Every globetrotter has his/her rituals. I, myself, well… I am a collector. Now I am not going to pretend I am above the usual tourist traps, I do the usual postcard pick up and random crap (i.e. key chains & T-shirts) shopping for friends and family to let them know they were not forgotten. I always make a point to get something special for my mother and lil’ sister, relevant to their interests at the time of my trip. When it comes to something for myself I always get a flag of where I have been… and something else, an item others would not necessarily think to acquire. When I went to Spain I picked up a Toledo made sword. When I traveled to Morocco, I made a point to pick up a turban in the colors of the tribe that hosted my desert retreat. When I found myself hailing a taxi in the Budapest airport, my mind was clear, I wanted a traditional Hungarian bow. It is probably true that my singular focus on these “special items” speak to the fact that I am a millennial and crave for authenticity and uniqueness in all that I own and do. Maybe I have a childish fantasy to dress as a medieval world traveler. Only time will tell. Well lo and behold I acquired my bow and for the past few months I have been practicing with it on weekends with some fellow archers in Ohio. (If you are interested in that silliness I am sure I will get around to making a post on archery but in the meantime check out some silly pics on the gram!)
Now on to the main event, BUDAPEST! Dear God, where to start? Well, we can start with the language. I gave up. I gave up before I even landed. Hungarian, my linguist friends joke, is quite a grammatical pickle. It isn’t related to anything I can speak (that is two Romance languages and very poor Arabic). Lucky for me and every other foreigner in Budapest, the vast majority of the city is at the very least bilingual and the usual second language was English (Thank you booming British tourism)! I did learn what I view as the three basics, Hello(Szia) , good bye(Ello) and cheers(Egészségére, try saying that five times fast)! Yes… “Hello” and “Seeya” are backwards… oh and everyone being at least somewhat familiar with English meant that even the Hungarians would sometimes mix up hello and “See ya.” It mostly made for awkward goodbyes, which I do anyway.
Before I get too emotional on those goodbyes, let’s talk food! I hope you like meat and potatoes because these are the staples of Hungarian cuisine. More specifically, they love pork! They are famous for their Mangalitsa pigs, which mind you, ARE HUGE! At the central market in Budapest they sold literal bricks of pig fat for cooking. Who needs butter right? They have wonderful spicy sausages all over the place often spiced with an even greater variety of local made paprika. Pictured below is my favorite meal in all of Budapest, not just due to food but for the grand company! My friend Jose (behind the camera) visited me for a weekend of city exploring, eating and binge drinking. We went to Pleh Csarda, the small restaurant Anthony Bourdain visited in his Hungary episode. I learned the limits of my gluttony that day. They gave me what I can only describe as the world’s largest schnitzel, laid atop a bed of 3 whole potatoes in cheesy form. It took Jose and I three meals to finish what we started, but WE DID do it. We also checked out, after a night of too much Palinka (the local, awful booze), the Gellért bath house. That bath house was the only reason I survived that weekend. We made a point to hit the sauna first and then we spend the rest of the day jumping between thermal baths and the first wave pool ever build (1927)! It had 1927 safety standards in that we almost drowned a few times, but it was worth it all.
So many adventures happened in Budapest I struggle to retell them all at once. I believe I will leave you with one final tale. Did you know Count Dracula, i.e. Vlad the Impaler was subservient to the Hungarian King? I found this out when I visited the labyrinth beneath Buda Castle, a hidden gem I highly recommend. So the story goes that before Count Vlad got the nasty reputation he historically deserved, he spent some time in Budapest, sneaking around with the Queen. Unfortunately for him he was caught by the King and was sentenced to the labyrinth for 10 years of uninterrupted torture. He was only released after the Queen’s untimely death, and from them on he returned to Transylvania changed! Being a sucker for a good story I was giggling and scared at the satanist set up they put up in the labyrinth. I wouldn’t recommend it for children… Unless you really dislike your children.