Chapter 4: Budapest

Labor Day update from the Hungarian capital

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Thoughts from the Last Few Days

UGA’s defense is ridiculous this year. Holding Clemson to 2 rushing yards and racking up 7 sacks? Good luck to the rest of the SEC. (Had to cover the most important thing first).

Currency exchange rates are so whack in some countries. I paid 2000 Hugarian forints for a burrito earlier. That’s $6.84. Living like a king rn.

Hungary said “COVID who?” Not a mask in sight. Bars open til five. I watched an anti-COVID restriction demonstration at the Buda Castle yesterday. It’s a welcome change.

Mr. Brightside is an international phenomenon.

I’ve eaten my body weight in gyros over the last two weeks.

Lime scooters are fast as hell here. I think they limit the speed in most American cities for “SaFeTy ReAsOnS”, but we were flying around Budapest yesterday. I’m talking 20 mph+ on a scooter.


Friday, September 3rd

I missed my train from Prague Friday morning. Thanks to my Eurail pass, I was able to grab another one at 10 AM. Tanner and Rylan were on a later train, so I was riding solo for the next six hours. Plenty of time to write, think, and see the countryside. Central Europe is beautiful, full of rolling hills, small towns, and gorgeous rivers.

The train was nice enough, except they had zero toilet paper on a cross-continental trip. I imagine a few travelers (myself included) had to improvise lol. (Don’t ask. But if you’re curious, the story is hysterical).

I got to Budapest around 4:30, and I could not figure out the metro system. I ended up walking like a mile and a half with my hiking backpack, but I made it to the hostel. I met a few of my roommates and went out to explore the city a bit.

Tanner and Rylan arrived a few hours later, and we met back up at the hostel. The staff planned a trip to a “Ruin Bar” (built out of old European ruins) down the road that night. Our hostel group was awesome. We had people from all over the place: Germany, Netherlands, UK, America, and France, to name a few.

I ended up hanging out with two Germans for most of the night:

Chris: He worked for a venture capital firm in Berlin. Smart dude, we talked finance and investing for a while. Chris spent a semester at Emory in Atlanta.

Wiki (pronounced Vicky): She is studying in Hungary. Apparently Europeans get grants from the government to study in other countries for a semester. Pretty sick deal.

The ruin bar was tight.

I went to some discoteca (like EDM night club) for an hour or so after that. Decent club, not my vibe though. Tanner and Rylan were at some massive bar called “Instant” down the road, so I met up with them.

For you guys and girls who hate waiting in line at a bar, I have a fool proof strategy that I broke out for the line at Instant. Worked like a charm. Go up to a group of people near the front of the line. If you’re a guy, say “My girlfriend is in there and she’s too drunk. mind if I get in line with y’all?” If you’re a girl, say “My friend is in there, and she’s too drunk. Mind if I get in line with y’all?” You’re welcome 🤝

This bar was so ridiculous. It had like 7 different rooms with different themes. A main bar, an EDM room, hiphop room, and an alt-rock / metal basement room. We started a mosh pit when Mr. Brightside started playing (naturally), and some Euro bros got straight up bodied.

We made it back by 4, and that was night one.

*Also my instagram got hacked this night lol. Still working on that, Insta customer service is trash. HMU if you can help me out.*

Saturday, September 4th

I woke up around 10 and decided to jog around the city and see some stuff. I ended up running a couple of miles, and found a cafe near the parliament building. Phone eats first:

French toast with honey is a 10/10 European breakfast. I got a tour of the Hungarian Capital (the massive Gothic/domed building in the first picture), and it was awesome.

The building was as much of a palace as it was an office. Hallways adorned with gold columns. Rare paintings on the ceilings. Crowns and jewels on display. Similar to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Virginia, they have a changing of guard ceremony next to the Hungarian Crown in the Parliament.

After the Parliament tour, I crossed the river to visit the Castle District. This area was rich in history, with Jewish, Ottoman, Mongol, and Hungarian influence from various wars and empires. It also has the best viewpoint of the city: Fishermen’s Bastion.

I jogged back by the river, and met some old Hungarian dude named George. George was from another city, and I took a picture of him by the river. Then he got one with me lol.

George is a unit 😤

I went to Buda Castle next. The castle complex was incredible. Originally built 1000 years ago, it had been destroyed, rebuilt, and modified countless times over the last millennia. The current version was rebuilt after Soviet artillery destroyed the palace in WWII. There was also a free museum exhibit dedicated to Alajos Hauszmann, the architect who build the last version of the castle. Hauszmann’s work was incredible. He spent years studying architecture all over the world, from Rome to Greece to Israel and Egypt.

It never ceases to blow my mind how old these cities are. Budapest is 4x older than the United States. This city has forgotten more cultures, empires, and wars than America has even experienced. For most of history, stronghold cities served as chess pieces for warring parties. He who has the high ground and the waterways could rule the world.

100 years of power, and a new ideology takes over. 100 more years, and a new empire overthrows them. Then another country with greater technology destroys them. History really is the same story repeating itself indefinitely. The players change, but the behavior remains constant. It’s pretty wild to realize how much death, destruction, and pain has been caused because one guy wants to rule an area differently from someone else. These old cities really have seen the best and worst that mankind has to offer.

That night, we went back to the hostel before ending up at the same bar as the night before. Our roommate, Perry, came out with us. This guy is working a full-time job in California right now, but he’s hostel hopping around Europe. He’s been taking Zoom calls in our common room everyday. Out at 11, back by 4. Another Saturday night in Europe.

Sunday, September 5th

The boys found some fine Hungarian cuisine for lunch, and we grubbed down.

They went to explore the city a bit, and I went to a coffeeshop to read and write. I’m planning on visiting Auschwitz on Saturday, and I wanted to read an account written by a concentration camp survivor. When I googled “Books written by Auschwitz survivors”, Man’s Search for Meaning was the top result.

I was stunned. I keep a running list of books to read in my phone, and that one had been in my notes for a while. I knew it was about life, but I had no idea that it was written by an Auschwitz survivor.

Viktor Frankl’s book is the most compelling writing that I have ever read. A great book has a few sections that evoke strong emotions. Man’s Search for Meaning is filled with dozens of stories, insights, and thought-provoking pieces that can bring you to tears. It’s more than just a detailed account of his time in the camp (though he covers his experience in detail), it’s a book on hope, life, and meaning. If you are reading this, you need to close my newsletter and order that book right now.

While I have been having a hell of a time in Europe over the last couple of weeks, it is important that I see the “real” stuff as well. I’ve spent 24 years experiencing the best things in life, but I need to visit the worst parts of our history as well. Few parts of history can compare to the pure evil displayed in concentration camps. Indiscriminately exterminating humans because of their race? Assuming that people should only live if they can provide “utility” to society? Stating that the world would be better off without the weak, the elderly, the disabled, and taking matters into your own hands? The methodical massacre of millions by the Nazis, in the name of “progress”, is the worst tragedy this world has experienced. I’ve seen the Holocaust museum in DC. Museums don’t do justice. You think “Oh, this is such a horrible thing in history.” But then you go on with your day. The Holocaust is history, so it doesn’t feel real. You don’t see the grueling struggle to survive that millions faced each day. You don’t see how they were dehumanized. How most lost their souls along the way. I will never truly appreciate what those prisoners felt. How could I, without going through hell myself? But after reading Viktor Frank’s story, I can visualize the pain and suffering that they went through. You need to read what those people suffered through. Frank was in his 20s, like I am right now. His pregnant wife died. His parents died. He watched his friends walk in gas chambers to never return. He spent years suffering physical and emotional abuse from guards. Being completely dehumanized. Read this book. Then read it again. and again. Because that shit is real, and it’s horrible. And somehow, this man overcame all of it.

I’ll write in more detail on Auschwitz after I visit, but Frankl’s book left a powerful mark on my life.

On a lighter note, we went out again last night, and I had a group of Spanish guys say that I looked just like their best friend, except I was twice his size. I didn’t see it, but whatever.

Bunch of good mates. I may have to visit them when I’m back in Spain. I got back to the hostel at 3:30, and Tanner was passed out snoring. He had been talking to a girl at the bar, but he lost all of us and accidentally left with her phone in his bag. She walked back to our place with us, and we couldn’t wake Tanner up. Rylan got a video of the girl slapping Tanner on the face while he was passed out, and he still didn’t wake up lol.

Jake Mezei and Chase Unger, if you’re reading this it’s 100% like the time Chunger slapped me on T Glenn’s couch in Athens. Lights out, nobody’s home.

Anyways, that’s another weekend in Europe. Going to Vienna Austria, Krakow Poland, and Auschwitz before flying back to Spain next week to see mi otra familia in Sevilla. I studied abroad there three years ago, so I’m going to visit the family that I lived with for a few days.

I’ll update everyone again after Auschwitz. Have a great Labor Day amigos 🤝


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