Beat in Budapest

5 07 2008

Budapest, Hungary

I believe that Gage and I are destined to live in a place like England or Oregon where we can enjoy a dense year-round cloud cover because at times, such as our last week in Budapest, we are reminded that a hot sun drains our energy faster than a slide show on the daily life of amoebas. I’m sad to say, faithful readers that we only spent one week in Hungary before heading north to cooler (in the temperate sense) lands. However, despite having had no time to explore the culture or develop any deep friendships with the locals, we did leave our sweltering hostel beds long enough to enjoy some sights and, as always, a wealth of local cuisine.

In an attempt to looks at this glass as half-full, I would like to say that there are some benefits to spending your vacation in a sauna, mainly that you are often forced out at night in order to enjoy cooler temperatures. This was particularly attractive to me as the only thing I remember about my visit to Budapest at the age of 14 was a site called Fisherman’s Bastion, which I visited with my school group at night and was completely enchanted. This is my favorite spot in Budapest because, not only does it provide an amazing view of the Pest side of the Danube river, but it is also virtually empty of tourists after sundown. The architecture of Fisherman’s Bastion can make any person feel as though they just stepped out of the back of a wardrobe and wouldn’t bat an eye if the their arrival was greeted by a talking lion. As you can imagine, the fairy tale effect is even headier at night.

fishermans-bastion

Most of Budapest is a heady experience. I started to think of it as a New York that had a brief run-in with the Ottoman Turks, because Budapest has everything. Killer Hungarian architecture like the jaw dropping Parliament and formidable Basillica, Turkish thermal baths that serve as an adult water world, and a (pun-intended) goulash of ethnic restaurants. I even visited an outdoor store that stocked the skirt I scoured seven states (in vain) to find. Budapest has several English language used-bookstores and excellent art stores (below Leo Panzio Hotel) so that both Gage and I were able to sate our needs for entertainment. One of the most interesting evenings we had involved going out with some hostel friends to a hookah bar, which is fun just because it makes you feel like you’re doing something illicit.

Unfortunately/Fortunately, a few days before leaving Romania I started to notice some aching in my teeth, so I ended up going to two dentists. I say fortunately because, while it sucks to have to visit the dentist, Hungary happens to have some of the least expensive dentistry in Europe and is a popular Dental Vacation destination. To get a filling put on one of my teeth cost only $66 and a hygienic cleaning was only $115. Out of the two I visited, I’d have to say that Dr. Schleffer at Dentist Budapest was the best. He was attentive, gentle, explained everything he was doing, and was pretty easy on the eyes (which is a good thing when someone has to spend 30 minutes hovering over your face).

If you don’t have cavities when you arrive in Budapest, don’t worry, they’re pretty easy to acquire. This country has a serious sweet tooth. Our first Hungarian dessert was a bright pink cherry soup that they call meggyleves. It’s basically cherries, red wine, cream, spices, and a little piece of heaven. I’m completely addicted. The second exhibit of gloriousness would be the palacintas, which are basically gigantic crepes filled with any sort of delicious filling you can imagine. We had one with cottage cheese, Nutella, banana, and chocolate sauce…for dinner. There are too many traditional Hungarian dishes to mention (most notably their goulash!), but it’s worth avoiding the other ethnic cuisines for the sake of indulging in their traditional foods. After all, no one makes Hungarian food like Hungarians and you have plenty of exotic choices back home.

Budapest Recommendations:
– Spending money on a bath in Budapest is totally worth it, and that is the opinion of two people who do not walk into a museum unless it’s free of less than $4. We went to the Szechenyi Bath and enjoyed both the medicinal spas, but also the outdoor pools which include massaging jets and a circular swirl pool that causes all adults to revert to giggling children.
– We spent the week in three clean, well-run hostels. The first was Maxim Doubles whose greatest asset is Tom, the student who works reception there and is an excellent source for cheap eats. It’s also a very small place that makes you feel more like you’re staying at a friend’s place than a hostel. My favorite perk, though, was that it had a dishwasher! The second hostel was Capital Hostel which has a great location, an excellent breakfast, and the greatest of all, air-conditioned rooms! If you stay there be sure to talk up the owners who basically serve as walking guidebooks for all the big happenings in Hungary. The last hostel was Amazing Hostel, which you should stay at if you plan on cooking a lot of your meals. Their kitchen is probably nicer than yours back home.
– If you’re looking for some good goulash at a great price, go to For Sale Pub on Vamhaz Korut. One order of goulash easily feeds two hungry people. Top it off with a couple of palacintas for dessert and you can probably get out of there for under $15.
– The Hungarian language, Magyar, is really hard to understand and read, so it makes going out difficult. There are plenty of restaurants where they have English language menu translations, but those are usually the most expensive. The best solution is to head to etkezde‘s, or cafeteria-style restaurants, where you get a tray and all the food is laid out in front of you. Just point to the food you want and the employee will heap it into a plate or a bowl. It may not be high class eating, but it’s cheap, traditional, and good!

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4 responses

6 07 2008
Kathy

The evening/nightime pictures of Budapest were absolutely stunning! Can so relate to the heat and humidity – while in the Bahamas – we truly thought we had died and gone to hell. Well, except for the magnificant palms, and sand, and warm salt water seas 🙂 Jen – so sorry you had to visit the dentist (what a pain….dumb joke, I know, I know). Googled “hookah bar budapest hungary” a few minsutes ago. Guess what came up #1. YOUR Living Spree blog! Okay so you are reveling in that fact (I thought it very cool, myself) but I did it b/c I wanted to know exactly what they “severd” in the hooka. Never found an answer. 😐 Heading north, now. Where? Slovakia or are you going to spend more time in Hungary?

Well, it’s supper time in Colorado so better get to cooking. Oh – joined Weight Watchers a couple weeks ago. Should NEVER had enlarged the pcture of the palacintas. Mmmmmmmm.
Love, Kathy

7 07 2008
Shannon

darn! I didn’t even think of you two going to Hungary. Megan’s ex lives there and he would have shown you around! Did you try a dish that was similar to a funnel cake, and had some sort of rich creamy cheese sauce and then shredded cheese on top? This was my favorite thing there…if you saw it/ate it, will you let me know what it is called?

8 07 2008
gageam

Shannon,

We didn’t actually have one of those because we were distracted by the palacintas, but they are called Lángos and if you want to make your own, check out this uTube video I found…

Enjoy!

8 07 2008
gageam

Kathy,

Usually Shisha is what they smoke out of Hookahs. It’s tobacco usually flavored with fruit. Check out this link to see some of the flavors.

http://www.hookah-shisha.com/store/pc/viewCat_h.asp?idCategory=3

Have fun!

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