All posts filed under: Travel

The Last Supper

My last few hours in Budapest were spent drinking coffee, eating tasty cakes and taking in my last moments of the wonderful city. On a seeming coffee-holiday, Madal cafe was next on the list. A more modern cafe, tall and spacious on the inside with a meditative quality to the decor and atmosphere, you can find excellent coffee, cakes and food at a reasonable cost. And you find yourself longer in Budapest, they cater to your coffee bean and equipment needs too.  To send me home, we had a mini-feast – not unlike what we had been doing basically the whole trip anyway; cheesecake definitely on par with one from Steamhouse Cafe, lemon and poppy seed loaf, a random wrap, and double shot lattes, served beautifully on a custom Madal wooden board – coffee definitely served in style. If time wasn’t against us, Madal was definitely a great chill-out spot, one where you could chit chat, whip out your mac or cosy up with a book. Snow began to fall en-route to the airport, my …

Sleep First, Sightsee Second

My last days in Budapest were spent sleeping, relaxing and not running around frantically trying to get everything seen; more often than not I feel far more exhausted travelling on holiday rather than actually experiencing a “holiday”. The rush and madness to see all the sights in such a short amount of time can be overwhelming, but the more I travel the more I think that it’s about quality, not quantity – why see 100 things for such a little time each than see just a select few and with more consideration and attention? Apple burek. Happiness, now available tinned. I had the time to walk calmly around the area in which I was staying, Corvin, walking up and down the streets lined by towering old apartment blocks, walking in and out of local shops and cafes and visiting the Holocaust Memorial nearby. A renovated synagogue that dates back to the 1920s, the memorial also serves as a museum, remembering the lives of millions of Jews lost in the 20th century. Over 500,000 Hungarian Jews …

Artistic Enlightenment (Shortly Followed by Cake)

Long needed were those mornings where, upon awakening, the glorious sensation hits that you have absolutely nothing to do whatsoever. So used to rude awakenings by a shrill 7am alarm and mounds of tasks to accomplish, these few mornings had been the biggest gift. A sleepy trip to Great Market Hall was needed, however, to pick up an assortment of compulsory holiday gifts.  Tiny bags of paprika (interestingly translated from Hungarian to “red gold”) were mandatory of course, complete with tiny hand-carved wooden spoons, traditional candies, marzipan chocolates and tiny bottles of palinka – one way of getting around the 100ml liquid restriction on flights. I lazily strolled around the great hall, walking up and downstairs in search for more surprises (and a steaming cup of coffee). I braved my way back into the crispy morning air to navigate around Vaci street to find some breakfast, stumbling on Mantra Specialty Coffee Minibar on narrow side road, snugly hid amidst larger shops and apartments – mini was definitely the word for it. Inside, you hang your …

Fourth Day, Part 2 ~ Hungarian Castles & Street Food

The magic of the New York Cafe remained as we jumped on a bus and travelled to Budapest’s Castle District across the river. Also known as the Castle Quarter, this area is a 1km long limestone plateau towering over the Danube river and is home to Budapest’s most precious and important medieval monuments and museums. A sweeping flight of paths and staircases guide you up to the centre of the district, the Royal Palace and the Hungarian National Art Gallery, home to 11th-century and present-day artworks, proudly standing at the forefront. The Royal Palace has been said to of rebuilt at least six times over the past seven centuries, it’s subsequent Kings adding to it each time. At the rear, you can find wide stretches of ruins and the famous Matthias fountain, a romantic-style sculpture presenting the young kind Matthias in his hunting uniform, surrounded by dogs. We strolled slowly through the courtyards and protruding stone terraces, the sky clear and the sun strong and warm, attempting to melt away what was left of the ice. Budapest …

Fourth Day, Part 1 ~ Classy Coffee

Sunday brought about a slow, sunny morning, making stacks of sourdough pancakes topped with local cream, jam and strawberries. Monmouth coffee (imported from London) washed away morning sleep and soothing jazz made for a melancholic soundtrack. Mustering up some energy, we wrapped up warm and stepped out into the cold, heading towards a weekly farmers market at Szimpla Ruin Bar, where we had spent a night out earlier in the week. Every Sunday, from 9am to 2pm, farmers, local producers and makers set up their stalls, lined with fresh produce for punters; cured meats pile high in wicker baskets and hang off beautifully crafted wooden stands. Fresh cheeses line make-shift chilled counters. Freshly baked bread, cookies and pastries waft welcoming aromas across the bar. Homemade jams, chilli sauces, mustards and vegan “living” flatbreads awaiting to be sampled, most of which surprisingly sugar-free and organic. No doubt, in my bag quickly arrived a plum, rum and walnut jam, made with xylitol, alongside a fiery, home-cooked chilli sauce, extremely delicious mustard and a link of cured deer …

Adventures in Food and Architecture

Fog continued to lie heavily across the city this chilly Saturday morning. Hopping off the bus to the city centre, we walked to Budapest’s bustling Great Market Hall after admiring the thick fog across the river, Gellért Hotel peeking out wearily across the Danube. Inside, the hall was filled with scurrying and wandering locals and tourists, picking out items spanning traditional Hungarian memorabilia to fresh fruits, vegetables, and an array of meats, grizzle and all. The Great Market Hall is the biggest market in the city and was first opened in 1897 where the fresh produce would arrive through a canal that ran through the centre of the hall. Sadly the canal is gone, but the market is still full of a vibrant array of produce available for all. On the bottom floor you’ll find food produce and more edible/drinkable gifts and on the top floor there are a plethora of stalls, serving to your souvenir needs. Alongside these stalls are Hungaricums; if you’re looking for some authentic, although perhaps overpriced, food, head here to …

Second Day, Part 2 ~ Hungry in Hungary

Night fell and after many a photo we descended Gellért Hill and walked North up the Danube towards the famous Hungarian Parliament – and it was more than impressive.  The glowing neo-Gothic building mirrored itself onto the still and serene Danube, rippled only sporadically when a tiny cruise boat crossed its reflection. Only being over 100 years old, the stunning architecture boasts both Renaissance and Baroque features, but it’s sharp peaks and tall thin windows undeniably neo-Gothic in style. Unfortunately, modern air pollution constantly attacks the porous limestone walls, so the building often requires frequent restoration. Hungry, cold and having drunk too much water, we hurried to a famous Hungarian Bistro in Pest. Highly rated and with extremely affordable prices, this place is a must-visit to sample traditional, home-cooked Hungarian dishes. Upon entry, you almost feel as if you were in a friend’s home. The exceptionally friendly staff greet you upon entry and show you to your table, a waitress, who could very well be your best friend, tending to you throughout your time. And on …

Second Day, Part 1 ~ Wes Anderson’s Day Out

After sleepy syrup filled breakfast, we travelled across the river early in the morning to a foggy Buda. Traffic lights peeked through the mist, yellow trams zoomed into view and the majestic Gellért hotel stood defiantly in the white smoke. Located right next to Gellért hill, overlooking the Danube on the riverside, Hotel Gellért rose to life in 1916, animated by it’s Art Nouveau style and it’s where Wes Anderson stayed and was inspired to create ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’. And if you’re familiar with Anderson’s fictional structure, you can spot the resemblance from miles away. It’s not difficult to see why Anderson was so taken by the hotel; Gellért boasts high glass cupolas and wrought iron decorations, its coloured peaks elegant and attractive from even across the river. Inside, pillars and arches bow above you, artistic mosaics and intricate stain-glass windows ornately decorating the floors and walls. And for any visitor, a trip to Gellért’s thermal baths is compulsory. Known to help cure various illnesses and diseases, the thermal baths are like bathing in …

Moodapest

When snow turns to slush, it’s a sad sad day. The drizzly weather and dark grey fog overcast Budapest, the misery of the dirty snow, turned icy mess, proliferated. We spent the afternoon walking from Corvin to the Great Market Hall, winding up and down roads and alleys, arriving at a wall of fog at Liberty bridge; the white clouds engulfed the bridge, leaving just a little in sight for cars and trams to drive on to. Still unfamiliar with the city, it was impossible to tell where we were from looking out across the river – there was nothing to be seen, just a wall of white swallowing the landscape. My hair dampened as I took photos, walking up and down the river around the bridge entrance to catch the light of Budapest’s yellow trams snaking through the fog. Clearly, about thirty others had the same idea, photographers and iPhone-bearers swarming around the area promptly. Night began to fall and the spookiness of the fog grew, and we dawdled away down to Vaci street …

What to Eat When You’re (in) Hungary

Apparently unwelcoming to the notion of belonging to the Eastern side of Europe, favouring the idea of belonging to the more central regions, Hungary undoubtedly emanates Eastern European magic. Growing up with Bulgarian culture in a Bulgarian family, I can say this with (some) certainty. This time of year, however, is seeing these regions suffer bitter winters, ones unheard of since the 1960’s. Heavy snow blankets the city, and icy rain soon follows to turn the magic into a slushy, and drearily cold, mess. Faux-ice-skating is the preferred mode of transport for those on foot by this point, travel times taking double or even triple the usual, and sanctuary is found in small cafes, restaurants and bars dotted up and down streets illuminated by the amber orbs of traditional-style street lamps. My travels are invariably punctuated by local food-culture; no trip is complete without eating like a local. Skidding down the Parisian-style streets during my first days in Budapest this Winter, seeking shelter from the snow and my hungry belly, I entered a warmly lit …