I had to have chicken paprikash at least one more time before leaving Hungary.
Giving up on the ruin bar search, I popped into Otkert, a reasonable-looking restaurant near St. Stephan’s Basilica. I ordered a big beer and the chicken paprikash, of course. While it was a lot more Metro-looking and fancier than other paprikashes I had tried in Hungary, I had to reconcile the higher price for the dish with the fact that it was classier than the very traditional mom-and-pop restaurants I had so far tried.
Service could be better though – at lunch time, very few people were in there, and the servers appeared to be taking pains to avoid helping not only myself but other tourists who were waiting for drinks, menus, and checks. Otherwise, food was good, satisfying, and I was able to continue on with my day. I guess I wasn’t there at the right time – the night scene is reportedly supposed to be off the hook.
I never did make it to a genuine ruin bar in Budapest or a Hungarian bath, but there’s always a next time!
For info on Ruin Pubs/Bars, check out CNN’s article here or look up a good listing at Ruinpubs. Both of them are great if you’re wanting to hang out in the repurposed industrial places turned bar. Of course, since I’m in to the history of places, also considering reading this interesting article from CityLab about the way ruin bars will be going as the Jewish Quarter neighborhood continues to gentrify and change.
I spent most of the day simply wandering in the city, looking up and down little lanes and just admiring such a beautiful, up-and-coming city. I was glad to go before it gets as ultra-touristy as Prague – or just as expensive. Budapest is a jewel of an Eastern European city, one that I would be glad to see more of some day.
These photographs are a few oddball gems from my walk from the Basilica to the Easter Market.
At night, I went back to the Easter market where I’d started my week long holiday. Just before entering the market near the Deák Ferenc tér Metro stop where Lines 1, 2, and 3 converge, I picked up one of the amazing rolled and toasted breads known as kürtőskalács. I watched as they rolled the yeasty bread onto the metal cooking cylinder, coating it liberally in melted butter and white sugar. As it grills over wood or charcoal, it makes the sugar melt into a crispy, caramel-like coating that crunches as you bite into it. I liked mine with cinnamon sugar on it, and let me tell you, you can smell those delicious breads from several feet away. That’s how I knew I was close to the market.
There I dived into local dishes again, a sort of street food, as it were, and ate at a communal picnic table with a British couple who had just shown up in Budapest. Strangely enough, I’d seen so much of the city, ridden the Metro a great deal, and been around to so many places that I was able to give them advice on what to see and do. That felt pretty good, admittedly.
I tried out all the foods I hadn’t been able to eat the first night there. I had a delicious cinnamon and apple-filled strudel. I tried a few marzipan treats. I got a quick sample of the rooster testicle stew (I just wanted to try it), and I found it to be surprisingly tasty, if you can get past the meat that you’re eating. settled on the grilled sausage and chunky mashed potatoes with onions and spicy brown mustard. Oh, heaven!
After eating, I walked back to my hotel to commence my packing. I had to get all my souvenirs in there, my inadequate spring clothing, and the Pick salami I’d bought. After all, I had had an amazing travel experience, and while I had a few gifts for others and some personal mementos of my first solo trip outside China, the memories and mishaps were by far the most indelible things I will bring home with me.
So, I will leave you with this sign from the Budapest taxi which took me to the airport. I only find it splendicular (see previous post “Funiculate (v.)” for explanation) because I live in Shanghai, and none of these rules actually apply. I’d forgotten what a real taxi experience could be like.