The Revolving Door of Budapest

I meant to flee south to warmer climates, I’d bought a ticket to Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina. That night, as I was packing up to leave, my laptop broke again, the second time this month. I’d already had to change plans in Singapore to stay longer for a fix and it had come back with a part slightly askew. Now the part was completely broken and derailing my weather wienie ways. Back to Budapest it was, where I could find someone to fix my computer under warranty.  My farm host mentioned that in Budapest, people have a habit of entering after you but somehow leaving before you in revolving doors.  It’s true, I’m not sure how, but it happens here.  Well I hope everyone doesn’t leave for the south before me.

I tried to cheer myself up from my diverted plans with a sweet. I spied this in a 70’s looking store. The old lady firmly entrenched behind the retro orange and brown store all pointed to a delicious cake. Unfortunately the awesomely named Rokoko cake ended up being terrible and dry.

Last time I was here, I did some sightseeing and saw the city through a couch surfer who lived in the suburbs and loved vintage cars. This time around I stayed in hostels which ended up being the revolving door part of the trip. I never booked too far ahead, not knowing when I could get my equipment fixed and go so I got kicked out more than once as the place would be full and out of beds. The trip to Vienna happened in-between my stay this time, at one rather sudden booting out. It unfortunately cast a slightly stressful tint on this stay. Luckily I discovered some cool modern culture stuff happening to make up for it.

One thing leads to another while traveling and this time it all started when I went into a poultry store to buy some amazingly juicy fried chicken to enjoy in a park by the river.

Goose is more common here than most places so I also wandered out with “sult libamaj”, fried goose liver of the not force fed variety. It was preserved in a box full of what I assume to be goose fat. My farm host let me know rather matter of factly that all meats used to be preserved like this. Now I understand why there is a national dish that’s just fat on bread, but how is everyone here not dead?

Right next to the awesome poultry store was a toy and useless crap store selling fun modern things. The tourist area is dotted with cool design stores selling expensive things. These are some common animals of Hungary, including the rad spiral horned sheep that I forgot to take a picture of on the farm.

I had arrived for design week. I imagine there’s always something going on in Budapest but design is certainly one I enjoy. To get to Budapest I had taken a layover in Helsinki but not spent any time there due to expense. Now in Budapest, the star of the design week was Helsinki.

I guess I missed a cool design layover

Funny how that works. I wish I had found out earlier as there were some cool films and open studios and I had come on the last day or two.

On my first visit, I went to Heroes’ Square and noted that all the great Hungarians had great Hungarian mustaches. Apparently that’s a thing here, and it appears on aprons accordingly.

I wandered by a theater and saw it was the Kikassa Animation Festival. When I was a kid I wanted to be an animator and I still to this day love watching animations. This is the second time I’ve stumbled into an animation festival, the last when I ran into an old coworker showing at one in Portland, Oregon. I got to watch a tribute to the Hungarian-British animator John Halas. He was a strong proponent for utilizing technology to the max and there were some cool computer animated bits from the 70s and 80s. It was cool watching the influence of growing up in a tough place on a form considered in the west to not be very serious at all. I didn’t even realize the west had an animated version of Animal Farm, which I may have to watch more than the tiny clip I got to see. The rest of the time I spent doing what I usually do, trying the various foods and eating as much cake as I could hold.

I’d passed by Jeg Bufe before and somehow missed the crowds all standing up at window counters inhaling cakes. This is a piramis cake, a multiple layer cake surrounded with lots of chocolate buttercream and then coated in a layer of chocolate. Delicious!

I don’t get why cake eating and cafe coffee is such a fast ordeal here though, everyone seems to be in and out in a matter of minutes. One evening I ended up in a cellar restaurant, where you have to walk down some stairs and the entire inside was made of arched wood. A pretty cool location. As a cool bonus it was called Csülök Csárda, which means the Pork Knuckle Inn.

Pork knuckle, a part of pig I can’t say I see much in America, is everywhere in Hungary. I got mine covered in bacon, onions, and potatoes. See that pork I dug out peeking up from the huge stack? Washing all of that down with a beer made me a pretty sleepy person during the animation festival. The free shot of palinka didn’t help either.

One of the places recommended for all tourists and as a cheap eating location is the Central Market Hall also known as the Grand Market.  I find it a tchotchke tourist trap but seeing all the sausage and bread vendors is neat.  Go downstairs and see the fish and pickle vendors.  As a budget eatery though, I think that’s all bunk.  The prices at the steam tables where food sits out all day and is reheated in a microwave is the same as lunch specials at most sit down restaurants.  Order a “napi menu” at a restaurant instead of lining up with all the tourists.  The langos bar isn’t bad but is more expensive than most places where it doesn’t usually come with so many darned things on top.

Although delicious looking here, this stuffed pepper was on the cold side of lukewarm after their microwave reheating and the sauce was sickly sweet.

One evening I hiked out to the suburb area of Obuda on the Buda side of things across the river.  It had lovely old buildings and a delicious bakery.  Daubner’s is a pretty large place with four counters all with long lines for what turned out to be pretty delicious cake and people lugging out huge boxes of desserts.  I saw one lady inhale her cake before she even got to a counter.  I’ve had cake before dinner a few times as they usually close around 6 or 7 in the evening.

The E-80 torte consisting of sponge base, marzipan cream, coffee cream & cocoa powder. Not usually my thing but it ended up extra decadent here and therefore extra delicious.

While on that same side of the river I visited Regis Sipos, known for its halazle (fish soup).  When I showed up I was a little concerned the restaurant was quite fancy and full of waiters but only had one table of guys in jeans.  By the time I left though, the place was half full and had lots of suits and tourists clutching maps.  There was even a band of cellist, violinist and xylophonist.

It took me a while to find it as i only saw this at the Central Market and the restaurants I tried were out. Delicious but I’m glad I ordered a small as it was quite heavy.

The best way to follow a heavy fish soup is with a heavy appetizer of Hortobagy palascinta. It’s a crepe filled with ground meat and topped with a creamy smoked paprika sauce and sour cream. This one was then topped with some slices of fresh paprika pepper, in case two types of cream needed two types of paprika.

I went looking for goose leg at Kanaan’s in the XIII district and only found more goose liver in the form of croquettes next to this delicious fried duck leg. Well, I’ll take another delicious fowl as substitute.

On my last full day I went to visit the tourist famous Kadar Etkezde.  While etkezde are usually cheap lunch spots, this one was was expensive as most restaurants I’ve been to in the area so perhaps it is only for tourists now.  All the staff were exceedingly friendly and kept asking if everything was ok.  I didn’t have the heart to tell them everything was ok but not great.  Just like every time I ignore my instincts and go to something recommended by guidebooks.

I didn’t ever actually try chicken paprikash but I did try this Hungarian style paprika turkey.

Csaszarmorzsa, or the Emperor’s Crumb, a dessert that tasted like crumbled cake covered in powdered sugar and jam. Seems kind of heavy and peasant like for an emperor.

How do you make up for an overpriced mediocre lunch?  By getting cheap delicious retes!

Well, so the retes making in Kiskassa village ended up a bust but luckily there’s a delicious retes store in Budapest. Unlike the bready/cakey version of the village this one is mostly filling lovingly surrounded by greasy flaky pastry.

Just to prove I’m not only out to laugh at Asia for their Engrish mistakes, here is one time I think Hungarians might’ve missed the point. I don’t think that’s something one usually advertises.

The area wasn’t doing so well with lots of empty store fronts, but really I suppose any area with lots of sex shops isn’t usually the most kept up.

Also seen on the same street. How old is this shop? The euro is something like 280 Hungarian forints now.

I like spending lots of time in one place but not when I hadn’t wanted to and had to change hostels three times. The benefit of staying in a city is to not have to pack up so darned often. I stayed around the Oktogon/Nyugati train station area which is quite near all the happening things but also quite touristy.  At least it’s a very pretty place.

The view over the Danube River from the Margaret Bridge. You can see the parliament building to the left and the castle to the right.

It’s pretty at night too. All the couples making out around me thought so as well.  The neon McDonald’s sign on the far left is sad but fitting.

This time, after yet a third laptop mishap, I’m finally heading to Sarajevo. It is a city with so many awesome things and a great character and yet, perhaps with all my bad luck, it did not add up to be greater than all it’s parts. I go through briefly one more time on my flight out but otherwise, sorry Budapest, don’t call me, maybe I’ll call you sometime.

  1. Jenn said:

    not sure if it’s the same version as what you saw but we watched the animated ‘animal farm’ in HS history class. and remember, always trust your instincts and never be bad in bed. xx

  2. Jenn said:

    oh yeah, and what’s fresh paprika like? is it a spicy pepper? or like, a bell pepper?

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