Many European cities have started offering free walking tours. These tours are a great way to get your bearings in a new city and to acquire some background/historical knowledge without breaking the bank. So, on our first day in Budapest, R.A. and I decided to put on our walking shoes and hit the payment with our only-works-for-tips, true-blue-Budapester tour guide. While our tour guide was great, full of factoids, history, and laughs, I had this weird sense of deja vu, time after time. So many of the things I saw and the stories she told reminded me of Afyon; I had seen it all before.
- One large hill (friends from the Midwest may cal them “mountains”) dominate an otherwise flat landscape in each city.
- River(-like) bodies of water divide the posh, residential district from the working-class, industrial district. In Budapest, this is the River Danube, arguably the most important waterway in Europe. In Afyon, it is a waterway so insignificant that I often forget about it.
- Both have flourishing arts scenes. In Budapest, R.A. and I put on our fancy dresses for a night at the ballet, where we watched a performance of “Snow White” at the Hungarian National Opera House. In Afyon, my roommates, students, and I found ourselves seated in a historic hamam for a night of classical music and culture.
- Both cities are extremely windy. Wearing a skirt to work in Afyon was its own, special challenge. And, well, you can see what Budapest did to my hair.
- Atop each city’s respective hill, there is a castle. Both of these castles were refurbished in the 1960s. On the interior of each, it shows.
- The best way (and in one case, the only way) to reach these castles is by stairs. To the top of the Afyon castle, you must climb between 400 and 700 steps (Turkish estimate). To the Buda castle, it is a measly 189.
- Both cities are known for their thermal springs. I assume Afyon’s are more famous.
- Outside of both cities, there is a flourishing poppy-cultivation trade. According to our tour guide, Budapesters use the seeds, but “not the good stuff.” In Afyon, we’re all about the good stuff.
With so many similarities – and Afyon’s obvious superiority – I’m beginning to wonder why I ever even left Afyon.