Wednesday, October 21, 2009

continued castle district trekking

After listening to the Swedish football team's fight song (surprisingly in English!), Karena and I got up to check out the northern part of the castle district. It was here that we got away from the oppressive tourist hoards that were congregating in all the areas of the southern Castle District. The southern half is mostly where you find all the sights and restaurants. The northern half is were all the old residences are found. We both soon realized this after one to two blocks. Soon, it was just Karena and me, walking down quaint cobblestone alleys.
We passed a few houses that had objects inlaid into the mortar or building materials. Other buildings had small niches that were filled with flowers or other plants. We also saw buildings with small medallions, perhaps to commemorate a famous former resident or partial occupant. Something like those rumors of "George Washington Slept Here." It was really quite nice. I decided to turn down a small alley that led to a gravel street parallel to the rampart wall. Soon we were walking next to people's back-yard terraces and balconies. Karena thought someone was going to come out and yell at us for trespassing, so we turned back onto one of the streets.

We soon arrived at the Bécsi kapu (the Vienna Gate), where according to Rick Steves, "you can walk for 10 days and arrive in Vienna." This is assuming you know what roads to travel on and avoid getting lost. The Vienna Gate is also where the Hungarian army overpowered the Turks in the 1680s and reclaimed the Castle District for Hungary. Check out this link for a great panoramic shot of the area surrounding the gate. Notice all the quaint little houses and Hungarian cabbage burners (cars). Also in the immediate area of the Vienna Gate is the Magyar Országos Levéltár (Hungarian National Archives). The roof has a great pattern to it, which mimics the roof of Matthias Church. The building is a
HUGE Romanesque-style building; it is tall and sits partially on top of the Vienna Gate. I couldn't even get the whole thing in a picture. Check out my picasa account for close-up details of the entrance and the columns surrounding it.
Around the corner, at Kapisztrán ter, are the remains of the Church of Mary Magdalene. The area around the remains are very old; I'm not sure how old the actual pieces of the church are that are still standing. The tower and nave window looked like they were in fairly good condition and didn't look like they had survived several wars dating back to the 17th Century. Still, it was quite something to see the two lone pieces of a church standing. Karena and I wandered around the site and soaked up our surroundings. It was getting late and we wanted to head back across the river to the Pest side of the Danube. So we decided to take a nice walk along the western rampart (Tóth Árpád sétány) of the Castle District. This overlook gave us views of the Buda neighborhoods outside of the Castle District and the hills further west of the city. It all looked very woodsy and nice. Further out, the neighborhoods that centered around the hills all seemed to be covered in trees and other types of foliage. Whether it was intentional or not, it was a great move on the part of people who built there to preserve some sort of natural coverage, as opposed to just wiping the slate clean and covering it with bricks, mortar, and concrete.
We traced our way back to the Funicular, but this time decided to descend on foot. The paths down the hill were nice and paved, and every once in a while we could come across a monument or stone memorial...we dodged the traffic to get back to the Chain Bridge and made it across to Pest. At this point, Karena's stomach was speaking to her again. We decided to stop at a cafe in the square surrounding St. Stephan's Basilica. We both ordered some small dishes and had a couple of beers and enjoyed our surroundings. There was actually a wedding that was going on at the Basilica, so we watched the wedding party leave from the church and pose for all of their pictures on the steps. I can't really imagine holding a wedding of 200 people in such a large space. And also, it didn't seem like they were prohibiting tourists from entering the space. Maybe the ceremony was being held in some part of the Basilica that we didn't see. Who knows. I just enjoyed getting off my feet for a while and letting my dogs rest.

We finished our late lunch and headed back to the hotel. While Karena napped...she seems to be able to fall asleep at any point of the day. That is a skill I really wish I had. So while she slept I planned our dining options for that night. I read about this one place in a guidebook and I don't know why it struck me, but I wanted Hanna's Kosher Kitchen. I think that I saw I could get "crispy and succulent Kosher chicken fried in breadcrumbs." Hahaha. After all that walking and exercise, I probably felt like I could eat an entire fried chicken! So, we navigated the old, dark streets of the Jewish quarter looking for this restaurant. We found it with no problems!!! Quite an accomplishment for us, I was very proud that I didn't get us lost. Unfortunately, it was Saturday night and the restaurant was closed :( I wasn't crushed (Karena was probably happy that I couldn't eat a whole fried chicken), but I wasn't happy. I felt much like this man below.

Fortunately we passed another restaurant on the way to Hanna's. It did not look crowded outside and luckily, they had a menu on the door. We had stumbled upon Kőleves Vendéglő (Stone Soup). For a description of the food and evening, see Karena's post. I had the hunting beef stew, which wasn't a stew at all. It was very delicious and something that I would like to try and replicate at home some time. The clientele was interesting. At two tables were groups of women who were probably in their late 20s to early 30s. The man behind us was in his 50s and the other fellow in the back was probably in his mid 40s. The younger people were definitely not there for the dining option. They ordered small plates and shots of Unicum, an herbal bitter similar to Jägermeister. The single fellow in the back of the restaurant was funny. He kept complaining to the wait staff about other restaurants in Budapest that had charged him every time he ordered a tea. I distinctly remember him asking if they had "free refills" more than fact, when they said "no," I think he asked for a carafe of warm water so that he could continue to reuse his old teabag. Hahaha...he was funny. I think he ordered a cheeseburger. We could tell that the waitresses did not enjoy going to his table because it seemed he had a new absurd request/complaint every time they arrived.

I can't remember if we had dessert, BUT I do remember having more of the king-kong sized beers. I love the oversized beers I could get and would definitely not turn one away right now. Karena and I left the restaurant completely happy that Hanna's was closed. As difficult as it is for me to admit, the meal at Stone Soup was definitely better than an entire fried chicken.

Okay folks. I'm going to post maybe one or one-and-a-half more entries about Budapest and then it will be time for me to jet off to Korea. Next time I will talk about my search for Hungarian crepes, our walk down the shopping streets, and a fabulous last dinner on an old paddleboat.


1 comment:

Kelly said...

Oh I'm so jealous of you right now- the pictures are GORGEOUS!