A Travellerspoint blog

Day 5

Budapest

Lajos picked us up from our accomodation at 9.30 for a brunch at his home in the hills. It was here that we met Balazs (Lajos' son) and Sylvia (Balazs' wife) for the first time. The mainly cream cheese platter was incredibly difficult to handle on an empty stomach, with the added challenge of having only chocolate milk and Balazs' beloved kefir (fermented milk) to wash it down. Balazs's cousin Janos also joined us, and the five of us (sans Lajos)) went on a tour of the two main Christmas markets. Kirstie and Sylvia were like peas in a pod discussing shopping and looking at everything shiny the market had to offer. Balazs' culinary recommendations were highly valuable in making good food choices given the vast range of Hungarian fare on offer. Between us we had pigs trotters, cabbage stuffed with minced pork and onion, blood sausage and liver sausage. Our entree was fried goose skin washed down with a thimble of palinka (a Hungarian spirit), and for dessert, funnelcake, a kind of caramelised dough served piping hot. After an extremely enjoyable day of feasting we farewelled our new friends at the metro station, and, after swinging by home for a shower and a change of clothes, we met Flora and Antonia once again at Octogon for a dinner at a highly recommended restaurant. We concluded our day of feasting with more beer and cocktails, goulash, and pumkin soup. We said goodbye to our incredibly friendly guides and promised to see them again in Paris in just under two months time.

Posted by Oleus 11:21 Comments (0)

Day 4

Budapest

Snow! Getting lost on the way back to the Opera house meant wandering the backstreets of the theatre distrcit in the snow. No cheap tickets were left for that nights performance of Don Giovanni, so we made the decision to leave our operatic experience til Vienna or PRague. On Flora's advice we made our way to Heroes Square, with its seven statues of HUngary's founding fathers over which watched the angel Gabriel. Shunning the modern art gallery on the right, we instead visited the classic art museum on the left. Unlike the museum atop the castle, this gallery had an extensive collection of rennaisance and late medieval art, most of which was very impressive. From there it was on to the Szechenyi baths, a magnificent bath complex with naturally heated spring water and a vast number of both indoor and outdoor pools. It took quite a bit of willpower to disrobe when outside the temperature was -1 degrees celsius, but it was definitely worth it. Running quickly over the frozen tiles of the bath's inner courtyard, we dipped into the 37 degree water of the outside pool, the snow falling on our heads. It was an amazing experience. Of the many indoor pools we tried a few, all of them terrrifically hot and tolerable only for a few short minutes. Soggy but supple, we begrudgingly re-dressed in all our layers and made our way back to the city centre. That night, we hit the Vorosmarty ter Christmas markets, and chowed down on some delicious wurst with huge chunks of bread and dollops of mustard. To finish off the night, we found a nearby bar, where we drank cocktails and the local beer (Soproni), before catching the metro home.

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Posted by Oleus 11:16 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

Day 3

Budapest

Budapest castle is an unmissable landmark right in the centre of Budapest, standing mightily over the Danube. Eschewing the 45 degree tram ride to the top (the steepest tram in Europe?) , we walked the sloping cobbled streets whilst admiring what is arguably the best view in Budapest. The plateau on the top of the fortress is home to a national art history museum, the presidential office, and a recently restored cathedral amongst a series of other buildings which collectively formed a small town.

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The art history museum was sadly a dissapointment, with many of the galleries closed due to refurbishment. However, the few Rennaisance era paintings of famous Hungarian battles that we did see were very impressive, although, we were less impressed by the modern Hungarian art. The church (of Matyas) was beautiful, despite lacking the authenticity and age of other Hungarian buildings (having been restored completely following WWII). The entirety of the interior had been painted with intricate patterns, and the stained glass windows were extremely vibrant and colourful. To complete the restoration, a replica Hungarian royal crown was blessed by the pope, and carried by foot from the Vatican to the church, the journey lasting a month. The wind and the cold at the peak drove us into a tiny cafe atop the castle, in which we had Hungarian pizza and hot chocolate. That night we returned to the banks of the Danube to take photos and enjoy the spectacular sight of the castle all lit up. We then met with Flora, Antonia and a selection of "the cousins" in a jazz bar below the German Institute. Goulash and giant Hungarian lemonades ensued. Flora and Antonia were then kind enough to take us on a drive around the city, pointing out places of interest and taking us up to the top of the Citadel, a Soviet era bastion atop one of the highest peaks in the city. The views of Budapest were gorgeous, but the harsh cold and wind meant we couldn't enjoy them for long.

Posted by Oleus 11:06 Comments (0)

Day 2

Budapest Uncovered

Exploring the city by foot was the order of the day, and to that end we covered most of the important sites on the Pest side of the Danube; Parliament, St Stephens Basilica, and the Opera house. Unfortunately, we were consistently missing the (few) English guided tours of these places, and so as a result only saw St Stephen's comprehensively from the inside. It was a beautiful Hungarian church, complete with a relic of St Stephen's right hand (grizzly!). Mulled wine and hot chocolate at the Christmas markets out the front of the churc, and some hearty goulash from a nearby cafe (plus cocktails!) saw a tired Tom and Kirstie back in our apartment and asleep by 5.30pm.

Posted by Oleus 11:05 Comments (0)

Budapest

First Impressions

Having narrowly escaped certain abduction at Budapest airport, we arrived safely at our accomodation in the Jewish quarter of Budapest. No sooner had we checked in, we were greeted by the affable Lajos who, in his navy BMW, sped us through the busy streets of Pest, around the steep hills of Buda, until finally we reached his beautifully furbished home. There we were introduced to two of our favorite parts of Hungary - Lajos' extended family and Hungarian food. The hospitality was overwhelming and immediately Kirstie and I were accepted as cousins. Amongst the many people we met were Flora and Antonia, two incredibly lovely people who we would spend the most time with in Budapest. Jetlagged and overfed, our last experience on our first day in Hungary was half an hour worth of a contemporary Hungarian orchestral performance, in which Eszter (Lajos' niece) was playing the violin. Perhaps fortunately for our warm and weary selves, Pista was so incensed by the contemporary musical style (we would lately discover he was classically trained by a famous Hungarian musical scholar, and played the violin) that we left less than half way through the performance.

Posted by Oleus 12:56 Archived in Hungary Tagged budapest Comments (0)

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