Kath, Karen & Stan in Budapest
13.02.2006 1 °C
Our plane touched down on a fog filled Thurs evening and was greeted by a blanket of fresh snow. Welcome to Winter in Budapest! We would later discover how thankful we were for the snow that brightened up what would have otherwise been a very bleak city.
We were excited by the healthy prospects of this weekend, with the guidebook boasting an abundance of healthy options from thermal baths and saunas, to sports of all kinds. However, by lunchtime we discovered this Hungarian lifestyle was likely necessitated by their taste in food. The menus consisted of an astonishing amount of meat, and in most cases its even breaded or baked! Although inexpensive, the food is served in huge portions (huge even by my American standards!) and meat, sour cream, heavy sauces and pickling abound. Pickled beets, pickled cabbage, pickled cucumbers, and pickled peppers. If they can catch it, I presume they pickle it. I figured I would stick to the veggie options until I realized the traditional way of serving veggies is to fry them and mix them with cream!
This is Parliment House, overlooking the Danube
Here are Stan and Reg checking out St Matthias Church. He brought Christianity to Hungary when he decided to side with the Roman Empire.
We thus decided to sample just the simplest of local cuisine and focused in on apple strudels at a traditional coffee house called Ruszwurm in the Castle District of Buda, the hilly side of the city. I also tried the goose liver they are famous for, and must confess it was really good, although the French need not worry too much. We found they made up for it in their wine production. We loved their local wines!
Having seen most of the sites in the Castle District by lunch time, and vowing to miss any museums (they have well over 16 of them in the city alone!) and opt for a more local tour, we ended up at the Hungarian House of Wine. A tremendous place as it offers self guided tours through the numerous wine regions of Hungary, offering over 50 wines to taste, and taste, and taste, plus memento glasses all for only 13 pounds! We had a great afternoon, and evening and ended up purchasing some whites (Karen’s fav) and Reds (my Fav), and a few dessert wines (which we both really favored).
On our way home we were treated with more snow, which was a real treat for Karen, who is from S Africa and rarely gets to enjoy a new snowfall.
On the following day we checked out the newer side of town, Pest and wandered the residential streets and shopping districts to get a feel for the city. Most of the areas were quite bleak, with most of the architecture showing that post war communism gray. This apartment building shows the potential of the place with just a bit of optimism, vision and some bright paint!
No trip to Budapest would be complete without a trip to the thermal baths. As Budapest lies on a geological fault, a massive amount of mineral waters gush from over 100 thermal springs. We went to the Szechenyi Baths in the City Park, which are surrounded by a pleasant yellow building giving it a Roman Bath type feel. Although intrigued by the idea of sharing a bath with hundreds of half naked Hungarians, most of them sporting the physique of a lifetime of heavy foods and great wine, we decided to give it a miss. Maybe next time. From the number of people comfortably wandering about in the swimmers, it was clear that the baths must have been giving off a tremendous amount of heat, enough to warm the snow covered ground.
On or last day we treated ourselves to saunas in our hotel, as it ended up being a luxury hotel, at only a fraction of what you’d pay in England.
All in all, a great trip. My only regret was not having the opportunity to try a few phrases of the local language, as I usually try to do while abroad. But given the word for ‘Hi” is ‘Jo napot kiranuk’ and goodbye is ‘viszontlatasra’, I figured it was too much for me to handle. I did manage to learn ‘kirem’ which means ‘more please’, and worked a treat in the winery!