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Welcome to our world of business information, museums, adventure, birding, botanical gardens, good eating and fine wines. This newsletter provides you with “The Welge Report for BudaPest.
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Recognition: We extend special thanks to the people who manage and/or own the institutions, museums and restaurants featured in our guides. In some instances we have relied on their descriptions and photos.
Transportation Tip # 1: Budapest is a city where you will walk a lot. If you get tired get on Tram 2, which is among the top ten most scenic tram routes in the world (National Geographic), and voted as the best in Europe. Tram 2 runs along the river Danube providing you with a free river tour on land.
Transportation Tip # 2: From our Cousin Chris: Single trips on public transport are 290HUF; day pass is 1550 HUF. You must validate your single pass in a machine at the entrance to the metro, but don’t validate a day pass, just show it.
There are attendants in the metro to make sure everyone validates their pass. They are vigilant. There are validation machines on buses and trams, but most of them don’t seem to work and no one checks, i.e., you pay for the metro and not the trams and buses!
Transportation Tip # 3: Taxis in BudaPest are unregulated it seems. We were told not to hail a taxi on the street. On our first night we had the hotel call a taxi, and the desk clerk appeared to call but miraculously the taxi was parked in front of the hotel.
After dinner the restaurant called a taxi and there was no problem. The second instance our Tour Leader said she would call a taxi because it would be less expensive. She did and gave us a taxi #. The driver had our information on his cell phone and yet a 2nd taxi felt the fare should have been his.
Our lesson was the hotel clerk was in on the action, or got a kick-back from the taxi. When we had the restaurant call a taxi the same trip was always less.
U.S. Embassy (http://hungary.usembassy.gov/) – Szabadság tér 12, H-1054 Budapest Hungary, (36-1) 475-4400, After-hours emergency calls — for American citizens only: (36-1) 475-4400
Exchange Rates (http://www.x-rates.com/)
Note: Looking at printed Hungarian is like an appointment at your ophthalmologist and trying to decipher the eye chart.
Day One: We suggest that you drop your bags and stretch your legs with a walk toward the Szabadsag (Liberation/Freedom) Bridge. Cross the street at Vamhaz Kőrút and you are at The Central Market Hall.
The place shown below is on the second floor where we had an excellent Hungarian beer.
Great Market Hall was built in 1897. It has a beautiful tiled roof and a colorful facade of patterned orange bricks. Although the Central Market Hall (Vasarcsarnok) was severely damaged during WW2, it was restored perfectly in the 1990s.
There are a raft of stalls selling Hungarian dolls, embroidered linens, glassware, and other souvenirs— Paprika: try the sweet Hungarian paprika. It’s great for coloring dishes and adding a bit of sweet flavor for ragouts, stews and soups.
Which is the best Hungarian paprika to buy? Szeged paprika or Kalocsa paprika? If you like Pate de Foie Gras, this is the place to buy it.
Discover Castle Hill at your own pace and walk along the cobblestone streets. Be sure to take in Matyas Church (Mátyás templom) M-F: 9-5, Sat: 9-12, Sun 1-5
It has beautiful ceramic tiled roofs. The main eastern gate of Matyas Church and the long apse are 13th-century, the central part was built around 1400.
The religious highlight of the interior is the Loreto Chapel, with a statue of the Virgin Mary and Christ made in 1515. Nice stained glass; art nouveau painting on Gothic architecture.
Also nearby is Fishermen’s Bastion (Halászbástya).
The Bastion takes its name from the guild of fishermen that was responsible for defending this stretch of the city walls in the Middle Ages.
It is a terrific viewing terrace presenting photo opps of the river and the city. (Several artists had appealing offerings.)
For dinner we suggest Bock Bistro Buda – L & D: M-Sa, Erzsebet krt 43-49, 36 1 321 0304
Dinner was the “Tale of Two Cities”, Dee’s phrase. We had the front desk call a taxi for us and he did, I guess. At any rate it was in front of the hotel, an unmarked black car, very comfortable. I gave him the reservation with the name of Bock Bistro Buda and address.
It was Bock Bistro Buda, 1125 Budapest. I had located it on an online map and it wasn’t far from the Marriott courtyard where we were staying. Bock Bistro Buda has 2 locations, which I knew, one in Buda and the other in Pest at 1073 Budapest, Erzebstet korut.
After a long day’s journey it didn’t hit me that these were 2 different cities and the address where we were confirmed was in Buda. I kept saying to the taxi driver that the restaurant was near the hotel and he kept driving.
When we crossed the river into Buda I knew there was a breakdown.
We got to Bock Bistro Buda after driving through beautiful neighborhoods along winding roads. I went in to see if this was where we had a reservation and yes it was. I ask how much it would be for a taxi to return to our hotel and a waiter said 4000 Huf.
Dee had waited in our taxi whose driver at one point said “don’t worry about the fare it was a flat price”.
Dee had come into the restaurant to find out what was going on and after hearing the waiters estimated return to our hotel went to the taxi and paid him 4000 Huf. See taxi explanation. Dinner was magical.
After all of the confusion had died down, we were given our choice of tables. I asked about the men’s room and went downstairs discovering another dining room, very nice, and somewhat less formal.
As I was recovering from our first day set back, our waiter asked us about our drink preference.
I add that it is also an adjustment for the currency differences. In Hungry the currency is the huf and the exchange rate that I had gotten was 232 to the $. Sounds easy, right.
Now try it when looking at a menu after riding on a plane for 8 or 9 hours, a 3 hour layover in London exchanging money, shopping for wine , unpacking, going through an orientation and a harrowing taxi ride for an unknown amount of huf.
Our waiter was great. He made several suggestions and finally brought us a glass of Meke Pal Kadarka Mesu dulo Reserve. It was the perfect “settle down and let it happen Captain”.
When was the last time you used duck fat to spread on your bread? And delicious bread – three different kinds.
For starters we shared a generous portion of foie gras.
Then Dee had the chicken paprika with dumplings that came with an intriguing sauce. I had the duck breast napped in a cherry sauce served with a side of delicately breaded and fried zuchinni.
Our taxi ride back to the hotel was a pleasure. The driver gave us a night time tour of historic monuments and buildings that were all beautifully illuminated.
Day Two: Breakfast is at Coyote Café - B & L: Daily, Markovits Iván utca 4, 47.5057046
Heni could be the best barrista in BudaPest. In addition to breakfast they have homemade sandwiches, freshly baked pastries, bagels, brownies, fresh juices and lattes.
For this morning’s culture outing our cousin Chris recommends visiting Parliament Building using the City Tour - 36 20 953 5251.
This tour can be arranged and paid for at your hotel. People are allowed into the Parliament only on tours and the English ones are at 10, 12, and 2.
If you really want to see the Parliament with the minimum of trouble, the City Tour is a good option. The City Tour people pick you up at your hotel.
Our guide took us to a little park near the Parliament and showed us a statue of a man on a bridge; this was a memorial to a government leader involved in the 1956 uprising, who was later executed by the Soviets.
The Parliament, which is about 100 years old, looks much older. It’s very ornate and contains the Crown of St. Stephen .
For lunch we suggest DiVino – Daily: 12-12, 1051 Budapest Szent Istvan ter 3, 36 70 935 3980
Buzzing wine bar located right in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica. There is a small selection of light and tasty dishes such as hummus with pita bread, chicken salad and a duck dish.
The big draw here is the superb selection of Hungarian wines, including many by the glass and presented by a knowledgeable, helpful staff.
After lunch we suggest a visit to the Orthodox Synagogue and the Great Synagogue, which is the largest in Europe in the Byzantine-Moorish Style.
There are separate galleries for women and altogether the synagogue can accommodate 3,000 worshipers.
In the courtyard there is a burial site for the WW2 holocaust victims and a commemorative featuring, the Emanuel Memorial Tree.
The Emanuel Memorial Tree is a metal weeping willow sculpture in the shape of an inverted menorah and the leaves are inscribed with the names of holocaust victims.
Tony Curtis and his wife Janet Leigh headed up the funding effort for this sculpture.
For dinner we suggest the “Hungarian Culinary Experience”. (borkapolna.hu) Wine 4U Ltd H -1071, Budapest, Damjanics St. 52, 06 343 5258.
Reservations can be made by calling The Wine Chapel before noon on the preceding day.
It started off a little hokey but once it got underway it was an experience. I’d give the food a 7 but the wines are a 10. The local bubbly was excellent as were all of the wines. The best, of course, was the Tokaji Aszu from Fuleky.
We learned how Tokajis are made with different levels of sugar to compliment the sweetness of the dessert. The sweeter the dessert the sweeter the Tokaji. We bought 2 bottles of the ’07 Tokaji Aszu from Fuleky rated 4 Puttonyos.)
Here is a list of the wines we drank at our “Hungarian Culinary Experience”
Hungarian Sparkling wine:
Hungarian Grand Cuvee
IRSAI Oliver from the Haraszti winery
1st Red Wine:
Kardarka from the Pastor winery
2nd Red wine:
Egri Bikaver from the Hagymasi winery – this had Kardarka in the blend
Tokaji 4 puttonyos
Day Three: Breakfast today at Café Gerbeaud - Daily: 9-9, Vörösmarty tér 7., V. district, M1 metro
Café Gerbeaud is one of the oldest and most famous cafés of Europe operating since the middle of the 19th century .
The first thing that pops in most Hungarians’ minds about Gerbeaud is not coffee but the delicious homemade cakes.
Its flagship is the Gerbeaud cake: ground walnut and jam filling between layers of sponge covered with chocolate.
After breakfast we suggest visiting Hero’s Square
Our local guide, Katalin, had an interesting back story. Her family owned a beauty parlor that had 14 stylists located on the main avenue and their residence was a large home just a few doors down the street.
The communists took all of their properties plus the family lands in Transylvania. Katalin had a very dramatic voice and delivery. Katalin introduced us to a survivor from 1956 revolution.
He told us a poignant story of the events that occurred.
Hero’s Square is where the millennium celebration was in 1896. Located behind or adjacent to Hero’s Square is the Zoo, a Theater and an amusement park with a circus.
The Museum of Fine Arts – Tu-Su: 10-6, Dozsa Gyorgy ut 41 | Hosok tere, 1-343-9759 is located on Hero’s Square. Closed for renovation until March 2018.
The Museum’s holdings include drawings and paintings by Leonardo, Raphael, Correggio, Rembrandt, and works of Tiepolo, hundreds of Dutch and Flemish pictures, and a number of outstanding Spanish paintings by Ribera, Murillo and Goya. Many other artists are also in their collection.
One of our favorite restaurants is our recommendation for your final dinner in Budapest: the First Strudel House of Pest Restaurant – L & D: Daily, Oktober 6 Utca 22, +36 1 428 0135
This was a strong recommendation from Cousin Carol’s friend who had sent us an email on her recent dining experiences in BudaPest. We had a reservation and got a wonderful table overlooking the entire restaurant.
We started with a large glass of the local bubbly and the Hungarian Snack Plate that included: foie gras, sliced sausage, fried goose neck, farmers cheese salad, crudités, then we ordered a bottle of Kadarka.
I had the Pig Chops accompanied by a sauerkraut-potato filled strudel. It was wonderful. Dee had the pork medallions on a bed of roasted potatoes.
We couldn’t finish our mains. A taxi was summoned and the driver was a really nice guy whose daughter had played in a basketball tournament in the States recently.
Until next time, best wishes and safe travels,
Dick & Dee Welge
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