And We're Off Again!

Trip Start Oct 21, 2009
Trip End Jan 12, 2010

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Monday, December 14, 2009

12.14.09               And We're Off Again (This Time, To Budapest, Hungary!)

[Opening note: thanks to everyone for your feedback on whether or not you like my running food commentary.  Due to overwhelming demand, I will continue to journal about what we are eating in each city and country, even if it kills Christoph (by boring him to death).]

After a restful morning at Christoph and Taryn’s apartment, we left Bratislava today on the 11:54am train to Budapest, Hungary.  As predicted, it was very hard to say goodbye to both C&T; it will be quite some time until we see them again, and the family time together was so awesome (as well as very relaxing and rejuvenating!).

The train ride from Bratislava to Budapest took under three hours, and once again, we enjoyed a very pleasant (first-class with our Euro Rail passes!) trip, lunching on board in the sweet dining car and enjoying the scenery.  We arrived in Budapest late afternoon (it’s pretty cold here, too!), and took the Metro to the Intercontinental Budapest – a fancy pants hotel where we are staying for one night as part of Murray’s work entitlement (the "relocation back to Australia" entitlement).  I must admit – it was great being back in a five-star hotel (remember our tour in Egypt and Jordan?!) with all the bells and whistles.

After dropping off our gear and enjoying a cup of tea in our room, we headed out for a brisk evening walk along the Danube River, where we saw spectacular night views of the river, the Chain Bridge, and Castle Hill.  We then looped back around to Vorosmarty ter (Vorosmarty Square), just around the corner from our hotel (and the Metro stop we jumped out at to get to our hotel this afternoon).  This square is one of Budapest’s largest and most famous – in the center of the square is a statute of the 19th century poet after whom the square is named.  (Bizarrely, in the winter, this statute is protected by a big plastic bubble that, apparently, kids love sliding on…!) 

Of course, as we had seen earlier in the day, there were more markets set up in this Budepest square, and (conveniently, for us) Vorosmarty’s Christmas markets (or Karacsony, “Christmas fair”) are the largest and most popular in the city.  We now understand why they are so popular – these markets were our favorite of all the Christmas markets we’ve seen in Prague, Bratislava, Vienna, and now here!  We loved their vibe – they had a real “local artisan” feel, and both the foods and crafts selections were diverse, unique, and funky.  (The actual market stalls themselves also had a lot of character, many decorated as open-ended living or dining rooms with wallpaper up and/or brick fireplaces installed!)  To top it all off, the markets had a huge performance stage that was jam-packed with acts by Hungarian folk singers, bands, ensembles, and dancers throughout the day and night – so we were entertained by more than just people-watching as we walked around and ate our food.

[By the way, here’s my (maybe overly PC) side note on the markets: I keep on referring to all these markets we’ve visited as “Christmas markets” – and not holiday markets – because that is what everyone calls them, and there seems to be no reference at the markets to anything but Christmas-related observations and traditions…]

Despite the cold evening, we were at the markets for a few hours, and ended up having dinner from several different stalls.  I enjoyed hot apple cider while Murray had his first Hungarian beer (Soprani) – and then we started off with Pomposh, a traditional Hungarian meal of flattened bread dough baked in a clay or wood-fired adobe oven and topped off with sour cream, garlic, onion, thick chunks of ham, and cheese – sort of like a white pizza on focaccia, only way better.

From there, the food took off – we tried a traditional smoked sausage with spicy mustard and rye bread, and a cabbage roll with pork and sauerkraut.  We also tried Langallo, a variation of the Pomposh I described above (and better even than the Pomposh!).  Our diverse dinner was topped off with another one of those wonderfully hot, doughy sweet bread “tunnels” (what we’ve seen called “trdelniks” in other countries, but what we’ve been referring to as “turtlenecks”) – only in Budapest, they were called “kiralyi kurtoskalacs” and they were the longest, most caramelized version yet!  We had such a fun, delicious evening (albeit cold!!!).

After the markets, we rolled back to our Gucci hotel, where I luxuriated in a long bath and cozied up afterward in a big, fluffy hotel robe (the bath/comfy robe were just as delicious as all the food we’d eaten earlier in the evening).  Joy.  Murray and I also decided to order a movie to watch before going to bed, which was a wonderful and relaxing way to unwind from the day.  I could get used to this sort of life…
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