February 19, 2020 – My Heart’s (Still) in Budapest (OOTD #612)

Sciences Po winter break: day 5

If it were entirely up to me, I might not have gone back to Budapest. I might’ve stayed another day in Vienna or tried to visit another Central European city that I’ve never seen, like Bratislava. It was really my friends’ interest that brought me back to Budapest rather than mine.

It’s not that I didn’t love Budapest — it’s a really lovely city with some absolutely fascinating history, and I’ve written and done research on it before. I spent a whole week there my previous summer visiting my friend, Bilal, who had been studying at Central European University. That’s part of the reason why I didn’t really want to stay. I figured I’d already seen everything there was to see, and there wasn’t any sense in going back so soon.

But ultimately, I think I was wrong. Budapest was really quite wonderful to see again — I think especially so soon. I was able to act like something of a tour guide to my friends, most of whom had never visited or never spent a significant amount of time there. I was familiar with the public transport system, I knew the major sites worth seeing, and, to my surprise, I even remembered some of the walking directions, especially on the Buda side, where I had spent a whole afternoon exploring by myself during my previous trip.

I took my friends to see the Parliament Building, St. Stephen’s Cathedral (where we even got to meet Jesus himself (?)), the Holocaust memorial on the Danube River, Fisherman’s Bastion, and Buda Castle, which I’d really only walked past before. I think my favorite stop on our tour was Freedom Square, where I got to recount my research project on their eclectic collection of statues and the significance of each statue’s presence (or absence), including Ronald Reagan, the Soviet Union’s Red Army, Hungary’s Jewish population, and (not) Imre Nagy, who, since my visit in summer 2019, has now been replaced with an ugly anti-communist statue of a muscular figure strangling a snake.

There are many reasons why I think Nagy’s absence from Freedom Square is tragic, the most pressing of which is that it seems to represent Viktor Orbán’s overarching attempts to revise Hungary’s history and remove insurgent figures from their collective memory. His replacement with the anti-communist statue as well is just weird. For one, it seems odd to me in 2020 to imply that the entire philosophy of communism needs to be strangled out of existence. Also, it’s ugly and completely lacks the beautiful symbolism of the Nagy statue that gazed contemplatively towards the Parliament building atop a bridge.

Apparently, there’s now a George H.W. Bush statue next to the Ronald Reagan one, though we didn’t get to see that while we were there. I guess that gives me yet another reason to go back.

In the evening, after the sun went down, we went to the first site that I had never been to during my previous week in Budapest — one of the famous thermal bathhouses. We didn’t go to Széchenyi, which is perhaps the most famous of the baths, but instead, a smaller place on the banks of the Danube called Rudas.

I’d never been to a thermal bath house, but it was an experience like no other. For one, the actual complex was huge — I thought maybe there’d be one or two pools, and that’d be it, but there were literally three or four floors plus a rooftop tub. It was massive. We didn’t even get to go to some of the pools that night because they were closed to men only (I guess they switch out different days that different groups of people can use which pools?).

The most unique pool I tried was the hot-cold contrast bath, which involved sitting for a minute in cold water, followed by a minute in hot water, followed by several minutes in warm water, followed by a shower before you repeat it all over again. I almost didn’t do it because the cold water was so cold and the hot water was so hot. I’m normally not afraid of new experiences, but this one had me psyched out. Ultimately, we all went through the process a few times — and I think it was worth it? I felt refreshed and tingly afterwards, and I do think it helped to relax my muscles after several nights of sleeping on buses. I’m not certain I feel like I need to do it again any time soon — but then again, that’s what I’d said about visiting Budapest to begin with, and I was proven wrong about that.

For dinner, we got — you guessed it — more Asian food. I guess we were all just kind of tired of variations on beef and potato stews. From there, we hiked back to the bus station to await our next night bus on to Ljubljana.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life during my semester abroad in the Paris, France. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest,InstagramFacebookBloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Turtleneck: FreePeople

Skirt: Pull & Bear

Coat: A vintage shop in Budapest  (thrifted)

July 6, 2019 – Bizarre Bazaar (OOTD #527)

I can’t believe I didn’t use that as one of my Instagram captions.

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young trash that likes looking at old trash

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As promised from yesterday’s blog about Budapest Central Market, I’m here now to discuss the superior of the two major markets in Budapest: the Ecseri Bazaar.

Being fair, they are two very different markets; it almost doesn’t make sense to compare them. Central Market focuses on food and *some* gifts and trinkets for tourists, while Ecseri is essentially a flea market. Central Market sells things that are brand new, while Ecseri sells things that are secondhand and vintage. Given my track record of buying vintage clothing, guess which one I was drawn to more?

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hey macklemore, can we go thrift shopping?

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I went with my friend, Bilal, and I think he was bored out of his mind. Too bad for him, because I thoroughly enjoyed it. I absolutely adore looking at people’s old junk — especially people’s old junk in different countries and cultures. You can learn a lot about the history of a place by visiting a flea market, and Budapest was no exception.

I was tempted by a few pins that featured the classic Soviet hammer and sickle insignia, but there was no way to tell if they were authentic vintage pieces or just made in China reproductions for tourists like me. In the end, I wound up with two blouses and a coat — all for under 20 USD.

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yes homo

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In the afternoon,  I attended the Budapest Pride Parade alongside my friend and his Central European University friends. Of the various protests/parades/marches I’ve participated in in the last three years, this one may have been the most significant. Here’s the thing: marches are often boring. You walk super slowly, you maybe say a few chants, and you look at the funny signs. Maybe you get a cute picture for Instagram,. You don’t go because you want to have fun; you go because you care about the issue, or at the very least, civil society’s right to protest about their issue.

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dude, that’s gay

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This is an overgeneralization, but for the other marches I’ve attended, the marchers wanted an expansion on something that already existed. For example, at the climate change strike in Rome, the students wanted the Italian government to do more than what they were doing to stop the climate crisis. For this march, the marchers wanted something that doesn’t really exist at all in Hungary — LGBTQ rights.

That’s a significant difference, at least for me as a participant. In the latter case — advocating to have something that doesn’t exist — you feel more like a catalyst, like a trailblazer. It’s riskier to say you want something new than to say you want more of something you already have some of. Both are perfectly valid forms of demonstration, but one, to me as an individual, is more personally engaging.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Outfit 1:

Top: Forever21

Trousers: Thrifted (Salvation Army)

Outfit 2:

Top: Vintage (thrifted, Ecseri Bazaar)

Shorts: PacSun

July 5, 2019 – Marketable (OOTD #526)

So rarely do I actually buy things at these markets I visit.

Markets may be one of my favorite sites to visit when I travel to new cities, but I almost never do anything other than that walk around and peruse the items.

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szia and see ya

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In regards to just about everything but clothes, I do a fairly good job of not buying things I don’t need. I don’t buy magnets, or cheap made in China scarves, or keychains. If I don’t see something that calls to me, then I walk away without buying anything. Markets with clothing — especially vintage clothing — are another story, but otherwise, I like to think I’m not a complete slave to consumer culture.

The Budapest Central Market was a great place to visit. It’s got this really beautiful, ornate architectural style and lots of natural light (which means good pictures). As a place to shop, though, I was personally a little less impressed. A lot of what the vendors had to offer was food, but I just wasn’t hungry when I went. If you’re not looking to buy food, however, there isn’t really much for you but gimmicky tourist stuff.

If you’re looking for a better market for gift shopping, I’d have to recommend the Ecseri Bazaar, which I’ll write about in tomorrow’s blog.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Top: Zara

Shorts: H&M



July 3, 2019 – Fairytale Moment (OOTD #525)

Budapest wins the award for the city where I got the best photographs of me during this trip.

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no photographs, please

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Not to praise myself, but I think I look really good here. It’s honestly more the background and lighting conditions than me myself, but…you know. My appearance (featuring a top and a dress that I adopted from the unwanted clothing bin in my dorm’s laundry room at the end of last semester) played a small role in the outcome of these pictures.

My next stop on my Budapest adventure was the Buda side of the Danube, where Budapest Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion are located. If you thought St. Stephen’s Basilica and the Parliament Building on the Pest side of the Danube were beautiful, you’re in for a treat with Budapest Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion. There may have been other places in Europe that I liked more for their historical or political or cultural significance, but this may be the one that I liked best purely for physical appearance.

It’s a simply gorgeous area and (obviously) spectacular for photos. I was fortunate to have my friend Bilal along with me, who was happy to act as my photographer for the day. Photography may not be your cup of tea, and as a consequence, you may not get the same kind of personal enjoyment out of these sites as I did. If you are into pictures — either taking them of other people, or having them taken of yourself — then make sure to go in late afternoon or early morning, when you get the best lighting. You’re going to want it.

If you have the time, I recommend taking a stroll across Margaret Bridge to get to the Buda side of the river. It may take significantly longer than the bus, but it’s a nice walk, if a little tiring (especially once you get to Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion, which are at the top of a hill). On a nice day, it’s worth the extra exertion.

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this is the church, this is the steeple

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budapest more like buda…best? #imsorry

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That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Top: Thrift

Dress: Thrift

July 2, 2019 – Fashion, Fascism, and the Blue Danube Waltz (OOTD #524)

I’m a big fan of walking bridges.

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could you tell me the abridged version?

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And I think the Margaret Bridge in Budapest may be favorite yet. It connects Buda and Pest, the two halves of Budapest (clever naming, right?) across the Danube from each other. Walking, I’d say it takes maybe 15 or 20 minutes to cross.

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i see why johann strauss ii wrote a waltz

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The view either way is gorgeous, though I would personally say that looking out at the Pest side from Buda is a particular treat, as you can see both the Parliament Building and St. Stephen’s Basilica across the water.

In addition to a lovely walking bridge that stretches the Danube River, Budapest also has the oldest Metro line in mainland Europe (the award for oldest Metro in all of Europe goes to the London Underground), with Line M1 dating all the way back in 1896.

I actually had the pleasure of riding Line M1 for a brief commute with my friend Bilal, as he needed to go from his university in the downtown area to a neighborhood a ways away. Maybe is a quirk specific to me, but I love testing public transportation systems in new cities. I grew up in a city without one (well, I suppose they had city buses, but there were no stops near where I lived so it was irrelevant to me), and so visiting places that have a metro or a train system is super exciting to me.

Budapest’s M1 had such a vibe. It looked more like it came out of the 1960’s rather than the 1890’s, but I can’t pretend that I know exactly what 1890’s public transit design looks like. I feel like most rail systems feel like walking into a time capsule, but this one had an especially strong aesthetic.

The final stop of the day was a monument to the former communist (note the lowercase “c”) Hungarian Prime Minister and leader of the failed Hungarian Revolution, Imre Nagy.

Let me tell you a little about this monument, which I think may have been up there in the list of my favorite things I saw in all of Europe this summer: it’s some spectacularly subtle design. Or at least it was, until it was moved to its current location.

Originally, this statue was located in Liberty Square, a plaza with some highly-political, highly-contested statues and monuments. Among other, less debated pieces, one can find controversial (depending, of course, on your opinion of the subject matter) monuments to the Red Army, to Ronald Reagan, and to the victims of German occupation (which features a makeshift protest installation right next to it) there.

Up until January of this year, Imre Nagy was right alongside the others. He was near the monument to the Soviet Red Army, which is a controversial monument in and of itself. It is the only Soviet monument in Budapest that has been allowed to remain in its original location; all of the others were moved to a park well outside of the city after the fall of the USSR.

Nagy’s original placement near the monument to the Red Army was very intentional. His gaze was fixed on Parliament, with his back to the Red Army. As a leader of the failed Hungarian Revolution of 1956, which attempted to drive out Soviet control following its establishment during the liberation of Hungary from Nazi occupation, this is of course rather symbolic. He looked away from fascism and totalitarianism and towards democratic governance. With his relaxed and non-confrontational but defiant stance, he made a clear political statement through a few purposeful, subtle design choices.

However, Nagy’s statue has been moved to a new location near Margaret Bridge next to the Danube. He still looks towards Parliament, but he no longer has his back directly to the Red Army, and he is no longer so centrally located.

Was his relocation a political statement as well? Did Viktor Orbán himself order the monument’s movement, as one of his many attempts at historical revisionism? I don’t know. I can only say that I don’t like that the statue was moved, as it takes away from its original meaning and artistic intent. It’s an offense to Imre Nagy, to Hungarian history, and to good design.

Anyway, that was more than I meant to say today about historical revisionism and Hungarian politics. In summary: more fashion, less fascism. 

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Top: The LOFT

Skirt: Forever21

July 1, 2019 – The Grand Budapest Student Dorm (OOTD #523)

*post does not actually feature any images of said dorm.

It took a very long time for me to decide to go to Budapest after Rome. Here’s what happened: when I booked my plane tickets from the US to Europe, I booked a date to get to Rome that aligned with my start day for work. Then, to go back home, I booked a date from Zagreb, Croatia that fell approximately two weeks after my last day at my internship. I knew I needed to end up in Zagreb at the end of those two weeks, and that I needed to vacate my room in Rome two days after the end of work, but I didn’t have any plans for where to go in between then.

By chance, a friend of mine messaged me while I was in Rome and told me that I should visit him in Budapest, where he had just completed a year of study for his master’s degree. This friend has actually featured on my blog before: his name is Bilal, and he was one of the madrasa students from Pakistan whom I met during Madrasa Discourses in Nepal and Qatar. Bilal and I had become closest friends during our time in Nepal and Qatar, and so I was ecstatic when he suggested I visit him in Europe. Plus, Budapest has always been somewhere I wanted to visit, and now I had an excuse.

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eye don’t see what the big deal is

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Apart from the part where I tumbled down a moving escalator at the Fiumicino Airport and broke the handle of my suitcase, the travel from Rome to Budapest went relatively smoothly. It was a super cheap ticket on Whizz Air (yes, that’s actually its name), but it did the trick and got me where I needed to go.

I stayed with Bilal in his dorm room on an air mattress, though I ended up having to switch rooms with one of his friends (and then switch rooms back again) because a housekeeping lady saw me and they’re not supposed to have overnight guests in the dorms. It wasn’t the most glamorous sleeping arrangement I’ve had during my travels (though it beats the time I slept on a bench in the lobby of London Heathrow — more on that later), but again, it did the trick. No Grand Budapest Hotels for me.

On my first full day in the city, I visited the Parliament Building, the Danube River, the Budapest Eye, and St. Stephen’s Basilica, most of which I just looked at from the outside and had little other interaction with. Parliament was closed to the public, the Danube isn’t exactly a river you just go swimming in, and the Budapest Eye was overpriced to ride on. St. Stephen’s Basilica was the only one with both free and practical admission (as all churches should be, in my opinion).

At one point in the afternoon, after I’d finished visiting all of the major tourist sites within walking distance of each other in the city, I wound up having to wait for Bilal for a few hours to finish up an assignment at his university. I decided to sit in a bookshop for a while, where I read The Little Prince and The Old Man and the Sea for the first time. I don’t often just sit and read books if they’re not required for schoolwork (the most recent one I’d read before then was Shortest Way Home, Pete Buttigieg’s autobiography, which my friend Joe lent to me and that I had to finish within a week in order to give it back to him before he went back to England).

It was refreshing to just sit for a while and read something short and poignant, a description that applies to both The Old Man and the Sea  and The Little Prince, but especially to The Little Prince. If you’ve never read it before, I highly recommend that you do. It’s probably my favorite thing I’ve read in years, and perhaps one the best children’s stories I’ve read ever.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Dress: Thrift

Jacket: H&M