Sorry, this post was mostly finished about three days ago, but since then I’ve been preoccupied with finding myself a new winter hat. Something stylish like this.
But given that since arriving here I’ve spent a total of six (that’s 6) British pounds on three hats and have a grand total of zero hats to show for it, I’ve decided to go with something a little more conspicuous.
If you’re trying to guess, the bottom one is me. Now back to Budapest…
Right! Now, where was I? Oh yes, we had just seen none other than a man playing wine glasses as though they were a real instrument. So frankly, it’s all down hill from here.
After our long day of walking, eating goulash soup and surreptitiously trying to get photos of a man playing glasses, we returned to Wombats Hostel for a well-earned power nap. I always find when returning to your place of rest after a day out, you run the very real risk of rationalising your way in to staying there rather than going out again.
For example, you might think: “Yeah I really should go back out to visit the third best bar in the world, but this place does have a history of communism. If I go out I could easily find myself on the wrong side of an abruptly constructed wall, or I could not be allowed to leave and be forced to eek out a living playing the wine glasses for patrons’ spare change.”
Then of course, you remember that you’re being a completely lazy and irrational knob end (my new favourite British term) and you should stop your pathetic jibber-jabbing and go do something meaningful with your short time in this beautiful place.
So we set about finding what Lonely Planet (amateurs) refers to as the world’s third best bar. At least, that’s what our free walking tour guide said. I’ve since found little evidence to back this claim up, but nevertheless, Szimpla Kert in Budapest’s District Seven is something to behold.
The decor is almost indescribable, as it has that oh-so-familiar feel of “we just found this crap out the back when we bought this place, and turned it all in to furniture or hung it on the wall”. But I also got the feeling this was one of the first places to do this. There are small separate bars for street food and hookah pipes as well as the main drinks bar, and though the drinks were on the pricey side for Budapest, it was still cheaper than drinking in most other European capitals. Definitely worth a visit.
After a drink or two we set off to find what we were mainly there for, Christmas markets. For me, Christmas markets meant one thing, food. Now, Christmas markets mean two things, food and booze. The food was extensive, and we did our best to try paprika sausages, chocolate-dipped fruit, and many other things that you can only eat when you say “yeah go on, I’m on holiday”. But the most fascinating was the “chimney cake”, as seen being prepared here:
These are basically big spirals of dough that are expertly cooked over hot coals, then coated in your choice of cinnamon, chocolate, sugar or a few other choices. There was a story that went with it, but you know I’m not in to that.
We also tried all manner of mulled wines and a hot cherry beer which was quite interesting. But the ultimate winter warmer was the “grog”. You’d think we would have been a little suspicious at the name, but we thought little of it. As it turns out, “grog” has a rather similar meaning in Hungarian. A cup of grog contained a hastily measured amount of rum, an unknown amount of orange schnapps, and I’m not real sure what else. It is also served hot, which means it is a mistake to breathe in as you take a sip. I’m not sure if alcohol taken in through steam vapour is more effective, but its not all that pleasant. Once we worked it out though, there’s no more effective or tasty way to stay warm.
The following day we were to depart, but not before experiencing Budapest’s mineral spring baths. Apparently Budapest is famous for them. Never having heard of them myself, I think Budapest tourism could perhaps do a better job, because they are well worth a visit! Here is a pic of the outdoor area taken so as not to draw attention to the fact I was taking clandestine photos at a public bath house:
It’s worth noting that it was about four degrees.
There are dozens of baths in the complex, both indoor and outdoor and at various temperatures. Price of entry is very reasonable and the experience is well worth the freezing sprint between the door and the outdoor pools.
After enjoying various temperature water, it was time to stroll back to get our ride to the airport. However on the way it was difficult not to notice just how many people are getting involved in Christmas this year.
I think the translation says “Merry Chrizzle, Snoop’s upside ya tree”.
As you know, for me getting involved in local food culture doesn’t just mean finding authentic paprika sausage and goulash soup. I also couldn’t resist the most pathetic pun in corporate food history.
It doesn’t rhyme, it doesn’t even have the same sound. It was tasty though.
With all that it was time to head back to the airport, another flat rate taxi ride away. Our flight back was to be with easyJet, and never having had a problem with them, I was expecting a better experience with Ryanair. However, thanks to one particular overzealous airport worker, we were still on the runway 45 minutes after departure time. I won’t dwell though, because it was a wonderful weekend in a beautiful city.
Oh, and before I forget, I should tell you the exciting news I dangled at the end of the last post and have expertly placed at the end of this post to ensure readers stick around til now (assuming you haven’t got bored and left already). Anyway, in order to ensure a stereotypical European white Christmas, I will be heading somewhere where an absence of snow may entitle me to compensation. The French Alps.
In the meantime I may or may not bring you a post about my breakfast this weekend. Miss it at your peril.
Safe travels, thanks for reading. J