Boozing and Bathing in Budapest!

Oct 9th, 2017, 12:42 AM
  #21  
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 104
Enjoying your write-up. THe ticket desk is about 15 feet inside the Terror Museum, and they do seem to take a bit of time with each person. We stayed with it, and did enjoy the museum. Some of the write-up's could have more English explanations, but you do experience a sense of doom and tragedy.

I found quite a few interesting statues to visit, in addition to the Nazi Occupation (plus counter-display from locals, very moving), to the one with Prime Minister Nagy on bridge, Reagon, Columbo and dog...and you hit the jackpot with Memento Park.

Budapest really is a fun city to wander through, can't wait to return.
bdokeefe is offline  
Oct 9th, 2017, 08:25 AM
  #22  
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Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 6,114
If I go back I will try to revisit the Terror Museum - but I'll pick a sunny day next time and hopefully the queues will be smaller! Agree about Budapest being lovely just to wander....we liked coming across small bars and patesseries and market stalls and street art and so on unexpectedly. Btw, Memento Park figures in the next section of my TR, which I will try to put up later today.
RM67 is offline  
Oct 9th, 2017, 11:26 AM
  #23  
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Day 5 : Wednesday

The plan for Wednesday morning was to make our way to Memento Park, situated in the hills just outside Budapest. It’s the home of many communist-era statues removed from the city centre after the fall of communism, and something I’d wanted to see for years. The journey was a very easy one, aided and abetted by the completion of a new Metro line in the last couple of years. Basically, we walked to Deak Ferenc metro, caught Line 3 to Kalvin Ter, then changed to Line 4 which we rode all the way to the end at Kelenfoldi Palyaudvar. Right outside the station we caught a bus (120E?) up into the hills and the entire journey – rail and road - took no more than 30 minutes. The bus actually sailed right past the entrance to Memento Park, not stopping automatically, but luckily Tommy noticed the gates, so at the next stop just down the road we hopped off and walked back.

The entrance was crowned with a huge pair of boots which are all that remains of an 8 metre high statue of Stalin, the rest of the sculpture having been pulled down and destroyed. Buying tickets at the gate we picked up a guidebook in English and walked through an arch into a grassed area where the statues are cleverly arranged in small arenas or terraces, brick walls separating the different ‘rooms’, but often with windows in them, creating interesting peepholes through which to view the works. We wandered past statues of soldiers carrying rifles, children releasing doves, cloth-capped workers holding banners, giant hands protectively encircling symbolic balls, Stalin again, Karl Marx in cubist fashion, and a frieze with (red) star shaped portholes. Most of the figures were shown in a strident or triumphal pose and instantly recognisable as propaganda of that era. We read in the guide that the Hungarians hated most of the works and used to risk punishment by covering them with sheets when they were in situ in the city. There was apparently quite a heated debate on what to do with them after the fall of communism, and the park was proposed as a solution – nobody really wanted the statues to remain prominent in central Budapest, but at the same time, the historical significance of them was widely recognised, so it was decided not to destroy them. The park will never be added to because it is not a celebration of communist art per se – it is a specific historical record of that particular time in Budapest.

We took a lot of photos walking round the park, and at one point I swapped the lens on my camera to a fish eye. To do this I had to put my guidebook down on one of the plinths so I had both hands free for fiddling with my camera, and when I turned back a few moments later the guidebook was gone. Tommy said it might have been a taken by a member of staff thinking it was litter but I didn’t see any staff wandering round so think it was probably pinched by a fellow tourist. We sat drinking cokes at a table by the entrance and I glared daggers at anyone passing with a guidebook in their hand or pocket, just in case they were thieves! Eventually I gave in and bought another guide from the kiosk (they weren’t particularly expensive) but the first one had been a present from Tommy so it was a bit of a shame nonetheless. Queuing at the booth to get my book I noticed some fridge magnets stuck to the glass and added one of Brezhnev answering the phone in his underpants as a surprise present for Mr M!

Once we'd had our fill of communism, we headed back into central Budapest and made our way to BBz, where I had Caesar salad and Tom had a bowl of goulash (which was more like a soup) and both were delicious. More lemonades and then back to the apartment to prepare for our night out.

As an extra birthday present, Tommy had booked a cruise on the Danube with wine-tasting included. Shortly before 7pm we headed down towards the river to pick up our tickets, which were held at the box office of a theatre or opera house (I’m not sure which but it had a grand staircase and red carpet) serving as a collection point for all sorts of online bookings. We picked up our tickets then waited outside for 10 minutes or so until our guide came to lead us to the boat. There were quite a few other people taking the same cruise and we and all the other participants followed the guide down to the waterfront, snaking through the streets like a school outing following teacher!

Crossing the tram lines and going down some stone steps and through a small underpass, we came out onto the quay, then navigated a short gangplank onto the boat. Inside, I was a bit unnerved to find the ceilings quite low and claustrophobic, and the whole vessel really quite dark. I then noticed some sort of mannequin dressed in historical costume standing next to a waterwheel or screw propeller or some other antiquarian method of propulsion and realised the vessel was a lot older than I’d first thought. We were lead past the waterwheel and straight out the other side of the boat, at which point I realised this wasn’t our vessel at all – there were multiple boats moored side-by-side and we had to walk across several to get to the outer one which was our venue for the night!

Our real boat was lovely, with panoramic glass windows that opened right up to let in a breeze or provide a better view of the bankside. We were seated at a private table just for the two of us, with paper placemats detailing the wines that were to be served and a large jar of breadsticks to nibble on. A small group boarded the boat quite late and didn’t seem happy with their seating and made a bit of a fuss, which resulted in the couple behind us being moved to one of the outdoor tables – Tommy though we were going to be asked to move too at one point but happily we were left alone – probably due to his thunderous expression. Our sommelier came and introduced herself and poured the first of seven(!) wines as we pulled away from the quay. The wines were served in really generous amounts – small glasses, but each serving nearly a full glass. There were a mixture of reds, whites, roses, and I think possibly one dessert or sparkling wine – by the end I was too sloshed to remember We were very pleasantly surprised by the quality/drinkeability, having not been that impressed with other central European wines we'd tried, like Czech. The views from the boat were great – all the bridges beautifully lit up at night, and every grand building expertly illuminated – the Parliament, Buda Castle, Gellert baths and even some contemporary-looking buildings in rainbow colours, which we presumed to be modern art galleries or theatres. There was live music the whole time we cruised up and down the Danube – a couple of fiddlers playing Viennese waltzes etc – if you’d described it to me beforehand I would have thought it sounded a bit cliched, but they were superb musicians and it was just right for the location and atmosphere.

After a couple of hours we returned to our starting point and disembarked. We wandered slowly back through town to the Kiraly street area and our favourite Serbian bar again, where we stopped for fajitas (me) and some sort of kebab/meatball cross (Tommy) and cocktails and pear palinka (both). The palinka was a bit like pear drops (or acetone!) and very strong. You are meant to drink it down in one like a shot, but it was too firey and I couldn’t, which amused Mr M no end. Back at the apartment, Tommy obligingly found a film for us to watch on his tablet – Clerks – and it was very funny and a good end to a great day.
RM67 is offline  
Oct 9th, 2017, 11:28 AM
  #24  
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Day 5: Wednesday

Wednesday was my birthday so tea and cards first, and then out for breakfast. We headed to our usual covered arcade, though gave Bluebird a miss to try out the place opposite - Bench Cafe. I should explain that most of the cafes and bars have young woman outside with menus trying to entice you in and we felt bad about saying no to the woman at Bench over and over again, so out of pure charity finally decided to give them a chance! We had eggs and toast and tea and fruit juice and it was perfectly ok, but not nearly as nice as Bluebird imho.

The plan for Wednesday morning was to make our way to Memento Park, situated in the hills just outside Budapest. It’s the home of many communist-era statues removed from the city centre after the fall of communism, and something I’d wanted to see for years. The journey was a very easy one, aided and abetted by the completion of a new Metro line in the last couple of years. Basically, we walked to Deak Ferenc metro, caught Line 3 to Kalvin Ter, then changed to Line 4 which we rode all the way to the end at Kelenfoldi Palyaudvar. Right outside the station we caught a bus (120E?) up into the hills and the entire journey – rail and road - took no more than 30 minutes. The bus actually sailed right past the entrance to Memento Park, not stopping automatically, but luckily Tommy noticed the gates, so at the next stop just down the road we hopped off and walked back.

The entrance was crowned with a huge pair of boots which are all that remains of an 8 metre high statue of Stalin, the rest of the sculpture having been pulled down and destroyed. Buying tickets at the gate we picked up a guidebook in English and walked through an arch into a grassed area where the statues are cleverly arranged in small arenas or terraces, brick walls separating the different ‘rooms’, but often with windows in them, creating interesting peepholes through which to view the works. We wandered past statues of soldiers carrying rifles, children releasing doves, cloth-capped workers holding banners, giant hands protectively encircling symbolic balls, Stalin again, Karl Marx in cubist fashion, and a frieze with (red) star shaped portholes. Most of the figures were shown in a strident or triumphal pose and instantly recognisable as propaganda of that era. We read in the guide that the Hungarians hated most of the works and used to risk punishment by covering them with sheets when they were in situ in the city. There was apparently quite a heated debate on what to do with them after the fall of communism, and the park was proposed as a solution – nobody really wanted the statues to remain prominent in central Budapest, but at the same time, the historical significance of them was widely recognised, so it was decided not to destroy them. The park will never be added to because it is not a celebration of communist art per se – it is a specific historical record of that particular time in Budapest.

We took a lot of photos walking round the park, and at one point I swapped the lens on my camera to a fish eye. To do this I had to put my guidebook down on one of the plinths so I had both hands free for fiddling with my camera, and when I turned back a few moments later the guidebook was gone. Tommy said it might have been a taken by a member of staff thinking it was litter but I didn’t see any staff wandering round so think it was probably pinched by a fellow tourist. We sat drinking cokes at a table by the entrance and I glared daggers at anyone passing with a guidebook in their hand or pocket, just in case they were thieves! Eventually I gave in and bought another guide from the kiosk (they weren’t particularly expensive) but the first one had been a present from Tommy so it was a bit of a shame nonetheless. Queuing at the booth to get my book I noticed some fridge magnets stuck to the glass and added one of Brezhnev answering the phone in his underpants as a surprise present for Mr M!

Once we'd had our fill of communism, we headed back into central Budapest and made our way to BBz, where I had Caesar salad and Tom had a bowl of goulash (which was more like a soup) and both were delicious. More lemonades and then back to the apartment to prepare for our night out.

As an extra birthday present, Tommy had booked a cruise on the Danube with wine-tasting included. Shortly before 7pm we headed down towards the river to pick up our tickets, which were held at the box office of a theatre or opera house (I’m not sure which but it had a grand staircase and red carpet) serving as a collection point for all sorts of online bookings. We picked up our tickets then waited outside for 10 minutes or so until our guide came to lead us to the boat. There were quite a few other people taking the same cruise and we and all the other participants followed the guide down to the waterfront, snaking through the streets like a school outing following teacher!

Crossing the tram lines and going down some stone steps and through a small underpass, we came out onto the quay, then navigated a short gangplank onto the boat. Inside, I was a bit unnerved to find the ceilings quite low and claustrophobic, and the whole vessel really quite dark. I then noticed some sort of mannequin dressed in historical costume standing next to a waterwheel or screw propeller or some other antiquarian method of propulsion and realised the vessel was a lot older than I’d first thought. We were lead past the waterwheel and straight out the other side of the boat, at which point I realised this wasn’t our vessel at all – there were multiple boats moored side-by-side and we had to walk across several to get to the outer one which was our venue for the night!

Our real boat was lovely, with panoramic glass windows that opened right up to let in a breeze or provide a better view of the bankside. We were seated at a private table just for the two of us, with paper placemats detailing the wines that were to be served and a large jar of breadsticks to nibble on. A small group boarded the boat quite late and didn’t seem happy with their seating and made a bit of a fuss, which resulted in the couple behind us being moved to one of the outdoor tables – Tommy though we were going to be asked to move too at one point but happily we were left alone – probably due to his thunderous expression. Our sommelier came and introduced herself and poured the first of seven(!) wines as we pulled away from the quay. The wines were served in really generous amounts – small glasses, but each serving nearly a full glass. There were a mixture of reds, whites, roses, and I think possibly one dessert or sparkling wine – by the end I was too sloshed to remember We were very pleasantly surprised by the quality/drinkeability, having not been that impressed with other central European wines we'd tried, like Czech. The views from the boat were great – all the bridges beautifully lit up at night, and every grand building expertly illuminated – the Parliament, Buda Castle, Gellert baths and even some contemporary-looking buildings in rainbow colours, which we presumed to be modern art galleries or theatres. There was live music the whole time we cruised up and down the Danube – a couple of fiddlers playing Viennese waltzes etc – if you’d described it to me beforehand I would have thought it sounded a bit cliched, but they were superb musicians and it was just right for the location and atmosphere.

After a couple of hours we returned to our starting point and disembarked. We wandered slowly back through town to the Kiraly street area and our favourite Serbian bar again, where we stopped for fajitas (me) and some sort of kebab/meatball cross (Tommy) and cocktails and pear palinka (both). The palinka was a bit like pear drops (or acetone!) and very strong. You are meant to drink it down in one like a shot, but it was too firey and I couldn’t, which amused Mr M no end. Back at the apartment, Tommy obligingly found a film for us to watch on his tablet – Clerks – and it was very funny and a good end to a great day.
RM67 is offline  
Oct 9th, 2017, 07:56 PM
  #25  
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 5,130
A double birthday, and what a fun trip. (Though I'd skip the acetone shots. Lightweight.) I think you've done full justice to Budapest.


I guess paprika would be the gift to get, wouldn't it, but hard to beat the underpants magnet.
stokebailey is offline  
Oct 10th, 2017, 07:23 AM
  #26  
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Yup - one birthday on the 11th, the other on the 13th. We should split the difference really and have one cake, one party etc all on the 12th.

There will be more souvenir options coming up later in the report....
RM67 is offline  
Oct 10th, 2017, 08:49 AM
  #27  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 47,905
Even though we were not particularly smitten with Budapest, I am loving this report. So detailed and well written. Much appreciated.

We brought back enough paprika to last a lifetime, and saffron, which I can never get enough of. Also a refrigerator magnet and some very colorful leather gloves.
StCirq is offline  
Oct 10th, 2017, 10:48 AM
  #28  
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Thank you very much

We saw some lovely leather goods - bags in bright colours like turquoise or mirror silver. Budapest also had a big Geox store which is Tommy's favourite place for shoes!
RM67 is offline  
Oct 13th, 2017, 02:58 PM
  #29  
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Day 6 Thursday

Our plan for Thursday involved a visit to one of Budapest’s famous thermal spas. There are a number of these spas spread across the city, ranging from lido-style outdoor complexes to candle-lit Turkish rassouls, with segregated bathing, mixed sessions or both. We opted for Szechenyi baths, which are located in District XIV in a vast park of more than 300 acres. Using the website he’d previously booked the wine cruise on, Tommy bought day passes online, which, for around £30 allowed us expedited entry to the complex, private cabins for changing and storage of clothes (instead of just lockers), use of all the pools, and a short aroma massage.

We decided we’d walk to the baths, rather than use the metro, so we could get breakfast en-route. After all the meaty meals of salami and duck fat and so on, Tommy was quite keen to get stuck into something less fleshy, so we kept our eyes peeled for a decent bakery or waffle house, eventually plumping for an American diner-style café with formica tables and film posters on the walls. Mr M had pancakes with maple syrup and bacon, and I had Belgian waffles with caramelised apple and crème chantilly. We got a banana milkshake between us (which we could hear being reassuringly whizzed up fresh in the kitchen below) and sucked from opposite sides of the glass with two paper straws, like that bit in Grease with Danny and Sandy just before Frenchie reveals her terrible beauty school dropout pink hair!

The wander from the café to the baths was very pleasant, with more grand art nouveau buildings to admire en-route under a cobalt blue sky, and then the park itself, with vast flower beds, zoological gardens and a boating lake. There was also an impressive gothic-looking building just off to our right, turreted like a fairy tale castle. We have no idea what it was but we both agreed what an amazing place to live it would be, if it were indeed a private residence. The baths themselves were deeper into the park though, in a grandly colonnaded buttercup yellow building that we circumnavigated almost fully to find the correct entrance (there’s more than one way in but you have to use the main door with the pre-booked passes). Inside was equally opulent, with tall, arched windows, ornate plaster ceilings and heavy black iron candelabra. We were first kitted out with electronic bracelets that allow entry to the changing cubicles, then directed through a turnstile and down some stairs to the towel collection point, where we were handed white bath sheets. Then back upstairs again to get changed in the antique cubicles with their Kelly green wooden doors. A lovely Japanese couple showed me how to lock my door with the bracelet as I struggled a bit with it, then Tommy emerged from his cubicle, beach ready, and we were good to go!

Our massages were booked for shortly after midday, so we first headed to the spa area marked on a small paper map that we’d been given on entry, and sat on a wooden bench waiting patiently for our masseurs to appear. A middle aged lady stopped to chat with us – she spoke very good English as a result of having run a bed and breakfast in Budapest some years ago – curious to know what we’d visited and where we were staying, and when I said near Kiraly Utca she helpfully corrected my pronunciation of ‘utca’! Her masseur appeared and led her off, quite intimately holding her hand, so I think she must have been a regular. Our masseur and masseuse also appeared shortly after, and, speaking no English, mimed for us to ‘clock in’ with our bracelets, then pointed the way to the massage rooms. Tommy’s masseur was a terrifyingly huge man who looked like a shot-putter, so I was very relieved to be assigned ‘Maria’ instead. A little disconcertingly, Maria whispered to me in Magyar all the way through the massage – she was probably just saying things ‘like your shoulders are quite knotty’ but it sounded much more poetic and lyrical than that in a foreign tongue! She had very good hands and my back got a thorough going over, such that I felt uber-relaxed by the time I rejoined Tommy outside. He’d thankfully survived Goliath unscathed, so we headed for the pools.

There were 18 baths in total, some indoor, some outdoor, at a variety of temperatures, ranging from virtually unheated, right up to 42C. We started outside where there was a large rectangular pool divided into lanes for proper swimming, and two smaller semi-circular pools, with jets of water to pummel you, drench pipes and sprays overhead, and a current to swim with, or against. The current ran in a sort of spiral and it was a bit like being in a washing machine spin cycle! The walkways between the various pools were quite slippery and I wished we had flip flops after nearly going over at one point, but unfortunately you couldn’t hire them there, only buy them outright. We nipped (carefully!) from pool to pool, taking our towels with us as there were no free chairs or loungers to leave them on. At one point, Tommy saw someone fondling our towels, so from then on we tied them tightly round railings or pillars whilst we were swimming to make them less nickable! All around the outside of the baths were little kiosks where you could buy sandwiches or drinks, or beer or wine in plastic glasses. I briefly explored the kiosks, and then the indoor pools, salty and steamy and warm, before getting told off for trying to swim in the big outdoor lane pool without a proper swimming cap on (they blow a whistle at you!). I sheepishly returned to Mr M in the semi-circular pool where we chatted and swam in the sunshine until we were wrinkly and shivery and ready to go.

Leaving the baths we spotted a metro station handily positioned right in the centre of the park, and caught a train back to Deak Ferenc. This line I think was probably the oldest in the city - the tracks were barely underground and the trains were noticeably smaller in scale and just 2 cars long. We nearly came a cropper here, initially forgetting to validate our tickets, but Tommy realised in the nick of time and we punched them just as the train rolled on to the platform. Back in the Kiraly area we found a restaurant for a very late lunch/early dinner, serving a set menu of dim sum, curries and almond cake. My curry was beef with cashews and Tommy’s a traditional Thai (I can’t remember whether it was green or red though) and both were very decent. After the curry we found out the almond cake had run out so took a chocolate version instead. This came deconstructed in a mason jar and looked impressive but was a bit meh truth be told.

Our evening entertainment was quite an unusual choice and I feel fairly confident this won’t have figured in many previous Trip Reports, if any. Trawling one of my favourite travel websites, Atlas Obscura, I’d found reference to a pinball museum full of vintage and modern tables that you could play on all night. In a cellar beneath a fairly ordinary residential building almost 200 old arcade games have been lovingly restored – and not just pinball either, table football, ten pin bowling, shooting ranges and early videogames. We paid our one off entrance fee (I think about £8) and wandered from vault to vault as machines dating from the 50s to 90s whooped and clanged enticingly. One area was devoted solely to vintage pinball and these made a right royal racket as the balls ricocheted around the tables. I found a particularly intriguing version where you had to hit numbered targets at the head of the table, which corresponded to numbered racehorses at the foot of the table. Every direct hit moved a horse up toward the finishing line. I never managed to get any horse past the post before I'd used up all three balls though, which was absolutely maddening. Tommy was endlessly amused by a terrible German pinball table which ‘rewarded’ you for high scoring play by removing the top of a cartoon woman, and I spent ages trying to master a space-themed table where some sort of magnetic field sucked the balls toward the holes and away from the flippers.

The star of the show however was an unusual variant on table football, where you had to try and score goals with a ping pong ball using numbered air jets. You basically had to be quicker than your opponent at identifying the right air jet to operate, then pressing the button that controlled it. Tommy got very ragey because one of his air jets wasn’t working properly, but one of mine, though technically still in full working order, was missing its all-important number, so was effectively useless, and thus rendered us even. I am ashamed to say we got horribly competitive on this game and there was a lot of shouting and fist punching and gloating. Later we restored harmony by sharing fruit sweets won from those grabby crane machines - Mr M scoring a huge haul under my tutelage (I was brilliant on those as a kid!). There was also a little bar with coffee and beer and Pringles, and you could buy souvenir t-shirts in a myriad of colours. It was a great place to while away a few hours, and the only reason we eventually tore ourselves away was because we both had backache from leaning over the tables all night!
RM67 is offline  
Oct 13th, 2017, 03:21 PM
  #30  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 25,425
The "castle" you saw was built as part of the millenium celebrations in 1896.

http://www.vajdahunyadcastle.com/

The metro line under Andrassy ut is from the same time period and is the second oldest in the world after London's Metropolitan Line.
thursdaysd is offline  
Oct 13th, 2017, 04:37 PM
  #31  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 9,480
I am thoroughly enjoying your report. The detail you provide makes me feel like an onlooker. Every report you write is splendid.
muskoka is online now  
Oct 14th, 2017, 03:33 AM
  #32  
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 119
Hi,
Yes, the second line in the world, but as we proudly say the FIRST subway on the continent!
okszi is offline  
Oct 14th, 2017, 05:25 AM
  #33  
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Join Date: Feb 2007
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Thanks for all the kind comments and helpful ancillary info- glad you're enjoying it
RM67 is offline  
Oct 14th, 2017, 06:14 AM
  #34  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
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Hi oksi, yes, I know, but I'm a Brit, lol.

RM67 - Budapest is one of my favorite cities. I first went in 2004 before many tourists went, but I'm always glad to find other people who enjoy it. Don't know why StCirq didn't take to it.
thursdaysd is offline  
Oct 17th, 2017, 03:24 PM
  #35  
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Day 7: Friday

I can’t remember where we had breakfast on Friday but I think it was probably BlueBird again. I do recall that after we’d eaten we headed for Szent Istvan Square as we’d read a Chocolate Festival was being held there in front of the basilica. Sure enough, as we arrived vendors were just starting to open small wooden kiosks and sheds offering all manner of sweet treats. As we wandered we saw truffles, marzipans, desserts served in little shot glasses, chocolate-covered strawberries, donuts, macarons, ice cream, chimney cakes, wines, beers and bubble teas. I tried taking some photos of pyramids of truffles and gold-foil wrapped candies, but these didn’t come out particularly well. I think it was probably due to the overhanging rooves of the sheds providing necessary shade for the chocolates against the late morning sun, but also throwing the displays into shadow in the process. Tommy bought some chocolate-covered cherry marzipan for his mum and the vendor boxed and wrapped them nicely, and I bought an ice cream delicately flavoured with pear. We also looked in a few shops on the main drag – Lush had just opened in Budapest that weekend, but seemed if anything to be more expensive than back home – and I vaguely recall boring poor Tommy by heading into Furla and drooling over bags.

We didn’t spend long in this area heading back roughly in the direction of our apartment, although in no great hurry. At some point we tried to find a shop on Paulay Ede Utca that sold vintage posters – I was really hoping to see some from the communist era – but sadly when we located the store it was one of those ‘By appointment only’ places that you have to ring in advance. I would have ignored the ‘please ring first’ bit tbh and just gone in and tried to be sufficiently charming for the lack of an appointment to be overlooked, but the place was locked up and dark, so I suspect only opened if the owners knew in advance that clients were coming in. It was tantalising indeed, because I could see many lovely old advertising posters quite clearly through the glass door!

Instead we headed for a little café that we’d passed several times on Kiraly Utca, sandwiched between a place selling horrible tights that looked a bit like gimpwear, and an emergency dentist with a neon sign of a molar. The café was called something like the Green Fairy or the Fat Fairy, and had a small but attractive-looking selection of patisserie. We made a short stop here for coffee and cake, the latter all looking so good that I dithered quite a bit, before eventually plumping for some sort of chocolate layer torte. Tommy very unsportingly went for a chocolate banana cake, despite me dropping huge hints that he should really get the pistachio cake, which had a fabulous green mirror-glaze, and would have looked amazeballs in my photos.

Mr M then headed back to the apartment for a bit of a snooze – he hadn’t been sleeping as well as me as he found the bed a bit soft - so I let him have 40 winks to catch up, whilst I explored the covered market. Here, I bought an old Russian watch from the 60s as a souvenir (about £25), and a hand-made espresso cup and saucer for Tom’s mum from a jewish guy who was selling cartoons and ceramics. He told me that the cartoons were his own work and his wife did the ceramics. The cup was a lovely teal blue shade, and imprinted with all sorts of jewish emblems like hamsa, and a bit wobbly looking, which only added to the appeal imho. I also looked at stalls of miniature oil paintings in quite a pleasing naïve style, mid-century jewellery like fur clips and rhinestone brooches, and t-shirts of Vladimir Putin riding a bear! (I was really dying to get a Putin t-shirt for Tommy, but when we’d passed them earlier in the week he’d not seemed that enthused, so in the end I decided not to risk it).

Back at the apartment I showed Tommy my haul and he admired the watch in particular and we discussed the exciting possibility that it might previously have belonged to a Russian cosmonaut. As Mr M drank tea and caught up on Facebook and Candy Crush Saga, I used the Touchnote and Postsnap apps on my tablet to make postcards from some of the photos we’d taken, then mailed them to family and friends back home, all from the comfort of the sofa. The Postsnap app was a bit sneaky, defaulting all my postcards to ‘extra large’ (read extra expensive!) but I couldn’t be arsed to change them all back and it meant we didn’t have to go out and find stamps, so probably was just about worth the extra cost.

That evening we headed for a tree-lined avenue we’d walked down a few times previously (eg on the way to the Caledonian) where we’d seen some attractive looking restaurants with live music. One in particular – Komedias – appealed, as it had lovely belle epoque décor (red velvet banquettes and polished mahogany tables) and a pianist playing most evenings. We walked slowly, peeping into bars en-route to see what might do for a nightcap later on, as old-fashioned red trolleybuses glided past under a web of electric wire. As we approached Komedias we noticed that a stage was set up in the middle of the road just outside, with crowds starting to gather round it for some sort of impromptu performance. After a short wait, we were lucky to be seated at one of the outdoor tables overlooking the stage (many tables were already reserved) and perused the menu, as a variety of acts took their turn. To a soundtrack of pop, opera, and musical numbers we discussed what we might like to order. The problem was that we both wanted our last evening to consist (ideally) of typical Hungarian fare, but it was really quite warm and balmy, and thus the hearty goose and red cabbage we’d been eyeing up earlier suddenly seemed a bit inappropriate. In the end I had tapenade to start and Tommy had an egg salad with onion, and then I plumped for grilled chicken with rosemary and lemon and a large green salad, whilst Mr M took a chance on a heavier dumpling dish. The portions were huge here, and we struggled to finish everything – particularly the dumplings, which although quite small like gnocci, were an absolutely enormous bowlful. With Sauvignon Blanc to wash everything down we did our best but still could not manage empty plates.

By now, a cheesy male-female compere duo had replaced the musical acts and yacked incessantly – Tommy said it reminded him of the worst aspects of the Eurovision Song Contest. Eventually some dancers in Rio carnival-style skimpy emerald-green costumes with feathered headpieces took to the stage, but the crowds were so dense we couldn’t see the performers unless we stood up. By the time poor Tommy had his camera ready the south american temptresses had already taken their leave! We noticed as we later wandered back toward Kiraly Utca that we were in the theatre district, and some leaflets we were handed seem to suggest that the free street show had been put on by graduating students of a local opera and drama school. It was not the piano recital we’d been expecting but for the most part it had been very enjoyable indeed and a bit of an unexpected bonus on our last night.

Before heading for home we nipped into a bar we’d spotted that always looked enticingly dark and seedy whenever we passed by. Both of us hanker for underworld-like opium dens, with velvet drapes, smokey- voiced singers and some mixologist working their magic with a cocktail shaker, so we had high hopes for this enigmatic oasis. Unfortunately our late night watering hole fell somewhat short of expectations. Tommy drank beer and I had gin and tonic (there were no cocktails on offer after all) as underworked staff loitered in the gloom. A flatscreen tv playing an unidentified music channel allowed us to familiarise ourselves with a variety of previously unknown (to us) Hungarian pop acts, many of which were cheesy and unintentionally hilarious. One of the bar girls used the remote to flip channels every now and then if she didn’t like what was playing, even though it was obvious we were watching, and this unaccommodating attitude, I felt, went some way to explaining the lack of customers in the near-empty bar! If I could remember the name of the place I’d give them a suitably scathing review on Tripadvisor. Lucky for them I can’t…
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Oct 21st, 2017, 09:55 AM
  #36  
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Day 8: Saturday

We tidied our apartment and packed, then headed for the reception area to check out. The Park Residence complex consists of a variety of apartments spread across 2 or 3 different buildings all clustered around Kiraly Utca and its environs, and the reception itself is completely separate. We handed in the key to the lovely smiley receptionist and left our bags in a store cupboard-come-passageway just off reception, as we had several hours before my train and Tommy’s flight. For a change of scene we headed down to the river for breakfast, where a number of restaurants and hotels have dining areas overlooking the water. Picking somewhere with outdoor seating we ordered omelettes and tea and coffee and fruit juice. The eggs came with a generous basket of bread and we ate in the sunshine with views of Buda castle opposite, occasionally obscured by ochre trams criss-crossing along the waterfront.

After settling the bill we briefly explored the chocolate festival again then headed for a Seiko store we’d seen near the bottom of Andrassy Utca so Tommy could drool over watch porn. The shop had a tiny display of older watches alongside the newer designs and I tried in vain to convince Mr M to get a lovely Oyster-style 60s model with a green leather strap and the original box, but he was more interested in some of the current limited edition pieces. I searched for things with diamonds on whilst he and the salesman chatted knowledgeably about power reserves and snowflake dials and whatnot.

Leaving Seikoland we spotted that Andrassy Utca was cordoned off, and a quick glance up the avenue confirmed that there was some sort of food festival in progress. We really didn’t have huge appetites after breakfast, but decided on a lovely window shop of the stalls nonetheless. There were vendors selling bbq steak and pork knuckles and skewers of veg, fruit beers and palinkas, and artisan breads and pretzels. We also saw a couple of very cute pop-up bars including one that looked like a lemon pulled by a bike! The lemon opened down the middle and allowed room for one person inside to serve as bartender. I hovered for a while but couldn't work out what booze was being served here. Just a little further on from the lemon bar was a large stall serving Hungarian specialities like chimney cake – something we’d seen on offer at various locations around the city but not actually tried. Basically a batter is poured onto a roller over hot coals and the cake cooks as the roller turns. You end up with a hollow cylinder shape that is dipped in sugar or chocolate to finish it off, and sometimes filled with ice cream too. At the same stall a couple were cooking gyros – potatoes cut into a long spirals then threaded onto a skewer and deep fried in hot oil. When they’re done they’re dipped in salt or paprika. We shared some gyros and thought them really good – like hot fresh crisps. Other stalls were selling home-made lemonades – a lady muddling fruit and mint and ice in giant jugs – or herbs and flowers tied in tiny bunches. The stalls lined both sides of the road, with tables and benches set out down the centre so you could sit and eat your purchases in relative comfort.

The salty gyros made Tommy thirsty for beer so we headed to his favourite sports bar on Kiraly Utca and sat chatting about our best bits of the trip for the last hour or so. We both said how much we’d enjoyed Budapest and how we’d love to return. Sadly though our visions of a rematch didn’t seem to overlap that closely – mine being a glorious winter themed vision of ice skating and hot chocolate and frost and sparkling lights, and Tommy’s one long pub crawl with shouty, beery Glaswiegan mates! Plenty of time to work on him though...
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Oct 22nd, 2017, 06:20 AM
  #37  
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PS Judicious use of Google has revealed that the rage-inducing arcade game is Sega Basketball circa 1966. it's now on my Christmas list!!
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Feb 25th, 2018, 01:28 PM
  #38  
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Topped for the person asking about quirky Budapest as my link didn't work.
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