One of the best things about living away from home is having friends from home come for a visit! El had a conference in England, and was lovely enough to stop by on her way back home… although in this case she got lost a little to the east of Berlin, so Andy and I had to make the trip out to Budapest to help her find her way back.
Another great thing about having friends visit is using it as an excuse to get out of Deutschland!
Elle and I had never been to anything describable as ‘Eastern Europe’- so we made Andy- who had visited Budapest back in 2009- the official hotel-scout-and-general-tour-guide/directions-man of the group.
We ended up staying in something called ‘Design appartments’ fairly close to all the interesting stuff going down in on the Pest side of the city (I didn’t realize until 1 month ago that ‘Budapest comes from two parts of the city- Buda and (unsurprisingly) Pest, sitting across the Danube from each other).
The place was decked out in the over-the-top kind of brightness that’s nice for a short stay but would look horrible in an actual abode, and seemed to sleep at least 8 people. It was fairly well equipped- complete with mini kitchen and washer- but with a couple of ‘cut corners’ (the wifi was broken while we were there), and a manager who seemed to have better things to do.
I fell in love with the pod chair. Thing felt like a womb!
We decided not to do the crazy ‘wake up at 4am to get there by 9’ thing, and instead arrived at the much more civil hour of 4pm (really the only 4 in the day I want to be acquainted with- especially holidays). After settling in, we did a bit of wandering.
The city is this gorgeous mixture or water, bridges, and fantastic buildings that seem to take their inspiration from both Europe and something more eastern (there was Turkish occupation somewhere in the history, so maybe that’s it?)
The wandering started to make our stomachs growl, and after realising very rapidly that the Venn overlap of ‘hungarian’ and ‘vegetarian’ was liekly too small to satisfy Elle’s needs, we settled on the lazy option: burgers.
Did I mention that during the pre-dinner wanderings we came across a shop selling ice-cream roses??
And look, I know the connoisseurs among you will note that ‘rose shaped icecream’ is clearly a selling gimmick, and likely guarantees poor quality of the actual Eis, but actually, it turned out pretty well.
The icecream was slightly softer than normal, but the chocolate was rich and tasty, and they had some unusual flavours: the one on the outside of this cone is lavender!
(The apartment was just across the road from this museum).
The next morning we set off bright and not-so-early. The plan was to find some markets- heard in legend by myself, and possibly matching up in reality to something in Ellen’s tourist guide called ‘Ecseri Piac’.
I let the others do the map reading.
We arrived at the underground station, and after 20 minutes of searching still couldn’t find our bus connection. A kind bus driver with amazingly good English showed us another travel option, and we hopped on, asking all our co-riders if they knew of this ‘Ecseri Piac’.
As we pulled up past a park, an old lady announced: ‘IT’.
There was some sort of fete, but this did not look like ‘one of the biggest flea markets in central Europe’.
‘IT’, said the old lady. ‘It, It, It’.
We got off the bus.
It wasn’t our market, but they did have Langos.
And Kürtőskalács or ‘chimney cakes’!
The yeast dough is wound around wooden sticks/cylinders, and coated in sugar, then baked over open coals (you can see the man turning them in the background). The dough cooks, rises a little, gets deliciously caramalised on the outside, and is then removed from the coals and sprinkled in cinnamon sugar or cocoa or other tasty delights before being wacked off the stick (in this case with a little wooden sword!) and given to the delighted customer.
The dough itself is also slightly spiced or flavoured- in this case it seemed a little lemony or orangy, but I’m not entirely sure..
We got back on the bus and finally- with the help of a very kind old man who mimed our direction of travel and pressing the bell for the right stop- made it to the market.
Which was some kind of wonderful. They had an amazing range of old and interesting stuff.
Do you remember in the film American Beauty, how the neighbour’s dad collects ‘the official table service of the Nazi party’ with the swastika on the back.
Stuff like that.
But also stuff for the purchaser who is not an horrible bigot, including a couple of shops with a crazy collection of old dresses, hats and coats.
Our afternoon saw beautiful weather, which necessitated more aimless wandering.
(Yeah I’m not sure- he seemed to want to pose for us)
In the evening we boarded a boat and floated up and down the river drinking gallons of wine. Elle and Andy got the ‘try all the wine you like’ package, while I got the slightly classier ‘we will bring a couple of our finer wines to the table’ package.
The wines I received were Tokaji, which our Hungarian work friend Szilvia had recommended, but I think Elle and Andy are both more into the red, as perhaps you can see fro this picture:
‘Hmm, I detect an oaky note, with subtle undertones of melon, aardvark and thistle’
Later we wandered some more and managed to stumble across a little artsy market.. where Andy and I made our first ever ART PURCHASE for our apartment (unless you include karate chicken, but I’m not sure that he counts).