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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

So Much Beauty

 Budapest is such a beautiful city; it's why I wanted to return. I fell in love with it 10 years ago and couldn't wait to see it again. Just walking down the street and coming upon the Opera House makes my day.
 I remember my first trip to Europe after waiting years to get there. It was Paris in around 1985, on a student trip (yeah, what a good lie it would be to leave it at that and not say I was a teacher/chaperone instead of a student...). My old friend Ingrid was with me and instead of watching the surroundings from the bus, she watched my face to see my reactions to my first sight of Paris. Ingrid's parents had taken her to many places in Europe, Egypt, etc, and I stood at my window and waved goodbye as they took off for the airport. My parents' idea of travel was Lake Tahoe or other places in driving distance. I was mesmerized seeing statues in the middle of streets with fountains and old gorgeous buildings. My travel bug had hit, but it wasn't until Matthew and I met that I had the money and partner to really go places.

  In a binder of places to see, shop, eat, etc at the apartment a Sunday market was mentioned, so we headed there. It's in the Jewish quarters and not really known by tourists. Many of the vendors sell their own wares, like jams, honey, vegetables. It's indoors, then into a courtyard packed with people. Everyone was very cordial and we bought a few things.
We told this lady we wanted one of almost everything to take home for breakfast.
Music playing while we shopped.

 I think this big pot was cooking ratatouille. We didn't try any or ask about it, but it looked delicious.
 This is a sign in our elevator, which is covered in this type of graffiti. Dad's favorite word...schmuck.
I thought this table cloth was cool...the table has grooves in it and the cloth goes through so it's not in your way, people don't mistake it for their napkin or move it and everything on it when sitting down or getting up.

Matthew had a delicious dinner here last night, but I wasn't so happy. I do have food pictures, which are very unappetizing looking. It's how I felt about my dinner. Rick Steves recommended this place, and to me, it's another indication he cares more about value than taste. 
First, we shared "asparagus au gratin," which looks worst than it tastes. Nice to have something green, even if you have to search for it.
  I had pork strips stroganoff...but it had a weird flavor, which was maybe because it had PICKLES in it. And yes, those look just like enlarged tator tots, only I might have liked the real fake ones better. These were more like mashed potato croquettes. Not very good.
 Matthew had venison stew and his potatoes were way better. Weirdly served with grape jelly. You can tell I won't be recommending this place to anyone. The funny thing is some reviews commented on the surly waitress, but she was delightful to us.
 Today, Monday, we took our third and last food walking tour. Each one has had a different flavor (pun intended).  We met at the Great Market Hall, so decided to brave the metro. Somehow we missed where to get our tickets stamped (remember I now have a phobia about this after my tram flight, so I let Matthew keep my ticket for stamping). When we got off the Metro at our stop, two women with badges stopped us and asked for our tickets. We handed them over, they asked why they weren't stamped and we said we didn't see where to do it. It's a box before you go down the escalator, but no one showed us and we didn't see them. I think they saw 2 US citizens (which they knew for sure after taking our passports) with money, so they charged us a fine of $30 each! One showed me where it says it in some guide she had, and I walked over to a man who worked there and asked if these two were legitimately working there. I was afraid to argue and be arrested...hell, I'd already paid for the food tour and didn't want to miss out.  
We arrived at least 10 minutes early and found one exasperated French woman already complaining because she had been waiting there for 10 minutes. I said the tour doesn't start until 10, but that didn't seem to calm her. I don't want to spend much time on her personality because I could go on and on so suffice to say she had an attitude about everything, often comparing how the French version was better or the original, and by the time we got to the last stop with the wine, forget it. She seemed to annoy several of us and insult the owners.

 Our beauriful tour guide's name is Zsofia. We had two extra people join our group due to a mix-up, so we had 7 instead of the max of 6, which turned out to be fine. Besides the Parisian, we had two singles, a young man from Munich and a young woman from Los Angeles who grew up in Mountain View, and another couple, two men from Boston. Everyone got along well and moved around to have conversations with each other as we walked from place to place. Lyka was traveling on her own and had been in Krakow the same time as we, but had taken the night train to arrive in Budapest, then was heading to Prague and doing the same food tour there we did. 

We started with a digestif .... I had the sweeter of the two, but only had a few sips. It was strong! Zsofia said it would help us get started and be ready for a day of food sampling. 

Next the pastry shop with both sweet and savory strudels. Mine was plum and sour cherry; Matthew had the poppy seed. We ordered differently all day so we could share and taste more.

 See all the chilis hanging? These are used for paprika. Two kinds--one is sweet and used in cooking and the other is spicy and used more as a condiment. They look pretty similar.

 Our group checking out the meat display, then we were served several kinds of meats, including horse, the second from the left and tongue, 4th from the left. Not everyone tried the horse meat.

Art shot? This is the chocolate store where we sampled 2 kinds of bonbons between breakfast and lunch.

 Lunch stop was standing outside an eatery and we were given plates of many things to try, such as several kinds of sausage, noodles with cabbage (many cabbage dishes are served in Hungary), red cabbage, pickles and several pickled peppers stuffed with cabbage, typical white bread, potato with onions and paprika, lecho, which is the Hungarian version of ratatouille, and more cabbage. Everything was laid out and we helped ourselves to what we wanted.
  After lunch, we continued to dessert and coffee in a beautiful coffee house where writers and poets in the 19th and 20th C served as waiters. Pictures of writers, many of whom became well known. grace the walls. The architecture of the building is lovely.
 We got to choose from many types of Hungarian pastries, and when Zsofia started explaining, the French woman pointed out the macaroons saying they are not Hungarian and would not taste like the ones in Paris. She also snorted when Zsofia mentioned the sacher torte originated in Austria but it was during the Austria-Hungarian Empire, so is Hungarian as well. She again interrupted Zsofia a few minutes later when she was explaining each pastry to comment about the macaroons, so she finally had to say, "I am not talking about the macaroons. I am only explaining about the typical Hungarian desserts." I am surprised the rest of us did not applaud.

  We shared the sacher torte and the opera cake, which was coffee mousse inside. Both delicious. French woman bit into her a sacher torte and declared she liked the chocolate, but not the sugar in the cake, so handed it over for everyone else to share. She turned to me and asked if I liked mine, and I said it was great. so there.

  Matthew's coffee was served with almond liqueur in it, whipped cream on the side along with a candied walnut.  I opted for one that starts with a layer of honey followed by coffee like a latte and foam.
  Our final stop was the wine shop, which is owned by the young couple who own the tour company. They laid out 3 glasses each and explained each wine served, starting with a white, which was mild and I liked, then a red, drier so handed over to Matthew, then the best--Tokay or Tokaji. It's their dessert wine, so I didn't have to hand it over for him to finish.
  A cheese board was served in the center for us to share with 3 kinds of cheeses, each recommended for each wine.
  The owner apologized for the size of our group because they advertise not taking more than 6 people and had a mix-up today. For this reason, he opened a bottle of some very special Tokay from 2000 that runs about $50 for us to enjoy as a special treat.

Catherine, Frank, and Marcus

Doesn't her face say it all?

Mark enjoying the wine
 We really had a delightful day with Zsofia and the group. By the end, we were chatting like old friends, and Frank and Mark, who are staying at a hotel on the front side of the Basilica invited us for a drink at their hotel, so we shared a taxi (a bit of a trial trying to flag one down) and sat in an air-conditioned terrace bar that overlooked the top of the Basilica. We had fun comparing travel experiences and our home lives. They are about to celebrate 25 years together and had similar personalities to ours.
 Tonight we didn't think we were hungry enough for a big meal, so thought we'd find where we ate 10 years ago -- a place called Menza -- and maybe just have something light. But for the prices, it's not hard to order a main course and eat part of it. Well, I ate part of it...
   I finally got my Hungarian stew with spaetzle which was delicious.
  Shared pickled cucumbers
 And Matthew ordered the giant burger that had a chunk of very strong gorgonzola and a raspberry mayonnaise on it. First fries of the trip, I think. He seemed to like it...nothing was left.

  Love walking around at night, so we took the long way back to the apartment.
Opera House

  Our battered front door and the long dark hallway with our apartment at the end.

  I just wrote a review of the apartment in Krakow which I know they won't publish. When I write one for here, I will mention the building itself, but it is definitely not a deterrent to staying here. It's really part of the uniqueness and ambiance of staying in an old town.

1 comment:

  1. It looks like you are having a wonderful trip - lots of beautiful buildings, lots of good food, and some nice people. Who could ask for more? Your blogs are quite interesting.