The Sassy Winter Spirit of Budapest

I overheard a conversation at a Christmas stall in Bryant Park in the first couple of weeks in December last year. No darling, I do not make it my business to stand around people earwigging, but in this case I was hovering near a stall of fairy lights wondering if it was the owner who was gabbling rather animatedly with another woman about the dilemma between choosing Budapest and Prague. I was tempted to squeak in with my two bits about both but it seemed then that the other woman had a handle on the situation. She noted: ‘For me, it is Budapest.’ Those five words settle Adi and mine emotions when you mention the Hungarian capital that throbs with youth and energy. Actually make it three since we were there in the winter of 2016 with our friend Vee who we had met during the hike to Pulpit Rock.

Vee is a chilled-out guy who lives and works in London managing the wealth of millionaries, smokes cigars and lives life to the hilt with his plethora of Russian girlfriends. The feminist would want to pack him a wallop for carrying on about the quality of women in various parts of the world but the guy is good at heart and a seasoned traveller. Poor Vee was enthusiastic about travelling with us to Budapest but then he found himself there with us and I suspect that he wanted to beat himself up over his commitment to the cause. You will know the why and wherefore of it soon.

On an early morning in December, a few days before Christmas, the three of us landed in Budapest. I was disconcerted. A frosty sight greeted my bleary eyes when I peeped out of the cab. There is a shot of it in the post I updated on The Little Corner Apartment, the cosy nook in the Jewish Quarter that Adi and I stayed in for the duration of our stay. Later, when we walked to Vee’s hotel about 15 minutes away from our apartment, we had a measure of the day-time temperatures that averaged -3°C. With wind chill, it stood at -8°C. We quickly scarfed down that crisp sweet bread called Kürtőskalács (important to note: you can pronounce it, just keep at it) with glasses of hot mulled wine. Cinnamon, allspice berries, cardamom, star anise, mace, ah how those wonderful spices hit the right notes as we stared at a mob practising Tai chi on the pavements outside the hip Jewish Quarter and wondered why.  We revelled in festive Christmas sights that made our nerves hum with pleasure even as we tried to deal with the importance of going numb with cold. It so happened that without an ounce of planning we had adopted a ritual that would stand us (for the most part) in good stead. Drinking, eating and walking, repeated all through the day and night.

We jump-started the routine at a café called Bouchon where couched within its warm mahogany tones, we tried out Hungarian red wines with fillets of rolled chicken and wild boar. At the end of the meal the waiter passed me a folded paper. Eeh, a note expressing amour? Even better, a hand-written recipe for the rolled chicken I had so admired.

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Street Tai Chi in progress
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Jewish Quarter
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Jewish Quarter
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St. Stephen Cathedral (Szent Istvan Bazilika)

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Wild boar and potato croquettes
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Rolled and stuffed chicken served with an apple and plum salad
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Heroes’ Square (Hősök Tere). Here there are statues of the seven chieftains of the Hungarian tribes, the Magyars, at the time of their arrival to the Carpathian Basin in 895 AD. Here there also figures statues of national leaders and the tomb of the unknown soldier.
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Vajdahunyad Castle 
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In the grounds of the castle 
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Vajdahunyad Castle was originally built out of wood and cardboard by the architect in 1896 commemorating a thousand years since the medieval Magyars had first settled on the plains of Pannonia.
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Then they found that its blend of Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance and Romanesque architecture appealed to the public, so it was rebuilt in stone.

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Adi tests the water of a spring near the castle
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Shots of Pálinka, traditional fruit brandy, became our go-to everyday
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A Ukrainian stone-carrier ship that is a bustling concert venue now
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Enough wine in my veins 
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The jazz outfit from NYC that had us grooving
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Christmas markets

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Deep fried Hungarian bread. Lángos. The guys were so surprised at the sight of it that they left me to finish it all by myself.
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Hot mulled wine
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Christmas markets at Deák Ferenc tér
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 Deák Ferenc tér
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“If my Valentine you won’t be,
I’ll hang myself on your Christmas tree.” 
― Ernest Hemingway

 

49 thoughts on “The Sassy Winter Spirit of Budapest

  1. Tai chi in Budapest? I wouldn’t have believed it if not for your wonderful photo. We do live in a global society! The photo of you drinking too much wine is precious and as for Adi – He certainly know how to mug for the shot! Wonderful post on your adventures through Christmas in Budapest. My favorite is the Art Nouveau illustration on the menu of Café Bouchon. Lovely! – Neek

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Well spotted Neek. I love that Art Nouveau cover of the cafe’s menu too. Thank you for the apt observations and Adi is way more photogenic and relaxed in photos than me.
      Tai chi in sub-zero temperatures was certainly a novelty. I will try and bring more from Budapest since I could not stuff all into this one post 🙂 xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Is Café Bouchon a Bouchon as in Lyonnaise Bouchon or does it refer to a cork, I wonder? Fabulous pictures and fun stories abounding. I’m off back to France tomorrow where normal service may be resumed …. apologies for rather patchy coverage the last three weeks xx

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I was in England, drove back to France at the end of last week and was in Switzerland yesterday. States will follow but not until April, I think. What a blinking saga … my passport got trapped in the US Embassy (this is the problem with clever systems that rely entirely on computers rather than humans …. sometimes you need a person and in this instance there was no way for me to talk to one). All good now but hugely stressful for a few days and then had to hare to England and condense a trip that was supposed to be a week longer. Xx

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Just to think of it, AI is quite something but it makes you think about what the future holds. I have started watching a show called Humans on Amazon Prime. It is giving me the jeebies. Naturally I am sorry that you had to deal with this entire bot(ch) business in trying to recover your passport. England-France-Switzerland and then again back to England… that is making me dizzy. Better catch a dollop of laziness too if you can in England! *hugs xx

        Liked by 1 person

  3. what a wonderful place , the pictures tell you had a great time . Interesting how the castle was built of cardboard and wood initially and then re-made with stone! That deep fried bread looks amazing !

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I so enjoyed reading about Hungary. At first I was intrigued by the hooded statue, impressed by the Magyar statues, and in awe over that amazing castle. I would love you to send me a photo of some part of your Hungarian experience for my Monday Mystery Photo posts, if I can be so forward to ask you directly? I credit you with the photo and post links to your blog as photo contributor for two weeks. I can delete the post a month or so later, if you wish for it to be deleted. I haven’t had any photos of Hungary yet, or none that I can remember. Thanks for considering. And seeing that photo with the Langos, at the Markets, made me hungry for one. I might have to take a trip to the market in my town that sells Langos!! Excellent post!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha a trip just for Langos. Why you are a soulmate! I could not believe it that the guys did not go for even a bite of it.
      I will send you a photo for your Monday Mystery post and you do not have to delete the post at all. I would be delighted to share it. If you give me your email id, I can send it to you. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Your post bought back memories I was in Budapest about two years ago for Christmas and I remember seeing those trees in the christmas markets. My favourite part of that part of trip was ice skating on christmas day (I had never done it before)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mmm, haven’t been to Budapest for over 20 years but will probably remedy that this year if my Hungarian girlfriend (finally) marries her French boyfriend. She, of course, would agree with you. She thinks everything is better in Hungary!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Christmas is a wonderful time to be there because the festive markets all over the place seal in the spirit of it. Thank you Amor, I think the recipe was a charming surprise. As for going to Budapest, when is the next flight love? xx

      Liked by 1 person

  7. ooooh everything looks like a fairyland and you know what, your pictures of all the holiday food gives me such intense cravings. I wont be at peace until I try my hand at making that deep-fried hungarian bread! I mean, boar is a bit much to try in my kitchen but recipe for Langos I can hunt for! 😉 Amazing trip and memories girl! xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Even better would be to go hunting for the boar with a few hounds for company? To do things the old way. Hmm deep-fried bread –could you actually bring yourself to immerse it in a vat of oil and not suffer a coronary from just the act of it? Thank you for the lovely comment as always, Mallika. xx

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