My friend Tarina was doing some travelling in South East Asia and decided to come over to Germany for a visit to do some exploring in Europe. Her arrival in Munich also coincided with the May Day long weekend in Berlin. We decided we would meet somewhere relatively close and landed upon Budapest, Hungary. On Friday, April 28 after work, I took the overnight sleeper train from Berlin which left at 19:01. I was alone in my 3 berth bunk until Dresden when 2 girls from Hungary joined me. We chatted for a while and then got settled in our bunks (I got the middle one). I awoke the next morning and had a quick coffee with my bunk mates before arriving in the capital of Hungary. Tarina had also taken the train from Bratislava and we arrived at around 8:30 Saturday morning. We got checked into the Hotel Astoria on the Pest side of the city before grabbing a coffee & croissant at the cute Budapest Baristas around the corner. We then wandered the streets passing the Great Synagogue, which is the largest in Europe, as well as the weeping willow tree with the names of the Hungarian Jews killed during the Holocaust inscribed on each leaf. We continued to aimlessly wander the streets braving the quite windy and chilly spring time weather (Dan would have hated the aimlessness of it) and found a small weekend market on Gozsdu-Udvar Street, which also had some nice looking restaurants and bars so we made a note for later. Just around lunch time, we found a spring market in Vörösmarty Square. There was a lot of different choices on offer but we decided to go for the famous street food, the Hungarian lángos. It is a deep fried flat bread topped with sour cream and grated cheese. We each grabbed a lángos and a pint of Hungarian beer and enjoyed people watching in the square. With our stomachs full we crossed over the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, a suspension bridge that spans the River Danube between Buda and Pest, over to Buda Castle where we caught some fantastic views of the city.
That evening we found a lovely little wine bar, Doblo, where we did a tasting of Hungarian wines. We selected the ‘Hungarian Mini” tasting which included a white, rose, red and finished with a Tokaj, a sweet dessert wine. The tasting came along with a platter of Hungarian salami, cheese, and traditional cottage cheese, Körözött. After our fabulous tasting, we made our way back to the Gozsdu-Udvar area and happened upon a “Ruin Bar”. We had read about the ruin bars which are basically old abandoned warehouses turned into bars. We grabbed a local pint and enjoyed the music and atmosphere. We didn’t know the name of the particular ruin bar we were at, however, funnily enough, when we were walking around the bar we noticed a Calgary Flames hockey jersey hanging on the wall. I asked the server about it and she said the owners of the bar were from there. Small world!
On Sunday morning, we grabbed breakfast and coffee at the quaint Fekete Café nearby. Our mission today was to make it to City Park, the largest park in Budapest. On the way we stopped at St.Stephen’s Basilica just as mass was letting out. We kept walking towards the park and stopped outside the terror museum to view the outdoor exhibit describing the 1956 uprising including an Iron Curtain installation. We continued on and made it to the park just around lunch time where a huge market was set up. This time we decided to share a potato pancake, otherwise known as tocsni, topped with goulash along with another refreshing beer. After lunch we walked over to one of the most famous spas in Budapest, the Széchenyi thermal bath. We didn’t have our suits with us but we still could imagine the experience and the thermal baths are definitely on my list for next time. We then walked over to tram number 2 and took what has been awarded the best European public tram ride.
After a long day of sightseeing, we grabbed a bottle of wine that I recognized from my last trip to Szeged, Laposa 4 Hegy Olaszrizling to enjoy back at the hotel. Later that evening, we wandered past the Great Synagogue back to St. Stephen’s Basilica where we had noticed a wine bar that morning. We grabbed a seat in the very busy DiVino Wine Bar and created our own tasting, this time along with a homemade duck platter.
Monday morning we attempted to visit the Great Market Hall but it was closed due to the public holiday. Instead we grabbed breakfast overlooking the market and enjoyed the improved spring time weather before heading to the airport for our 1.5 hour flight to Berlin. We landed late that afternoon and once we got settled in the apartment we walked over to Tiergarten to see whether any festivities were still going on. Most stalls were packing up but we were lucky enough to find a bratwurst and beer stand to end our May Day long weekend.