Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Budapest: Day 5

Wow, the week in Budapest is flying by. I can’t believe tomorrow is our last day here. There’s so much that we still haven’t seen and done, and we only have one more day to fit in as much as we can!

We started off today with a hearty breakfast at Gerbaud. I couldn’t believe how much food was on the plate – cream cheese, jam, two kinds of cheeses (Brie & Swiss I think), ham, salami, fruit, a veggie skewer, and FOUR kinds of buns carbs –  croissant, roll, apple danish, and a cookie. OMG, too much food! We wrapped up the cookies and a bun with cream cheese & jam for later. Forgot to take pics of the food (as usual), but here are some pics on the interior of Gerbaud:

gerbaud 2 gerbaud 1 gerbaud 3

After breakfast, we went on a walking tour. It was cool, because we saw a lot of things that we hadn’t seen before, and we learned a lot about Hungary and how to be a smart tourist here (too late for us, we’ve already fallen into the tourist traps!) We started the tour in the Christmas Market in Pest, and ended the tour in the caves in the Castle District in Buda. Finally managed to get a picture of St. Stephen’s Basilica in daylight AND with a blue sky!

basilica

St. Stephen was the first Christian king of Hungary about 1,000 years ago. His right hand is on display in the Basilica. You can pay to see it – the light above the box that the hand is in turns on for two minutes when you put your money in the box. Or, our tour guide suggested waiting until someone else pays to see it, and take a look before the two minutes are up!

Our tour guide told us that rubbing various statues around the city will make certain good things to happen to you. You can tell which part of the statue to rub by looking for the part of the statue that’s shiny. This statue is called Kiskiralylany (The Little Princess) – although the model for the statue was the artist’s son, which is why she looks a lot like a he! You make a wish while you rub her knees, and your wish will come true. So of course, I HAD to make a wish and rub her knees :-)

princess statue

This funny man has a shiny tummy – rubbing his tummy is supposed to bring you good food. Yep, I rubbed him too – we had a lot of food today, and it was all good. But maybe not so good for you! You’ll see why later!

statue good food

I showed you part of this statue yesterday. It was on the tour today, and our tour guide asked us to find the shiny part on it. Can you find it? Look really closely…

statue horse 2

Did you find it? It’s the horse’s balls!

statue horse 1

Students rub the balls for good grades on exams, and anyone can rub them for good luck in bed. No, I didn’t rub this one!

This is the Love Lock Fence. You engrave or somehow write the initials of you and your loved one on the lock, attach it to the fence, and then throw the key into the Danube. This will make sure that you stay together forever (although you might want to keep a spare key, just in case!)

lovelock fence

Today we walked up to the Castle District on the Buda side – no funicular for you! First we walked up a long hill, and then we walked up stairs…

stairs 1

And more stairs…

stairs 2

And then even more stairs! Whew, that’s a lot of stairs!

stairs 3

A couple more pics of Matyas Church with a clear sky…

matyas 1 matyas 2

Even though we had blue skies today, the view across the Danube was still foggy. Oh well, what can you do? But I want to show you this picture – see the Parliament building dome on the left and the Basilica dome on the right? Which one do you think is taller?

domes

Neither, they’re the exact same height! When they were both built in 1896, it was decided that the domes would both be 96m high, to show that both the government and the church have equal power over the land.

Our tour ended in the caves under the Castle District. After 6:00PM, the lights are turned off and you tour the caves with lanterns.

caves

After the tour, we made a quick stop at the hotel and then walked to the Central Market Hall. It’s a huge building with vendors selling food (mostly meats, fruits & veggies, and paprika) on the first floor, and Hungarian folk items and souvenirs on the second floor.

central market hall central market hall inside central market hall fruit

It was kind of dark and cold in the building today, but I’m sure it’s a great place to check out on a warm & sunny day. I bought a few Christmas decorations and a really cool purple & turquoise handmade pottery mug. Which proceeded to get dropped on the floor when we were buying paprika and smashed into little pieces. And it wasn’t me doing the dropping! We went back upstairs to get another mug, but that was the only purple & turquoise one. I ended up with a purple & green one instead. Which is nice, but it isn’t purple & turquoise!

I’d read and heard a lot about langos, which is a traditional Hungarian food. Basically, it’s like a pizza crust that’s deep fried and covered with your choice of toppings. I went with sour cream, cheese, ham, and onions. OMG, too much food again! I had to remove a lot of the toppings, it was just overkill. I remembered to take a picture this time! After eating half of it, but still… ;-)

langos

We also bought some clementines and a lemon at the market hall. I felt a need for fruit after all that grease! And we had a plan for the lemon…

Seeing as today was the last day for the Christmas Market, we decided we had to get one last kurtoskalacs (click here to check out a web site with good pics and a snippet of the pronunciation).

k roll

We picked one up, along with a sausage. How’s that for a healthy supper? ;-)

sausage

This is where the lemon comes in – remember I mentioned that kurtoskalacs sort of remind me of Beavertails? And that I thought a cinnamon & sugar kurtoskalacs with lemon juice would be a lot like a Killaloe Sunrise Beavertail? Ah-ha!

cutting lemon

I call this a Kurtoskalacs Sunrise ;-)

IMG_4211

And the verdict? YUM-MY! Seriously, I think I’m onto something here,., I just need to convince the kurtoskalacs makers to start squeezing lemon juice onto their kurtoskalacs, and I’ll make a fortune! Or not! ;-)

Between breakfast and the langos and the kurtoskalacs, we decided to postpone our dinner at Menza till tomorrow, and headed out for a hot chocolate around 9:00PM instead. We went to the Mirror Cafe at the Astoria hotel. With the opulent chandeliers and decor and Louis Armsrtong and old jazz tunes playing in the background, I could envision these well-dressed men and women back in the 1920s lounging about the cafe, looking fabulous and elegant.

astoria-hotel-budapest-restaurant hotel telnet Image via Hotel Telnet

Tomorrow morning we’re doing a Segway tour, and then we’ll do some final exploring in the afternoon. We’ll wrap up the day with dinner at Menza, and then it’ll be back to the hotel to pack and get ready for the trip home. A week ago, I was nervous and kind of unsure about coming to Budapest. And now I don’t want to leave!

Not sure if I’ll have time to write another post tomorrow, and for sure I won’t on Friday. But I’ll let you know about our final day here as soon as I have a chance. Till then…

love  In the hallway at the Kapital Inn

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Budapest: Day 4

Today started off on a bit of a downer – I finally got over to Kiraly utca where a lot of interior design stores are, and most of them are closed till January 3rd. ARGH! I did find a few that were open – I have to say that Budapest is way more up-to-date on the home decor front than Ottawa! Kare carries cool contemporary furniture and lighting. One of my favourites is this table lamp with a city skyline in the shade.

kare lamp 1   kare lamp 2

After my not-so successful shopping trip, we headed to the Christmas market and had a ham hock and polenta for lunch. Then we walked over the Chain Bridge and finally made it to Buda! I forgot to mention earlier that Budapest is actually divided in two by the Danube river. Buda is on the west side, and is hilly and more suburban. Pest is on the east side, and is flat and more urban. Put them together, and you have Budapest!

I have to warn you that it was kind of misty/foggy here today, so the pictures from today are a bit washed out. We’re going to go back to Buda tomorrow or Thursday – according to the weather network, it’s supposed to be sunny both day (fingers crossed!)

The Chain Bridge was pretty much destroyed in World War II. It was rebuilt after the war, and is one of the bridges that links Buda and Pest…

bridge

Over the middle of the Danube…

danube

When we got to Buda, we took the Budavari Siklo funicular to the top of Castle Hill.

lift station lift 2

At the top of Castle Hill!

lift top

A small part of the Royal Palace…

royal palace 1

Here’s a full shot of the Palace from the bridge:

royal palace from bridge

I was looking forward to seeing the Parliament buildings from the Buda side, but the fog washed it out. I really hope I can get some good shots of it before we leave…

parliament

Matyas Church is one of the highlights of the Buda side. The church was originally founded in 1255 by King Bela IV. It’s been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times, and is currently undergoing some work (I tried to keep the evidence out of the pictures!)

matyas 3

matyas 2

I LOVE the colourful roof!

matyas roof

Beautiful arch and more colour…

matyas arch

Love this window. It’s called Rose Window, and was reproduced by Frigyes Schulek to replicate the original medieval stained glass window from the early Gothic era.

matyas window 2

Another beautiful window… love the quatrefoil motif.

matyas window 3

Fisherman’s Bastion is beside the church (thanks Paula!)

round building

Some shots from the streets of the Castle District in Buda…

buda street 

interesting building statue stone wall

buda building

I love this porcelain – I managed to cut off the penguin that I really want from the right side of the picture.

porcelain

Before we left Buda, we stopped at Ruszwurm for hot chocolate and cake – I had their famous cream cake and hubby had the cherry strudel. Both were yummy, and we’re definitely going back to try more goodies!

ruszwurm

Heading pack to Pest…

bridge green

The swanky Four Seasons Hotel is at the end of the bridge.

four seasons

Looking back at the Royal Palace from the Pest side…

royal palace

Remember I mentioned yesterday that we ate rooster testicle stew? Here it is, all cooked up in a great big pan! Notice that the pan is only about half full – must be a popular dish!

rooster stew

Toki Pompos is the foccaccio-type food I couldn’t remember the name of. I’m planning to have a piece for lunch tomorrow, and I’ll try to remember to take a picture.

toki pompos

And this is my favourite food from the market so far – it’s called kurtoskalacs. The best way to describe it is a dough wrapped around a metal tube, grilled over hot coals, then coated with sugar and your choice of toppings (walnuts, coconut, cinnamon, or cocoa) and wrapped in cellophane. You eat it by unwinding it like you would unwind the cardboard tube from a roll of paper towels, and breaking it into pieces. I want to buy a lemon somewhere and squeeze lemon juice onto a sugar & cinnamon kurtoskalacs – I bet it would taste just like a Killaloe Sunrise Beavertail (maybe even better!)

kurtoskalacs

Tomorrow is the last day of the market, so we’ll be going back to enjoy our fave foods one last time. We’re also taking a walking tour (like we haven’t walked enough!), and we’re going Menza again for supper. I’m looking forward to having another Hot Sour Cherry Pie drink, SO YUMMY!

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Sorry I’m not putting all the proper accents on the Hungarian words. I’ve been writing these posts late at night, and I have no idea how to even make the accents on this computer, so I’m just skipping them!