Postcard from Budapest

The cold! It got to me. The freezing air as soon as it hit my face was numbing. All that I could think of was either coffee or shots of Pálinka (Hungarian fruit brandy). We had frequent breaks in the many famous kavehaz of Budapest. Because it was a necessity. We stepped in to the iconic Café Gerbeaud in the Pest part of Budapest one morning. A Dobos Torte, a Sissi Kave and cappuccino did its job.

The Dobos Torte is a Hungarian delicacy made up of layers of chocolate and buttercream sponge and finished up with a glazed caramel top. The torte was not the best order in the café I suppose. I was comparing it to the kind of gorgeousness I had experienced in Demel in Vienna. I can see that knowing smile if you have been within the portals of that wonderful Viennese cafe. The Sissi kave however was delectable. It was doused in Grand Marnier liqueur and the orange flavour married beautifully with hints of cinnamon, cardamom and clove in the coffee. It does justice to the beauty of the Austrian empress, Sissi, after which the coffee is named.

But a bit of warning. The café can be expensive. We paid 20 Euros but once in a while you know you have got to do what you got to do, right?

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Dobos Torte
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Sissi kave

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Plus my husband and I were paying for the atmosphere of the place. It is old world, alright. The extensive wood panelling, the ornate chandeliers derived from the architectural styles typically associated with Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, the wallpapered rooms, the Rococo stuccoed ceilings inspired by Louis XIV of France and tables that were sourced from the world fair in Paris. The style of the café is Gründerzeit, an architectural style that belonged to a 19th-century economic phase in Germany and Austria before the great stock market crash of 1873. It was the golden age of liberalisation and you can clearly see that kind of grandeur reflected in the café.

I love the kind of history that such institutions exude. The guy who started it in 1858 was a Henrik Kugler, a confectionery child. The line of work was in his blood. Isn’t it fantastic to say you have cake in your blood? 🙂 So, Kugler travelled in 11 European cities that included Paris where he met Emil Gerbeaud, a Swiss confectioner who was born in Budapest. Kugler later invited Gerbeaud to Budapest to make him his associate and Gerbeaud took over the store.

There you go, a peek into a Budapest coffeehouse. There will be more on Budapest later. What are your experiences in the coffeehouses of Budapest? Would love to hear about it.

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