“The city has some of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever experienced in my entire life” – Interview with Sharonda Davenport
Born and raised in the United States, Sharonda is pursuing law at university. Before her trip she knew only a few things about Hungary, and now she is in love with Budapest. Let’s meet Sharonda!
Where are you from?
I was born in Nyack, New York, although raised in Newburgh. It was there that I attended grades K-12. It’s a pretty small town, where most people are, at the very least, familiar with one another. There are two distinct sections of Newburgh: the town area, where you’ll come across mid to upper class folk, and the city area that’s slightly worn, yet still maintains its historic charm.
What is day-to-day life for you?
As a career-driven woman in her mid-twenties, I am currently pursuing my third degree in international law full-time at Pace University. I also work as a law clerk in mid-town Manhattan around fifteen hours per week. In my downtime I like to hang with friends and family, as well as travel.
Where else have you traveled before visiting Hungary?
During my childhood I took many trips to visit extended family in Maryland and Virginia. My family and I also toured Canada, visiting both Niagara Falls and Montreal. When I was eleven we went on a Carnival cruise out of Florida to Jamaica, Mexico, and the Grand Cayman of the Cayman Islands. It was this trip that sparked my desire for international travel. During undergrad at St John’s University I was accepted into their study abroad program, where I had the opportunity to take classes at campuses in Rome, Italy, Seville, Spain, and Paris. This was a life-changing experience for me, as well as for the many friends I made. We had a great time, immersed ourselves in various cultures, and, in return, learned quite a lot. Beyond the three major cities I also traveled to Amsterdam, Bruges, London and Morocco. In 2014, I went to Las Vegas for a family visit and to see the infamous Las Vegas Strip as a graduation gift from my uncle. Just last year, I flew to San Diego where lounging on the beach was a preferred activity.
What did you know about Hungary before traveling here?
I knew something about Goulash, that’s about it. Also, seeing photos of the beautiful city of Budapest from a college friend made me curious. After booking my flights, I began to do extensive research about the area, including information about the weather and local life.
What were the first 24 hours in Budapest for you?
I absolutely DESPISE flying. So I basically spent my entire trip here hyperventilating on the plane. Upon arriving to the Budapest Airport my bags where left behind in Moscow, thanks to an oversight by Aeroflot Russian Airlines. My friend came to pick me up at arrivals and took me to a supermarket to buy the necessities. Since I never had the chance to exchange money to HUF before arriving, he offered to cover the costs of food, drinks and transportation. After my jet lag induced coma, aka my “short nap”, we had dinner at the flat and caught up. We then visited some of his local Hungarian friends at their dormitory who took us dancing at Gödör Klub in the downtown area.
What are your first impressions of Budapest?
I managed to rest towards the end of my layover flight and woke up to hear a flight attendant saying we were flying over Budapest, and would be landing soon. From the airplane I could see snowcapped mountains that took my breath away. I almost forgot we were thousands of feet in the air. Upon landing, I took note of how absolutely freezing it was. I also noticed that the city has a rustic charm, although a lack of diversity. Also, things are pretty affordable, from the clothing to the alcohol. There is food and history on every street corner and the city has some of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever experienced in my entire life.
What are your favorite things you’ve seen or done?
I went to the New York Café and drank some vanilla hot chocolate which was, without a doubt, the best thing I’ve ever tasted. Seriously. The place had a regal vibe, with live jazz music played on the piano by a highly skilled, yet unknown musician. Furthermore, the architecture within was very detailed and elegant; I felt as if we had stepped into a time machine, into an era of kings and queens. Walking through Heroes’ Square and viewing the magnificent statues was also interesting. My favorite part of the square was the ice skating rink. My friend informed me it was man-made, which was quite impressive. I found it jarring that there were no protective walls around the rink to keep people from flying off of the ice. But everyone seemed to be pros, so this didn’t appear to be an issue. It was peaceful to watch everyone skate; some playing silly games, while others practicing twirls and tricks. I was tempted to join them, although I am not quite as skilled on the ice. Walking on Margaret Island during the day was the most calming exercise ever. The miniature bird menagerie had many different species that I’ve never seen before. One of them, I swear, locked eyes with me and walked straight up to the fence. I took so many pictures of it. It really lingered right in front of me, as if waiting for a snack or something, which made me laugh.
Any negative impressions of the city?
The people tend to stare at you when you look different than them. I got a lot more than several blatant stares: some of them not so friendly, although I offered pleasant smiles. The exchange rate is currently lower than what it was before departing New York, which was a bit exasperating, seeing as there is an exchange place close to where I live. The city is also slightly behind on the comforts that I’m used to from home; although it can be seen they’re making strides towards a more modernized city, such as the leading convenient car-sharing app Mol Limo.
Have you participated in the LGBTQ community during your time here?
Yes, I have. I went to Gödör on Saturday night for Vibe’s “All you need is love” Party. I met local Hungarian gay men who were very fun and vibrant. They made sure I felt comfortable and had a great time. The venue was interesting, although not very crowed like the clubs in NYC. The music had its ups and downs in regards to the energy each song gave; overall it was a very satisfying night out. Shout-out to DEGS for making my first night a very memorable one!
What is something that you’ve learned here that you’ll take with you?
I’ve learned you can find beauty in even the most obscure places.