Saturday, May 18, 2019
Exploring a “bit a” Budapest
We slept in this morning - until 9 am! I wonder why!
We took it easy and were outside at 11 am. Brian wanted to look for a new pair of long pants because the weather was not particularly warm yesterday. Stepping outside we noticed that the weather was much milder today and now we were overdressed! We had a quick bite for breakfast at Starbucks of all places! Not our favourite place but Eke needed something to eat and we didn’t see any other place that sold a good breakfast.
We went to the “West End Center” mall where Brian found a pair of pants - $ 200. A pair! That was not our idea of getting a pair of reasonably priced pants just for the holidays, so we gave up.
We returned to the hotel where we took off a layer of clothes and took a taxi to our first walking tour of the day. We had booked this Urban Adventure “Bites and Sights” ahead of time. This walking tour included tasting different foods along the way. We connected with our local guide “Fanni” and the other “members” of the group. We were with 10 people.
We started in the famous “Central Market Hall”. The markets have been there for a few centuries – out in the open. In the late 1800’s they built a structure around and over the markets – it looks like a train station. On the main floor are lots of food stalls. Fanni gave us a chocolate “bar” filled with cottage cheese. Then we tried 6 different salami’s, mild to quite spicy -paprika is used a lot in Hungary. The meat was from the cow, pig, donkey and horse. Most of them were very good. Brian and I also bought some fruit – the strawberries are very large and very sweet! Delicious!.
The second floor of the market is filled with stalls selling Hungarian arts, linens (beautifully embroidered) and more drinks and sweets – especially strudels.
We left the market and walked through some quiet streets. Fanni told us about the great flood of 1838 when large parts of the city were flooded, especially around the Danube river. She showed us a memorial carved into a wall which showed a map of the area covered by the flood and how high the water came. After this flood the city streets and houses were built higher. We saw an old church that was built before the flood and it was quite a bit lower than street level.
Our next stop was a small chocolate shop. First we tasted a cocoa bean (which is quite bitter) and then a nice chocolate with a little paprika in it. Very smooth, delicious chocolate. We didn’t buy any because this natural chocolate needs to be stored at or below 20 degrees Celsius.
From there we walked to a “Ruin” bar/café where we tasted a wine spritzer – wine with soda water. By that time we were thirsty and enjoyed our drink. A “Ruin” bar is a very oddly furnished and decorated café. In the 1960’s, lots of buildings stood empty; students needed space to meet and used these empty buildings as gathering places. They didn’t have any money so they scrounged up old chairs and tables wherever they could get them. Not one chair is the same and the decorations on the walls and hanging from the ceiling are odd and old whatever wants to stay on the wall and ceiling. The walls are covered in writing also. The bars have been left like this and are now tourist attractions.
From there we walked to the Jewish Quarter. We admired the large synagogue from the outside. It is closed to the public on Saturdays as it is their Sabbath. We came by a large wall memorial, remembering the more than 10,000 Jews that were murdered by the “Arrowcross Party” (the Budapest Nazis) in the Jewish Ghetto between December 2, 1944 and January 18, 1945. Ten thousand people in only 6 weeks time!
Further along in the Jewish area we went into a fish restaurant where we tried some fish pates and deep fried carp. Brian of course, as many of you know, doesn’t care for fish at all, but he tried it!
We also went in to the large Szimpla Kert Ruin bar where they were selling the dog products with lots of dogs walking around. Scattered throughout are tables and chairs – also upstairs. Lots of plants and lots of odd articles placed around the bar. It was an organized chaos and really interesting to walk through!
We had “matzo” ball soup in another restaurant. Matzo balls are made of bread and taste very good in a nice clear soup with goose meat.
On to our last stop! At this restaurant we were served our “main” course existing of a chicken leg in paprika cream sauce with potato “popcorn” like noodles. Then it was dessert time! The dessert was sponge cake rolled in balls, covered with nut pieces and drizzled with chocolate sauce. As “decorations” puffs of whipping cream covered the empty spaces on the plate! It all tasted great!
That was the end of our 4 hour “food tour” with Fanni. It was a very interesting and enjoyable afternoon. We got lots of walking in between the eating and drinking!
We had to race back to our hotel (which was only 7 minutes away) because we were meeting with our Intrepid group and tour leader Dusan for the first time. We arrived late but got to see everyone. We did join the group for dinner although we had eaten all afternoon! We ordered a home made Hungarian salad to share and a drink.
Our host – the owner of the restaurant was quite the entertainer and provided a lot of levity for the group. Brian tried a “Palinka” – a very strong Hungarian liqueur. He said that Turkish “Raki” tasted better!
Some of the group members were going to a “Ruin” bar to continue the party. We went back to the hotel to work on our trip journal and to go to sleep!