hungary? why wait!
Hello again, all! I am back! Our computer is happily residing in Iowa once again, so I am eager to return to the blogging. I’m incredibly behind, so bare with me on this… We are going back in time about 2 months to what was Memorial Day weekend back here in the States. Hopefully I can still remember a few things! Budapest had been on our list of places to check out while in Europe, as we had heard so many good things. Unfortunately, we thought we weren’t going to make it prior to our leaving the continent. But then, we decided fairly last minute to take the trip to Budapest along with friends coming from the US.
It all started with a drive to Eindhoven in the NL, where we would board a flight with Wizz Air. I just want to point this out for a couple reasons: 1 – their colors were pink and purple. I would like to officially recommend that no other airline should ever use this as their color scheme. It was really ugly. 2 – they did not reserve seats, so once the gate was announced, people literally ran to be first in line. It was chaos.
Anyway, we arrived in Budapest, Hungary in the evening on a Saturday and met our friends, Andy & Kelsey. Given our late arrival, we decided to get a recommendation from the hotel for dinner. The place: Aszu. The sound: similar to an inappropriate English word. I immaturely giggled when she made the recommendation. Anyway, Aszu was a modern twist on traditional Hungarian food, a good introduction. Our meals included goulash, pork filet (served with a side of lung) and potato dumplings. Lots of paprika – a Hungarian staple! We finished our meal with a little plum dumpling. Not a bad start to what would become a food-focused trip!
The next morning, we had a nice “breakfast for two” at a restaurant called Gerbaud. I think it could have at least been for three! We generally have a hard time finding breakfast when we’ve travelled Europe, but that was not the case in Budapest. I also had an iced latte, because it was already HOT out!
Right next to our breakfast spot, we met up with a free walking tour of the city. The tour was great – our guide gave us a lot of interesting facts about the history of the city and the people of Hungary. We started by walking through parts of the “Pest” (pronounced Pesh) side of the river.
Then we made our way across the Chain Bridge, the first bridge across the Danube River. As we made our way across, we got our first glimpse of the Parliament Building. It is stunning!
Our next destination – Buda Castle, an uphill climb. We didn’t go inside this former palace, but we did stop to soak in the incredible view from its front terrace!
From there, we headed to the Matthias Church in this castle district. The Matthias is a Catholic church with an especially beautiful tiled roof. In front of the church is the Fisherman’s Bastion, a really cool look-out point. It was one of my favorites of the trip!
At this point, we were all ready to enjoy some more delicious Hungarian food for lunch. We went to a place in the same castle district called Restaurant 21. There we enjoyed more pork and some paprika chicken. My pork was good and the accompanying risotto was AMAZING! Kelsey also introduced our waiter to the “Arnold Palmer” concept. It seemed like handmade lemonade was a big thing here, so they combined theirs with iced tea for us. It was seriously delicious!
We did a little quick shopping in the neighborhood, and then we stopped in at the oldest confectionery in town, Ruszwurm, for a sweet snack. I enjoyed a tasty caramel and chocolate layer cake called the Dobos Torte. Recommended.
During our snack, a downpour began outside. We decided to take a bus back to our hotel for a little nap and refresh before dinner. Then we headed out to the popular Jewish Quarter for drinks and dinner. Our tour guide earlier in the day had told us about “ruin pubs” in Budapest. These pubs started popping up in the past 10-15 years in old buildings that were no longer serving any other purpose. They are decorated with any and everything, and they have a very unique feeling! We hit up Szimpla Kert, the pioneer of the ruin pubs, for a pre-dinner drink. We made our way up a colorful spiral staircase to a balcony-type area. It was really fun to explore!
Then we stopped at a place that sold tacos and drinks. It had a similar, funky feel!
Then it was on to dinner at a Jewish restaurant called Koleves. We started with some various soups and then enjoyed dishes such as Jewish baked beans and lamb kabobs. We also had a tasty Hungarian wine that night. A really cool restaurant and tasty food!
The next morning started again with a breakfast stop. I don’t remember the name of the place – only that I had something translated as “eggy bread.” It was somewhat like a savory french toast…and it was super delicious! Sorry – no photo either. Major fail.
Anyway, we made our way towards the Hungarian Parliament to get a closer look at the gorgeous building! Here are a few of my many shots:
There were not as many tourists in Budapest as there have been in many of the places we have visited thus far, which was not a surprise. But it was refreshing to not have giant crowds in front of such a building – as you can really see in the next photo. We walked all around the building and then continued along the river to our next destination: The Central Market Hall.
It was here that we met up with our guide for the “Sights and Bites” foodie tour by Urban Adventures. The tour started by wandering around the market, checking out lots of paprika and sampling some salami’s.
From there, our guide took us to a little place whose name would translate to Rooster Fish. Given that Budapest is nowhere near the sea, the popularity of fish is not high. I can understand that given my Midwest upbringing. This company, however, is trying to bring the river fish (catfish and carp) to the people in a way that is less intimidating. We had carp that was fried in little crispy strings as a snack, smoked catfish and then a silver carp spread with bread that was quite tasty. We all agreed we would buy that at home, if it were available!
The tour continued with a stop that we were told was “for the ladies” and especially Kelsey, who is pregnant. This stop was at a chocolate shop called Rozsavolgyi Csokolade (say that three times fast). We each chose one truffle from their selection of some pretty unique chocolates. They were so good, we decided to get a few more for later!
I just want to point out that this was a 4-hour tour with lots of walking in-between. 🙂 We didn’t just eat the WHOLE time…but mostly, yes.
We wandered back through a little children’s park and stopped at a small area with a few picnic tables. The nearby cafe served us some ‘wine spritzers’ as we soaked in the beautiful day. Then it was back to the Jewish Quarter, and oddly enough, back to the same restaurant we had picked the night before! Very random. This time though, we were there to sample the matzo ball soup. This may be shocking, but it was also really nice! We were big fans of their goulash pots decor.
Then we headed to the final stop for the tour. It was time for goulash and strudel. A highlight, for sure. Although we were pretty stuffed at this point, we managed to enjoy this final stop.
Lastly, our guide took us to a spot she thought we might enjoy as Americans…
We had some time to kill before our final planned event of the day, so we did a quick stop at St. Stephen’s Basilica, the largest church in Budapest that we had passed by numerous times as our hotel was nearby. The church was really pretty inside, as they always are!
Next we headed to the Oktogon (a major intersection) and followed the Grand Boulevard. We scoped out the boulevard’s many restaurants before settling in to one where the guys could try the traditional Hungarian liquor, Palinka. I hear it was quite strong!
We had heard that seeing the sights of Budapest from the river was a must. We decided the best way to do that would be the river cruise after dark to see everything lit up! It was about an hour long tour that covered the main sights. After all the food and such a long day, the cruise made a few of us a tad sleepy… But those of us with a camera stayed alert!! 🙂
The next and final day of the trip, BC, Andy and myself got an early start. We made our way to the Szechenyi Thermal Baths. (Unfortunately thermal baths aren’t ideal for pregnant ladies, so Kelsey had to stay back…boo.) There we enjoyed a delightful, yet very awkward, morning with many older residents of Budapest. Given our 8:00 am arrival, I think we the only tourists around. We dipped into several of the natural hot spring pools of various temperatures and visited a few steamy saunas. I made it only about 30 seconds in the last sauna we visited as it was EXTREMELY hot! I wish I could remember the temperature (I think somewhere around 150 degrees Fahrenheit), but I can tell you that we all burnt our feet on the way out. Thus the dip in the 60 degree pool just outside was deemed necessary. We also spent a little time in the outdoor pool, watching the regulars doing laps in their speedos and swimming caps.
I didn’t really want to take my camera, nor did I want to photograph people in their interesting bathing suits, so you will have to Google it for more! There are some videos on you-tube also, I think. Check it out!
Andy and Kelsey had to leave after a quick brunch, as they were continuing their trip in Turkey! As for us, we made one last stop back to the Central Market Hall for a little treat we had read about called the Langos. The traditional way to have this deep fried bread-like snack is with sour cream and cheese, but after seeing (and smelling) the garlic version the guy in front of us received…we HAD to have it! It was like a savory funnel-cake! It was a spectacular final Hungarian treat!!
What can I say – Budapest was a fabulous trip all around! Great friends, a lovely city and amazing food! I would highly recommend a stop in Budapest on your Eastern European travels!
Well, I’m now one trip closer to being caught up on this blog… Look for more soon on the trip that followed shortly after this one: London, England for my birthday! We also had a visit from BC’s parents and made the journey to Massachusetts before our final return to Iowa. Plus, I will share a few thoughts on the process of returning back after living in a foreign country for two years. So many things yet to share. Come back and see us again soon!
Until next time,