48 Hours in Budapest

Chain Bridge from Buda side
First stop on the weeklong Eastern Europe jaunt is Budapest.  We arrive early in the morning and share a minibus to the hotel in district 7 of the more commercial Pest side of the city.  I immediately notice we're back on the right side of the road...driving on a highway...and there are strip malls around us... are we in Jersey?  Compared to Western Europe, Eastern Europe feels refreshingly down to earth.  We start walking towards the River Danube, which I might add, does not look blue.  The riverfront is charming with sweeping views of the hilly Buda side.
View of Buda Castle
Before getting on a ferry tour, we grab lunch at Apostolok near Elizabeth Bridge and experience a warm and hearty welcome to Hungary.  After some debate, we settle on the stuffed cabbage and a traditional pork dish...the waitress seems very enthused by our choices.  Stuffed cabbage is a classic dish, but what is this pork dish might you wonder?  Turns out to be a foie gras sandwich, but instead of bread it is sandwiched between two pieces of pan fried pork, served over a bed of thin egg noodles with dill, paprika and cream sauce.  It looks beautiful and tastes even better.  The stuffed cabbage is juicy and full of more sweet paprika flavor.  Tastes like home cooking.
This is seriously good, even the hot pepper and tomatos are fresh
Pork, foie gras, mushroom over creamy dill noodles
One successful meal in, we hop on a ferry around the Danube, making a pit stop at Margaret Island for some relaxation (aka. nap in the park).  Margaret Island itself is a huge park filled with people playing sports, sunbathing and picnicking.  The fact that it's an island in the middle of a city makes it feel like a true getaway that's also easy accessible.

After snoozing for a bit we go back on the boat, but not before trying out a traditional Hungarian street snack, Lángos, in other words...fried dough.  What's not to love.
Typically, this is topped with cheese and sour cream, but I'm content with the plain version.
Day 2 is jammed packed and we power tour through Castle Hill in the morning, stopping to admire Matthias Church and the Fishermen's Bastion for a beautiful city overlook.

From here you have a great view of Pest including the magnificent Hungary Parliament, which could definitely rival UK's Parliament.

Realizing we haven't eaten yet, we stop by a local cafe on the hill for coffee and a snack.  I'm really craving a cold iced coffee.

Jess: do you have iced coffee?
Waiter: yes, it's on the dessert menu here (points to a picture of a milkshake sundae)
Jess: but do you just have plain cold coffee?
Waiter: ......(confused look)...yes this is iced coffee, comes with 2 scoops of ice cream
Jess: ok... I'll have that... (feels strange yet excited)

This decision is later justified when two old ladies next to me are each happily slurping on the same thing.
Notice the average age of the clientele.
After this nutritious breakfast, we make our descent from Castle Hill and stroll across the famous Chain Bridge and arrive finally at the Central Market.  This is probably the cleanest market I've ever been to. The ground floor is lined with stalls selling the same few things...sausage, cheese, bread, fruits and vegetables, and paprika.  I have never seen so much paprika, Hungarians really love this stuff.  This becomes more evident later when we have dinner at a restaurant called Paprika.

Lunch consists of spicy Hungarian sausage, a wedge of camembert cheese and a huge loaf of bread. Eating this out in the sun with a big diet coke from Burger King (yup), makes me ever so aware of my surroundings.

It's a hot day, so what better way to cool down than with some relaxation in the Szechenyi Baths.  This is also one of Budapest's top attractions.  How many other cities boast an enormous pool complex as a top attraction?  I'm beginning to like this place.  This large complex consists of 15 pools of varying temperature including three that are outdoors.  It feels a bit like Vegas, but here it's just the community pool.  Of course there are no pictures because I lose the camera here (fail!).

Sad about the missing camera, we go for a hearty dinner at Paprika, a traditional Hungarian Restaurant near City Park.  We order the goulash and instead of the thick stew I envision, this goulash is thinner and served with little dumplings that tastes like gnocchi.  We also order roasted legs of lamb infused with rosemary, served with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut.  This is a man's meal.  To make it more manly I tried a Hungarian liquor that tasted just like Chinese baijiu...potent.

Being thoroughly stuffed, we decide to walk home only to be caught in torrential downpour.  At least it's an exciting send off on our last night in Budapest.

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