This past weekend I traveled to Budapest, Hungary. I have never been to Hungary and was ecstatic to experience my Hungarian heritage firsthand. With my passport in hand, all I could think about was the authentic palascinta I was about to try and later compare to my mother's family recipe. Spoiler alert, they were exactly the same, but there were so many different filling choices in Budapest that I had never even heard of before. They had everything from the classic cottage cheese and raisins, to a literal hotdog. Palascinta are thin Hungarian crêpes and are one of my favorite homemade breakfasts. They are also one of the only Hungarian words I know haha. Luckily, one of the guys studying in Rome with me and Brittany speaks fluent Romanian Hungarian and was also in Budapest this weekend. Even though Romanian Hungarian is a different dialect, it was extremely helpful to have him at least try attempt to order us food or get directions. My friend Casey, that served with me at Mancini's this past summer, also met us at our hostel. I could not wait to see her! Our flight got in at about one in the morning so we decided to sleep and wake up early to get the day started.
The first place we visited was the Great Market Hall. The Great Market Hall is the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest. The first floor has fresh meat, vegetables, fruit, and pastries. The second has souvenirs and eatery stalls. There's even a basement with a supermarket. We spent most of our time between the pastry stall and the eatery upstairs, trying incredibly cheap authentic Hungarian dishes. Hungary's currency is the forint and one dollar is the equivalent of about 227 of them. Needless to say, the city was very cheap. It was also extremely entertaining to joke about how "expensive" our meals sounded. We had an amazing, six-person Hungarian dinner with wine and dessert for just under 22,000 forint (not even $100). My meal was around $11, which is how much I pay for just a pasta dish back in Rome.
Budapest is split along it's river, the Danube. The left side of the Danube is called Buda and is more historical, while the right is Pest and contains more of the social parts of the city. We spent the rest of Friday exploring Buda. Besides hiking to the top of Gellert Hill to see panoramic views of the city below, my favorite part of the day was when we rented bikes. We decided it was far too nice out for us to not rent bikes and see more of the city than we could on feet. We rented bikes for, yet again, an absurdly cheap amount of money and were off. We decided to venture onto Margaret Island, which is a used as a huge park and filled with large green spaces and flower beds. It was beautiful and amazing to see so much greenery in such a large city. We are lucky we had bikes because we would have never made it to the island on foot, it was just too far away.
Afterwards we biked by Parliament, which is the second largest parliament building in Europe. It reminded me a lot of the Doge's Palace in Venice, with it's open arches on the river side. After returning our bikes we walked across the famous Chain Bridge and looked for a place to stop and eat dinner.
While trying to find one restaurant, we passed a place open 24/7 that only makes palacsinta... Yeah I know what you're thinking, there is a heaven on earth! Considering they were also insanely cheap ($0.75 - 2.00 each), we obviously got sweet and salty palacsinta for dinner. I got chicken stew, chicken and broccoli, chocolate, and rice pudding with fruit. They were all really tasty but I surprisingly favored the savory ones. I definitely recommend pureeing soups and meats and try putting them in a palascinta!
After dinner we went to Shiraz Restaurant that has shisha (hookah) and belly dancers. It was really fun to relax on the floor cushions and take in the middle-eastern atmosphere. After Shiraz, we went to the infamous Szimple Kert. Szimple Kert is a ruin-like bar that is decorated with thrift store pieces. I am obsessed with this venue! The atmosphere is completely different to any other bar I have been too. They played instrumental music, from salsa-oriented to the Austin Powers soundtrack. Most people are found relaxing around tables smoking shisha from an apple top. Apparently shisha and relaxed social settings are popular among the Hungarians!
The next morning we returned to the Great Market Hall for brunch. I bought a bean gulyas soup in a bread bowl and it was fantastic. I recently am trying not to eat red meat for ethical reasons, which posed as a problem in Budapest. They mainly eat pork, beef, potatoes, and cabbage. But the man at the stall was extremely nice and made the bean version of beef gulyas on the spot for me! It had a little spicy kick and tiny, delicious dumplings.
After brunch we went to the Szechenyi Thermal Bathes. Budapest is on top of several hot springs and mazes of caves, which makes it the perfect spot for bath houses. Brittany and I were so excited because we had just visited the ruins of a large Roman bath and wanted to see what it would have looked like during it's actual use. Obviously this bath is more modern, but it still felt traditional and made us feel like we traveled back in time. The bath has several different types of pools from indoor, outdoor, warm, steaming hot, and even cold. My favorite was the whirlpool because the jets were so strong it was impossible to keep yourself composed. I could not stop laughing while me and my friends struggled to not run into the other bathers. It was a nice change to take the time to relax like the locals.
Budapest has been one of my favorite cities so far. It is hard to explain what is so special about it because you have to experience its atmosphere firsthand. The city has something to offer for everyone from its eclectic nightlife, outdoor activities, beautiful green spaces, and fantastic cuisine. I would visit Budapest again in a heart beat!
When In Rome
Two of my most cherished hobbies go hand-in-hand. Writing is my favorite way to reflect after traveling to a new country. I have kept this blog ever since I studied in Rome to share my travels with families and friends. I hope you enjoy learning about my experiences and getting a sense for my writing skills. If you have any questions, please reach out!