While preparing myself for studying away this semester, one of my biggest fears was to be walking out at night.
For religious/spiritual/superstitious/my-strict-dad’s-rules/my-hermit-crab-lifestyle reasons, I figured that- even if walking at night was my biggest fear- it was an irrational fear because I would have no reason to be out at night…
Well. My first Monday in Budapest proved my theory to be completely wrong.
It started with a plan to meet up with my friend, Gavin, who I had met online. He was a student of one of my friends, and back in the summer of 2021, I had heard of his plans to study architecture in Pecs, Hungary. Like me, Gavin was Hmong and grew up with similar family values that I had grown up with. This meant that we had grown up with a family-oriented mindset that prioritized work over play. So when it was time for us to meet up, we had no clue what to do. With my knowledge of Budapest (which consisted of supermarkets and parks), a tour of Budapest’s best playgrounds did not sound most amusing- nor the best first impression I wanted on my new friend. To counter this, I desperately scavenged some coins, thinking we could spend the afternoon playing checkers at a local park.
(Thankfully, we did not end up doing that.)
Instead, when Gavin arrived, he came with his friend, Daniel. Daniel was exploring Europe and made a stop in Hungary to visit. In addition, he had lived and visited several countries before coming to Hungary. Unlike Gavin and I, Daniel was experienced in “exploration” and comfortable with experimentation.
So without a plan, he led us on a journey to see everything and nothing.
We first explored the city by walking past Hero’s Square to Lake City Park. There, there was a large tour group spread throughout the bridge. Tour guides were wearing bright pink shirts whilst the majority of tourists were sporting a visor. As the group engulfed the sidewalk, we squeezed past them to Vajdahunyad Castle. From there, we went to a local bath house to the House of Music.
We then went to the Parliament Building. Although it was a 40-minute walk or so from the House of Music, I felt that I truly needed to get to know the city through such an endeavor. We arrived at the Parliament sometime in the evening and were able to take some pictures before it got dark.
It was then that I became acquainted with the night “side” of Budapest.
As it got dark, lights around the Parliament turned on- illuminating the architecture of the building. And although it was past 8:30 PM, people were still walking down the streets, admiring the Parliament, eating at local restaurants, and more. This sort of night differed from the nights that I knew in St. Paul, MN, and it was honestly surprising to think that quiet nights (that may be filled with ambiance and occasional sirens of police cars) weren’t universal around the world…
But I think this is one of those: you never know until you try moments.
I had never known that I would be someone who enjoys late night city walks.
And I had never known how people can bring a city to live at night.