Tag Archives: Hungary

Snoop’s Merry Cheesemas: Budapest Part 2

10 Dec

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.winter hat

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.turkeyhat

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:2012-11-24 18.57.16

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.

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".

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.bk pun

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

I Left Hungary For More: Budapest part 1

29 Nov

I know it’s been another long absence, nearly two weeks if I’m to believe the very sparse-looking calendar thing somewhere on the right side of this page. But I also know that you know to expect any kind of regularity is more futile than telling me how Back to the Future part III is fundamentally flawed. I won’t hear it.

Anyway, the main reason I’m back is because I actually have something to write about. That’s right, as promised over the past week and a bit I have returned from the West island of New Zealand (still funny), done a jet lagged 4 1/2 days of work, and spent the weekend in Budapest. By my standards I need around two months paid leave to recover now.

So I’m sure at least five of you seven loyal readers are thinking along the same lines: “you only went to Budapest for the many obvious Hungary puns.” Well you’re sort of right, but I had also heard it was an amazing place from everyone who’d been, therefore it was on my list of must-see places for this trip.

It began with what is widely accepted as the most shambolic airline in the world. Ryanair. I know you’re not paying for the service, but you do pay for pretty much everything else. That being said, it got us there on time and without too much fuss. We then set about getting to Wombats Hostel, and given how much trouble it can be to get from some airports in the world, the fixed-price taxi service was extremely welcome.

The following morning we were determined to make the most of our flying weekend visit, and so embarked upon a free walking tour. Rather than being ‘free’, these tours are actually based on tips (which they make very clear at the start) and are a very cheap way of seeing a city and getting heaps of information. After winding our way through various landmarks, we arrived at the Palace overlooking the river and were greeted with:

I know what you’re thinking. And despite the fact that it is neither on a shit angle, nor blurry, I did in fact take this photo. This is taken from the Buda side and overlooks the Pest side of Budapest. There’s a story about the names but you’ll have to visit if you want to hear it, since to explain it would take this dangerously in to the territory of an actual travel blog.

Along the way we also stopped by St. Stephens Basilica, a very impressive cathedral located on the Pest side. It looks like this:

You’ll be pleased to see a return to my “arty” photography style

I think you’ll agree on it’s impressive-ness. However I really only point this out to show you the ingenious way previous town planners have employed to make it seem even more impressive:

No doubt they erected the most boring building they could so as not to detract from the cathedral’s majesty. Or perhaps communist Lego blocks were not as colourful as ours. Either way I think it makes a nice juxtaposition.

After our walking tour we resolved to find some authentic Hungarian cuisine, which we were informed consisted of meat, lard, paprika, and occasionally potatoes. Seems limited but after two days I’m convinced they are the only 3-4 things you could ever need to cook. In any case we found we were looking for in the form of a nice hearty goulash soup.

Probably wouldn’t work as a Master Chef taste challenge

That was tasty, but what I really need to talk about is that we saw this:

If you’re not sure because you can’t see him that well, YES. That is a man playing the wine glasses! It’s one of those things I’ve seen on TV but never did I dream I would see one in real life. Clearly this is not just your average guy who happened to have some free time and a fully stocked armoire. Such is the organisation of his packing cases (not to mention his skillz) I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a roadie in a Jamie Turner T-shirt skulking out to replace cracked vessels.

That will have to do for now, as I’m trying to string this out ’til Christmas. Speaking of which, I have some exciting news (exciting for me anyway). Stay tuned for that, plus the epic conclusion to the Budapest adventure. Now THAT is dangling some impressive carrots!


Safe travels, thanks for reading. J