Thursday, July 08, 2010
Hungary Hungary Heather!
We absolutely loved Budapest! With so much to do in such a beautiful surrounding, Budapest is definitely the most underrated city in Europe. We could have easily spent at least another week there, and one of the really wonderful parts is that it isn’t nearly as crowded as many of the other cities we’ve visited.
After sleeping in until almost noon on Saturday, we ventured out to partake in some light exploring of the city – mainly the large shopping street and Great Market Hall – before heading back to our hotel to watch the afternoon World Cup game (Germany/Argentina). Later that evening, we had dinner at a really nice restaurant next to the beautiful Opera House (also out of season), and then spent the rest of the evening at our hotel’s bar listening to the live music. We have a knack for finding places frequented by older crowds – we were the youngest people at the bar by at least two decades!
We started Sunday with a walking tour of both parts of the city (Buda and Pest) which are separated by the Danube River. It was run by a different company than the one we have been using for most of the trip (New Europe), but was just as good (and possibly even a bit better). The tour started in Pest (the financial and commercial hub of the city) and ended in the more historic Castle District in Buda (the more residential and historic side). Here is a picture of us in front of Fisherman’s Bastion in the Castle District, which supposedly served as inspiration for the Disney castle logo.
After the tour, we decided to do a wine tasting at a nearby wine cellar/museum which was really cool and informative. We were surprised to find out that Hungary is a huge wine growing country and we definitely want to make it back to visit some of the outlying vineyards. For dinner on Sunday, we ate at another Hungarian restaurant (see picture of Heather at the top of the blog enjoying a “kenyerlangos”) followed by a visit to one of Budapest’s “ruin bars” – Szimpla. “Ruin bars” are essentially former condemned or abandoned buildings that have been transformed into pubs/bars. Szimpla was really cool and definitely a unique Hungarian experience.
After a morning of shopping, we planned to spend Monday afternoon at another wine tasting. Much to our dismay, we arrived at the House of Hungarian Wines to discover it was closed down – heartbreaking! Fortunately, we found a nearby cafe where we grabbed a glass of wine and tried the famous (and delicious) Hungarian cake – dobos torte. Later that night, we made a visit to the absolute coolest bar we’ve ever been to – Szimpla Kemp (see picture of one of the rooms in the bar below). It is the most famous “ruin bar” in the city and the “big brother” of the place we were at the night before (just Szimpla). It was crazy! They have a really large outdoor courtyard tucked in the middle of a bunch of run-down buildings, completely hidden from the road, and with all kinds of random objects (cars, pummel horses, computer monitors, etc.) decorating the venue.
Tuesday was our favorite day in the city. We started by visiting the Szechenyi Baths – the most popular and largest thermal (Turkish style) baths in Budapest. In addition to three large outside pools, there were numerous indoor baths/pools – all fed by thermal springs at varying temperatures. It was an awesome experience, as we were able to really absorb the local culture (and do some great people watching), and we highly recommend a visit to one of the baths on any trip to Budapest. We just wish we had time to visit more than one! Beware though… large Hungarian men aren’t afraid to don a Speedo! Below is a picture of us in the large outdoor swimming area.
After picking up a few last minute souvenirs, we tracked down the supposedly best “langos” (fried flat bread dough topped with garlic, sour cream, and cheese) place in the city. The “Langos Bar” did not disappoint us at all, and is probably the best thing we’ve eaten on the trip (see picture below of the lady topping ours with cheese). Just thinking about it makes our mouths water! Heather spent the next hour talking about opening a langos stand in Austin.
After our delicious snack, we made it back to our hotel in time to rest a bit before a scheduled visit to the amazing spa at our hotel. Our massages were awesome, and afterward, we made our way downstairs in the hotel to have dinner at a place called Bock Bisztro – one of the top restaurants in the country. The “wine-themed” restaurant was delicious, and was a perfect ending to our time in Budapest!
Yesterday we spent the entire day traveling to Split, Croatia on a very long, overnight train ride. We arrived a little tired and grumpy early this morning, but after a short nap we were ready to head down to the pool/beach for a “strenuous” afternoon of relaxing in the sun (don’t worry – we just bought another bottle of sun screen)! The vast majority of our time in Croatia will be spent relaxing at our resort (see view from our hotel room below) and celebrating Jonathan’s birthday! We’ll definitely post anything exciting that happens during the week before we head back to the states on the 15th (boooo)!
• Dreher Classic (a Hungarian Euro Pale Lager)
• Soproni (a Hungarian Euro Pale Lager)