Budapest stood on its own as an endless fount of discovery and gritty beauty, but what made it really special was that we stayed at Mandala Hostel. Our friend Leah found the place, and we ended up there with her after being unimpressed with our first I-know-you’re-checking-in-at-11p.m.-but-we’re-not-sure-which-beds-are-free-and-also-we-forgot-to-hang-the-clean-bedsheets-out-to-dry hostel.
Living at Mandala is basically like living at your friend’s apartment. If your friend put a bunch of beds and a loft in their living room. Another key component was that the group of people who happened to be there at the time, were all lovely and interesting and conscientious and it felt like we had our own little family group.
Some days we would just sit around and make tea and talk on the courtyard balcony, or on the sofa. Some nights we would all go out to the neighborhood ruin-pub for some traditional (and not-so-traditional) Hungarian folk music.
So we ended up staying a lot longer in Budapest than we originally intended. It was a good thing.