and the views in Buda, before strolling over to the stunning Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion, where we also had an amazing view of the Parliament (*added this one to the to do list too*). The church made me think a little bit of the city hall back home in Leuven, especially its towers, which was really quite surprising because as much as we compare new travel destinations with old ones (even though in basically all cases, it’s like comparing apples and oranges and I’m not quite sure why we do it), I had never compared new travel destinations with home. Which made me kind of proud of our little home base!

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St. Matthias Church

From there, we made our way down to the Jewish quarter where Lonely Planet had told us there would be a farmer’s market in a ruin pub. We had lunch in a tucked away book cafe at the top of a big book shop. There was no one there, but I had the yummiest cheese toastie ever! I think they put sour cream on it, together with two different kinds of cheese! Oh man! After a coffee, we were sufficiently rejuvenated to tackle on. Of course, when we got to the ruin bar, the market had already finished, but it was so worth the trip nevertheless! For those of you who haven’t heard of ruin pubs: it’s basically what the locals did to a lot of abandoned buildings. They turned ‘m into pubs. And decorated it with whatever they could find. Those who say hipsterdom started in Berlin, obviously haven’t been to  Budapest. Or actually, maybe not. Because to me, hipsters always try to hard. Whereas this place was just there the way it was because it was there the way it was. I’m probably not making much sense, but then neither did Szimpla Ruin Bar 😉

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Szimpla Ruin Pub during daytime. 

At this point, our feet were starting to protest against the extensive citytripping, so we decided to try one of the famous Budapest Baths. After some extensive Lonely Planet Research, we decided to go with the Veli Vej Bath, which is one of the four baths that go back all the way to the beginning of Budapest Bath Culture under the Ottoman occupation. Most impressive feature: the octagonal pool under the old dome. Water temperature: around 38 degrees. Budapest is basically built on an area full of underground hotsprings, with temperatures of up to 80 degrees when reaching the surface. There were also a few Turkish baths and a Finnish sauna, a pool for swimming laps, a few smaller pools with varying degrees of colder to very cold water, and one of those baths where you walk over stones in cold and hot water. After the walking we did, it was the perfect kind of relaxation!

On the way home, we stopped off at the Budapest Barbecue Company, which was a gigantic hip restaurant dealing in meat, meat, and meat. We had a few cocktails and some food, but mostly we enjoyed their music. The drinks and food weren’t that impressive, but the music kept us there for a good while. One classic after another, from Queen to The Bee Gees and the Beatles. Fun ending to a great first day!