Chapters 6 and 7
Trip Start Feb 05, 2010
90Trip End Feb 17, 2010
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Where I stayed
Continental Hotel Zara Budapest
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Read my review - 4/5 stars
What I did
Although the hospitality we have received everywhere else on our travels had been faultless, there is nothing to compare with seeing someone running down the street -full pelt-towards you, arms wide, smiling from ear to ear and calling your name.
Yes, that was my lovely son-in-law. Elder daughter was her usual more reserved self, but we still exchanged tight hugs, with many more owing from friends and family in Sydney.
Is this generation more mobile because of job opportunities and the ability to hop on a plane to fly abroad, or does it just seems that way? My father and his brothers were forced to find new homes after the war and each saw different corners of the globe as the ideal place to settle, find work and bring up their families
These days it is possible to see family face to face using technology we once thought improbably futuristic, so that I can read a book to my nephew, or introduce him to 'Possum' the hand puppet. It helps to bridge that gap, but nothing is quite as good as breaking bread together.
This we did on our first night in Vienna, at local restaurant ‘Stomach’, where traditional Viennese food is cooked with a lighter touch. Hence I tried a dish of ‘Headcheese and sweetbreads’ which was surprisingly good. We were to farewell Nicole, Andrew and Ruben on Monday as they returned to London, and we spent the day getting a feel for Vienna, enjoying a concert of Mozart and Schubert at the Musicverein the large but intimate, eight-chandelier sized concert hall, completed in 1913.
With a small taste of Vienna to whet our appetite for more, we headed further east to Budapest-pronounced Buda-pesht, not Byood-a-pest, Graham
Another currency to digest may be one too far. I am taxing my brain trying to work out an easy way to convert the little Aussie bleeder to HUFs Hungarian Florints- the going rate is that 1 HUF= .00429 $AU. Yes, that decimal point is meant to be there … my brain was hurting with that one, so I tried dividing by 200 to get a ball park picture of the price.
So if a cup of coffee costs anywhere between 140 to 1000 HUF, you do start to question your conversion method? I did. That was the difference in price between a takeaway ‘cappucino’ at the Central Market, and one sitting at a marble topped table at the very beautiful Gerbaud Cukrasda in Vorosmarty Square.
I would recommend anyone else thinking of coming here to allow at least five days. Or if you are a little travel weary as I am at the moment, a week to see all the sights you want, visit the markets and have the time to do comparative pricing on everything from handbags to truffled foie gras.
Also take the Free Walking Tour of Budapest as we had a most delightful young guide giving us an insider’s view of the history of the city. If there were more time I would have gone on the tour of the Jewish tour as just down the road from where we were staying was the second largest synagogue in the world. It is great to have another reason to go back, I do hope to have the chance. Between the stroll Graham and I did first up that morning, and the tour followed by a walk to the delightful Onyx restaurant for dinner and then back again we clocked up over 20kms
Onyx was recommended by Vaf and Jen who enjoyed the Michellin star degustation dinner there and it certainly was worth booking a table, well before leaving Sydney. The Pina Colada dessert was fabulous and the dainty portions of each of the courses were enough to enjoy the flavours and textures and unusual ingredients without leaving you feeling too laden. Plus it had the most impressive bread selection we have ever seen.
With a week in Budapest you will be able to spend more than an hour and a half at St Gellert, one of the famous baths. The locals recommend three, four or five hours to drift between the pools of thermally heated water, ice cold plunge pools, dry saunas, steam rooms and finally merely resting in your private cabin.
I don’t think I can survive more than 10 breaths of the steam room, because the temperature they set it at -45 to 50C is ideal for cooking a fillet of beef sous vide. I also could have sworn I could smell bouquet garni in the clouds of steam both times I ventured in. Maybe they make Hungarian Goulash out of tough old birds like me?
Rather than find myself starring in a Gordon Ramsey commercial http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhRyRCOq21M or find a body in the mist, I restricted myself to the healing waters of the 38C and 36C pools.
If Graham had time to come with me, he still wouldn’t have enjoyed himself at the baths, as there is only so much water a Pom can bear
Although we separated on our second and final morning in Budapest, we were both at the Central Markets at 10.30am. We didn’t cross paths, but Graham made it back to the hotel in time to be waiting for me in the lobby at 12.00 as arranged, but somehow my sense of direction let me down after too much looking/not shopping excitement, and it took me till nearly 1pm before I arrived back.
I did have a kilo of the sweet, small Hungarian-grown strawberries to justify my tardiness. Then again so did he, plus he trumped me with a bag of fresh, sweet green peas. He was also uncharacteristically comfortable with my tardiness, so our return journey to Vienna was extremely pleasant and strawberry fragranced. We stopped at a charming town Gyor, which is situated at the confluence of three rivers, and has medieval architecture and cobbled streets. Keen to get back to Vienna and have dinner with Strat and Catherine Mairs, who are also in Europe on a long vacation, Graham continued the drive along the two lane highway, trucks nose to tail in one lane all the way back to our home in Vienna.