Monday, May 02, 2005

Budapest Day Two

The Great Market Hall
Good morning Budapest! Had a great night's sleep and woke up to a very nice breakfast. Judit even remembered that Steph doesn't eat red meat, so she picked up various poultry sausages in addition to the usual Hungarian meats! Very yummy stuff.
We spent some time talked to the proprietors of the B&B, they were great to talk to and had lots of good information for us. Where to go, what to buy and how much to pay for it!

Mmmm, Porky Goodness!
The Great Market Hall
We walked down to the Danube and took a bus down the river and across to Pest to the Great Market Hall. The building home to the best indoor market, there were numerous butchers, bakers and grocers with some beautiful products. We walked around and picked up some pastries, two types of honey and of course some paprika! This paprika was actually in a paste form, instead of dried and powdered, we had it at a restaurant last night and I liked it a lot! We also tried some Hungarian wine, Aszu Tokay, which is a sweet dessert wine. They are ranked from 3 to 6 puttanyos (grape baskets?) to rank their sweetness. We tried the least sweet, 3 puttanyos, it was pretty good.

Vegetable Stand
The Great Market Hall
We then walked up Vachi Ul., a pedestrian market street lined with some very nice shops selling everything from pottery to cloth, antiques to clothes and lots of touristy schwag. (That's the technical term for it.) On the way we picked up a few pieces of pottery and then dropped into a small wine cellar for a tasting of Tokay wines. The cellar was really cool, they had a great selection of Hungarian wines and very knowledgeable staff who let us taste a traditional and modern version of Aszu Tokay. We purchased the more traditional version which we're looking forward to sharing with friends when we get back home.

The Great Market Hall

Back to the Metro, we rode out to the Szechenyi Baths. What a great experience! We tried a number of different pools, from cool to hot, indoor and out, and two saunas. After twelve days of travel, it was good to finally sit back, relax and feel our tight muscles loosen up. The baths have a very social atmosphere — its clear that the locals are regulars with a very set routine. Addtionally, people at the baths are not concerned about what they look like, one doesn't go to the baths to see and be seen. While I appreciated the fact that nobody had body image issues, there were some bodies in bikinis and Speedos that I had a problem with!

Near the B&B
After the baths, we headed to a local restaurant owned by the Gundel group that came highly recommended in the guide books and by the proprietors of our B&B. The name, in English, is The Owl's Nest. The restaurant sits on the edge of the Budapest zoo, which is very close to Szechenyi Baths. The entire staff, from dishwasher to executive chef is all women! They certainly knew how to take care of their guests, we had a fabulous lunch. I tried a chilled sour cherry soup, a Hungarian specialty that was the highlight of my culinary experiences so far! If we ever get back to Budapest, we'll definitely try the other Gundel restaurants if we're in the mood for an over the top dining experience.

Back on the Metro, we headed into the heart of Pest to visit the Hungarian Opera House. The tour was fun, the building absolutely beautiful — no pictures inside, unfortunately — but the tour was overpriced at nearly $13/person for 45 minutes! The temperature was climbing to the mid-eighties outside, so we decided to head back to Buda and the B&B for a cold beer and then a mid-day nap until later in the afternoon when its a bit cooler. We headed down toward the river to check out a local pancake shop for dinner. How stressful! The place is extremely busy, you wait in line and check out the posted menu — in Hungarian, of course — before getting up to the counter to order. Thankfully they spoke some English at the counter and had an English menu, so we quickly made our decisions an ordered. The pancakes are actually crepes, filled with savory or sweet fillings. We had expected all savory fillings with a small amount of sweet filled pancakes for dessert, what we ordered was the exact opposite! It was very good, my immediate thought was this could replace late-night Waffle House runs after spending the night drinking at the bar. Hmmm, possible business opportunity? We then sat down at a cafe next to the river to have a drink and do some people watching while the sun set, causing Parliament to glimmer in its last rays of the day.

The Fisherman's Bastion
After night fell, we walked along the Danube toward the Chain Bridge and took pictures of the city at night. We then took the Funicular up to the top of Castle Hill, walked around Fisherman's Bastion and then back down to out B&B. What an absolutely gorgeous, magical city. (I guess I should mention that the base of the Fisherman's Bastion is only 100 meters from the front door of our B&B... Duh!

Tomorrow is our final day in Budapest and our second anniversary. We've had an amazing experience through four countries over the past 12 days or so, but the travel is beginning to wear on us both. We're anxious to get back to our animals and our "normal" lives.

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