Monday, October 12, 2009

trekking the buda castle district

Hello readers. Jamie here with another Budapest entry. Karena and I were a little tied up with house guests on Friday, Saturday, AND Sunday so there was no time for blogging. It is a lot of work keeping up with two little tots and a crazy Turkish woman.

So I wanted to start this entry off with something that I forgot about last time. After we finished exploring St. Stephen's Karena and I decided to sit in the square and just watch people go by. That is when my frozen treat radar started going crazy. I noticed people walking around with cones of gelato shaped liked flowers. We did a little exploring and came across a little stall called Gelato Rosa. YUM! I love all things cold and creamy. Immediately, I ordered one cone that you see below. It was vanilla inside and strawberry outside. Karena got hazelnut wrapped in vanilla. It was good...definitely not the best. I really wish they had gelato di crema, a basic and simply decadent custard flavored gelato with a hint of citrus. It isn't fancy, but it is my absolute favorite. The old British folks next to us stared at our treats with envy. I would have happily volunteered the location, but they never bothered to ask. Hey, if they want to punish themselves who am I to stand in the way.
Okay, so now that I got that piece off of my chest, I can get back to talking about other things. We started off with breakfast at the hotel again. I loaded up on salamis and had two pieces of fruit...a doubling of my non-protein intake from yesterday :) Karena and I both wanted to hit Nagy Vásárcsarnok (Budapest's Central Market Hall). When I bought our tickets a while back, this was one of the things that I flagged as a "must see." Karena and I love to visit markets and shopping areas in different countries. I love to see all the neat things they have for sale and it is always a good place to find some tasty treats that we might not have heard of back home.
As with the rest of the buildings that I've commented on, we were not let down by the ornate decorations on the outside. I mean, just look at the details and varying patterns that are seen on the facade. There were TONS of other tourists here and I think they were partly drawn to look at the market itself. The stalls downstairs weren't anything spectacular. Just a lot of repetitious veggie and meat stalls. I did linger to look at the meat products, but I held back on purchasing a couple pounds of pork belly, whole chickens, and salamis to keep me company as a late-night snack. There were also a lot of stalls selling Pálinka, packages of Hungarian Paprika (available in the States, but of course I bought some) and whole capsicums. The vendors had a lot of other tourist garbage...stuff like mini spoons, magnets, lace of some kind, and t-shirts. The main tourist vending areas were on the second floor, which was quite claustrophobic. There were tons of stalls and they all had stuff hanging from rods above our heads. We didn't really see anything too spectacular. I had read in our guide book about a cheese vendor and a mushroom vendor, but then I realized that I couldn't really do much with the mushrooms. If we bought them we wouldn't have been able to cook them and I'm really not the type to walk down the street shoving mushrooms in my face.

I was also looking for
hardcore Hungarian hooch. My buddy hot-pocket and I used to sit in bars and get rocked off this stuff. He had a colleague whose Hungarian gramma would send her bottles of the stuff. Don't ask me how she got it...all I know is that it was like gold on the lips. Unfortunately, I could never find anything I wanted. All the Pálinka I found was catered to tourists and nicely packaged as a gift. We did stop in some bodegas later in our trip, but I just couldn't bring myself to buy a bottle on a whim. There were so many different flavors that I didn't know which to choose. Lucky for me, Karena got the courage to buy three or four small bottles. So maybe when she's not looking I will dip into one or two of them!

It was in the market where I first noticed my unfortunate decision in attire. You see, I chose to wear my yellow
Imperial Cerveza t-shirt. What I didn't realize was that the crazy Swedes were in town for a 2010 World Cup qualifier. Oops. Last time I was in Europe this happened too. I went to Denmark and my first day in Copenhagen was a 2006 World Cup qualifier. I had never witnessed so many of my partial brethren running around with open containers of Carlsberg (sometimes more than one open containers). That being said, I was ashamed to be in a bright yellow shirt like so many of these scruffy Swedes and was afraid that I was going to be mistaken for one.
I was just going to have to suck it up today. I had no intention of going back to the hotel. Karena and I were off to see Buda today. Home of the Budai Vár (Buda Castle), Mátyás-templom (Matthias Church), and the famous Halászbástya (Fisherman's Bastion) and several other great sites. Karena and I took Tram Number 2 from near the market to the closest stop near Széchenyi lánchíd (Széchenyi Chain Bridge). The tram was really cool because it drove right along the water. We could see great views of sites up and down the Buda side of the city...this included a teaser of the Castle District as well as views of the Gellért Baths. We got off at the Chain Bridge, walked across, and queued for the funicular up the hill. Even though you might thinkg both of us are runners, there was no way we were walking up that hill.
We arrived at the top of the hill and a couple of Italians promptly stopped and asked me to take five to seven pictures of them in varying poses. I think I did okay as a stand in fashion photographer. Karena's main draw to the Castle District was the House of Hungarian Wines, which allows one to drink unlimited samples from different Hungarian wine regions (and eat unlimited appetizers) with the payment of just one entry fee. Unfortunately for Karena, we found that this place was closed....but, I'm not sure if it is permanently closed or if it was temporary to do the Hungarian Wine Festival taking place a few days after we left. Either way, wine was not to be had. So we decided to hit the Budapest History Museum in the castle. I thought it was great. There was four floors of history to be seen. We got to look at historic artifacts that ranged from pre-history, to medieval era, to the modern age. I thought it was really neat to have the different layouts of the castle and of the city presented. We even got to walk around in the basement of the castle. The foundations were laid so long ago. It really is an interesting feeling to be surrounded by something that was constructed before so many events that shaped the world. I mean, I think the first castle structure was completed on the grounds around the middle of the 13th Century. That was even before Gutenberg Bible was printed. They even had delineated where specific rooms were set up, like the stairs for a tower, a storage room, or kitchen. It gives you a great sense of the space we enjoy and possibly even take for granted in out houses and apartments. You also could really get a sense of the variety of people and ethnic groups that made Budapest what it is today....not just Hungarian (or Magyar), but also Jewish, Turkish, and Germanic. You could see influences from the cultures in the tapestries, coats of arms, and marble stonework used to decorate buildings and tombs.

At that point we were both feeling pretty Hungry. Out in the main quad area, I had noticed (with my nose of course) something delicious. There was some sort of pastry that I had to try. Yes, I had to. I couldn't leave without giving it a taste. So we stopped and saw that it was something like funnel cake. It was called Kürtőskalács (
Hungarian Chimney Cake). It came in eight or so flavors, but I wanted to get vanilla. The man took it off the heater and rolled it in sugar and gave it to me. As you can see, the cake didn't stand a chance.
This gave us enough fuel (I could actually use one now) to walk through the tiny streets of the Castle district. We hiked up the road to the area where the Buda Hilton is located. This is also near the Fisherman's Bastion and Matthias Church. There were lots of small trinket shops, but I spotted one that looked legit. We went inside and it was selling all this great hand-made and hand-painted pottery. Karena and I went on a little splurge and spent like 200USD. It was well worth it though. WE got a lot of pieces four ourselves and family (hint: you will get your gift at Christmas if you haven't received it yet). If you ever find yourself in the Castle District, look for Tarnok 10 Galeria at Tarnok ut 10. It is on the right-hand side of the street as you walk towards Mattias Church. There were two older woman working while we shopped and they were very nice and wrapped everything to survive the trip home. After I was loaded like a packhorse we wandered down to the Fisherman's Bastion and enjoyed the views up and down the Danube. We began to be serenaded by some drunk Swedes (I shall not repeat the song on here) and decided that it was time to continue walking to the other end of the Castle District.

I think I will end here for now. Tomorrow I'll finish up the Buda Castle post by talking about a demolished church, cafe dining, and our quest to find a downhome hungarian-jewish restaurant.

1 comment:

Paige said...

That flower gelato looks so pretty - and delicious!
The markets sound very fun:)
I'm sorry you couldn't find any hooch! LOL That's so funny about your friend's gramma sending it!