A Long Weekend In Budapest

A Long Weekend In Budapest

PostedDate         4/10/2006

Budapest A Long Weekend

Ah the joys of Budget airlines meant it is now

really cheap to get to Budapest from Luton

Airport, in fact it’s cheaper than getting a

train to Yorkshire and back again!

So we booked ourselves on an early morning

flight that arrived at Budapest at about 10 in

the morning on Thursday last and I suddenly

became very rich at the Bureau De Change as I

was handed over 100 000 Forints in exchange for

my £s, damn I like having 10000 notes, it feels

so extravagant spending them!!

So we jumped a cab to our hotel for the bargain

price of 8 grand and it soon became apparent

that Budapest doesn’t really do motorways or

main highways as we seemed to take normal roads

for the whole journey.

After checking into the Aquincum hotel and

discovering we had a bed that was about 7 feet

wide and a view of Gellert hill while being

surrounded by what seemed like an never ending

Soviet era estate of large concrete brutalist

apartment blocks that make Cabrini Green look

well designed. The only difference being when we

walked by them all of the ground floor space is

given over to small shops and bars and they

don’t seem to be decaying too much either.

After a while we realised we were going in the

wrong direction and headed towards Centrum, and

along the way found a good Dutch coffee shop (No

not that kind of coffee shop) for lunch and it

was way cool with good art on the walls.

We then walked along the banks of the Danube and

over the bridge from Buda into Pest to see the

Parliament building that is just an incredible

building with loads of intricate detailing on

the outside it is a real great building.

We carried on wandering around and eventually

walked back to the hotel for a good rest before

having our first real go at Hungarian cuisine at

the Cafe Pierrot restaurant the highlight of

which was actually the Pianist who for no reason

at all seemingly launched into a Jewish set that

included The Hatikvah, L’chaim L’chaim to life,

and If I Were A Rich Man among others, it seemed

slightly surreal at the time, but was only a

portent for just how Jewish a city Budapest is.

Friday began with a large breakfast at the

hotels very over the top buffet and was followed

by getting a three day travel pass for the

Trains, buses, trams, trolley buses and cogwheel

railway to make getting around a little easier,

we jumped on the train at Arpad Hid down to

Batthyany ter from where we walked to the

Fisherman’s Bastion which is an incredible folly

of a castle like building that has the great St

Matthias church behind it, both were well worth

exploring, we then went and found the Castle

Labyrinth which was as you would expect of an

underground cave network, lots of dark caves to

walk through with the odd effect to scare you

with, all the while thinking what it would be

like to have to seek refuge here as many did

during WW2.

We then tried to find some lunch the first place

we tried due to the language problems we only

had a coffee and a coke and moved on, well we

jumped on a tram actually and then got off when

it looked interesting and took a look through

one of the local markets and shopping districts

before finding a cool restaurant for Beer and a

late lunch, that was more filling than we really

needed, after lunch more strolling and looking

at all the buildings and people and doing some

shopping, we were liking Budapest more and more.

After a good break back at the hotel in its own

spa we went out for what turned out to be the

best meal of the trip at Kisbuda Gyongye that is

on a side street seemingly in the middle of

nowhere, inside however it’s like someone’s front

room circa about 1920 complete with an upright

piano in the middle of the room, as we were led

to our table the old boy on the piano greeted us

and continued playing.

He was very sharp and figured out what to play

for everyone there, Jet ordered the Goulash and

I ordered the Vegetable plate as well as a

bottle of Bock to share. The pianist reluctantly

gave in to the request from another table for

some Beatles and gave us a great version of

Michelle where he went around the melody and

totally made it his own before ripping Hey Jude

apart and making it into an Central European

classic.

When the food arrived Jets Goulash was every bit

as good as expected and my Vegetable plate was

gobsmacking in how unusual it was!! On the plate

there were deep fried Asparagus in bread crumbs,

a Potato Croquet, a courgette and onion thing, a

cracker filled with Mushrooms in an incredible

sauce and most incredibly a fried egg schnitzel

that was unlike anything I’ve eaten before, a

truly great meal.

Only made better when to take the mickey out of

the table that wanted the Beatles and turned out

to be Israeli the pianist played Tel Aviv, a

tune about the Shtetl and another three Jewish

tunes and made sure to call the guy putting

something in his glas a Schkoer. He also played

Moon River for the Young Lovers from London

whoever they were!!

Then we got to the most unreal part of the meal

the dessert we ordered was Chestnut puree with

Sour Cherries soaked in Rum, sounds good right,

well almost, it was the chestnuts that had been

soaked in rum and then pureed so that they

looked like a small mountain of All-Bran with

Cream balls and little piles of the sour

cherries surrounding them, it was both delicious

and disconcerting at the same time!!  We were

the last to leave and they made a fuss of us

right to the end a great night out, even if we

could barely walk we were so stuffed!

Saturday we decided would be chilled out and so

we spent most of the morning in the Spa lazing

in the hot pools or the Jacuzzi, sauna and steam

rooms before taking the short walk about halfway

across Arpad Hid (Hid=Bridge) to Margrit Island

that is in the middle of the Danube that was

rising to extreme levels due to the melting snow

upstream, but as no nothing tourists we didn’t

realise this till we got home!!

Still on getting on the island we had a light

lunch at the restaurant with the scariest

waitress alive, damn you didn’t want to mess

with her. We then hired a bike type contraption

that had four wheels and a covered top with one

steering wheel and brake to ride around the

island it was a hoot and good to spend time in

such a nice park and health spot, even if we

didn’t realise what all those sandbags were for.

By the time we rode around the island it was

Beer time in the Thermal hotel before walking

back to our hotel for some more spa time.

Dinner this time was at Kiraly a “traditional”

Gypsy restaurant, that was only trad if your

gypsies were very rich to start with, this was

sumptuous in the extreme, I mean when the guy

served our wine he never once touched the bottle

while he uncorked and poured it!! They had the

most incredible machine for doing it, what a

performance it involved, they also had a tuxedo

wearing Gypsy band fronted by Puka Karoly who

featured a great cimbalom player, what an

instrument that is. They also managed some

Jewish music including My Yiddishe Momme and

Kalinka, but came into their own with there

Italian repertoire that got half the place

singing along to Volare as well as the wedding

music from the Godfather in-between the folk

Dancers and a baritone that reminded us of

Howard Keel of all people, it was a strange

night out for sure.

On Sunday after our morning spa and breakfast we

went over to Pest to see the Great Synagogue

(www.greatsynagogue.hu) that is on Dohany utca

or tobacco street if you prefer the English,

this is one hell of a synagogue it holds 3000

worshipper’s and looks like a moorish castle from

the outside, inside it has loads of gold leaf

every-where and is the most opulent looking

synagogue I’ve seen it has been fully restored

after the damage the Nazi’s and Arrowheads did

in WW2 and has the largest organ I’ve seen in a

shul that is played by a non-jew on Sabbath’s.

This is one shul that has to be see to be

Believed, we also went to see the mass grave at

the side of the shul that has several thousand

of the Jews that starved to death in the Ghetto

during WW2 and the memorial sculpture to them

with many of the names on leaves of a silver

willow tree before going into the Jewish museum

to see the artefacts and learn some more about

Jewish History in Budapest, a cool museum with

Lots of interesting stuff in it.

After a short lunch and coffee break we walked

over to St Stephens Basilica an incredible and

huge church that we started out by going up to

the top of the dome for panoramic views of

Budapest before exploring this great happy

church to St Stephen, when we read it was for

the same Stephen that Vienna’s darkest church

imaginable is named after we were really

gobsmacked it couldn’t be, even if they have his

Right hand mummified in the casket in the chapel

at the back it couldn’t be but it was, anyway a

great church to see.

After that we noticed that the road by the side

of the Danube was now flooded but just thought

it was high tide!!

But still we had time for some more spa action

and a Red Wine bath to chill us right out before

going to Pest to eat at the Fatal restaurant, a

place that served huge helpings on wooden

plates, I have the mushroom goulash that was

served with some really weird noodle things and

Jet had the Fish Sticks that was a pile of food

beyond us both. Then one last moonlit walk by

the Danube before a good night cap in the hotel

bar.

Monday we hit the road good and early after

breakfast and through the rush hour traffic to

the airport and out trip home again.

All in a great weekend and there is still plenty

we didn’t do this time in Budapest, we may have

to go back to do some more.

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About simonovitch

Writer poet music freak etc etc based in London you'll find out more by reading my blogs.
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