Sunday 2 April
I’m writing whilst at Budapest airport after a few frantic, fun and fabulous days in Budapest – district 7, which is the Jewish Quarter, to be precise! Three old friends (in the ’length of friendship’ meaning as opposed to age) and I arrived around midnight last Thursday on a short break to celebrate our ’big’ birthdays – past, present and upcoming!
We booked our contemporary apartment through Airbnb – a social ’space sharing’ network which I’ve used before. I love Airbnb almost as much as I love Budapest, and I highly recommend both.
District 7 is the party area of Budapest; coffee shops, restaurants, ruins which have morphed into bars and bistros, stunning synagogues and hidden gems of courtyards are all within touching distance.
After all of about five hours sleep, Friday morning saw us breakfasting on pancakes and fruit in a cool-looking coffee shop – just around the corner from our apartment – before taking in the sights of both Buda and Pest on the hoho bus. Therein lies a story – which I’ll tell you at the end of this post!
Buda is the hilly, quieter city, where Budapest’s own Statue of Liberty stands, palm in hand, looking out over The Danube and the Freedom bridge.
Pest enjoys a flatter landscape which houses the most amazing architecture; the four main styles being Gothic, Classical, Renaissance and Baroque.
My two favourite buildings are the Synagogue (just around the corner from our apartment) and the Houses of Parliament – which are at their most spectacular when the building is lit up during the evenings.
The patterns in the brickwork of the Synagogue are just wonderful to see for a brick-freak like me (I have very strong opinions on bricks…colour, patterns created by skilled bricklayers, corbeling etc.)
Cruising down the Danube on Saturday evening was an interesting experience; Budapest by night looks like a scene which has fallen off the pages of a fairytale storybook. I love the higgledy-piggledy rooftops, steeples and turrets. The crescent moon, dark velvet sky and twinkling stars all added to the magical atmosphere. In contrast, some of the crazy-fast music – played by a little quartet on our deck – reminded me of being on the Titanic just before she went down!
As we cruised we passed ’The Shoes’ – those left on the side of the Danube by persecuted Hungarian Jews who jumped into the river as they tried to flee (whilst being shot at) in nineteen forty-six, we all agreed what a thought provoking and harrowing sight the shoes are.
Having enjoyed the odd Aperol spritzer and glass or two of bubbly, we felt rather too full and tired to eat a big dinner, so on the suggestion of our Airbnb host, Szylvia, we trotted along to a Hungarian restaurant – oddly named Getto Gulyas. Browsing the menu for a lighter option, we contemplated several Hungarian delicacies before opting for goulash soup accompanied by dumplings. I guess ’Rooster Testicles and Cock Comb soup’ sounded a tad too adventurous on our first night out!
During Saturday’s ’Culinary Tour’ we discovered that Roosters Testicles et al are actually very delicious, so these are now on my ’to-try list’ for a future visit to Hungary.
Our tour started out from the beautiful old Market Hall and this tour is an absolute ’must-do’ (as Martha would say). We began with a small glass of Hungarian liquor – ’Unicom’ – followed by flatbread with garlic; not my usual breakfast, but it went down well!
WTastes of different salamis, pickles, various sausages, duck, cakes, chocolates, cheeses, and wines, were enjoyed by all four of us. Several times during the tour one or the other of us would utter, ’I can’t eat any more’, then Hanna (our guide) would surprise us by saying,
’And now we are going to taste…’,
which would lead to laughter and replies of,
We really were absolutely stuffed by the end of the five hour tour.
To our credit we had walked a fair distance (thus burnt off some calories) and we subsequently enjoyed a good walk back to the apartment (taking in some shopping of course) stopping off only for Aperol Spritzers or Manhattan cocktails!
After a quick freshen-up we headed back out to explore a bit more of District 7. We visited a couple of the oldest ruins – which have given birth to stylish bar/bistros full of eclectic decorations – and ended up eating in a small restaurant just opposite our apartment. The food was good. The service was good. The decoration was a tad Moroccan and the ceiling lights were exquisite.
By about nine thirty we were pretty shattered; not-a-lot of sleep and two absolutely full-on days (physically and mentally) meant that we headed back to the apartment to relax (and drink more wine). We spent a fun couple of hours listening to fab music, chatting and laughing as we talked about allsorts. Reminiscing about where we were and what we were doing in the seventies, we listened to Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Diana Ross, Martha Reeves, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, and Junior Walker. Somehow the conversation turned to what music Lesley wants to be played at her funeral! Laughing at – whilst still respecting – some of her choices, I realised that one of the best things about true friendships is the laughter and the honesty you share. You can laugh at – and with – each other about all sorts of situations; life, death, families, politics…I think we covered it all.
I guess we all turned in between midnight and one o-clock, with the distant sounds of music playing in the surrounding bars.
This morning we set off – in more than my usual allotted amount of time – for the airport. Travelling frequently (mostly alone) I usually allow myself just enough time to zoom through security and power-walk to the relevant gate. I might add I’ve only ever missed one flight (out of hundreds) and that’s a tale for another day!
Taking into consideration my fellow travellers meant that we had loads of time at the airport so we indulged in a long leisurely breakfast and I found some much appreciated ’writing time’.
As I finish this post I am sat on the plane chomping on a kitkat whilst the other three nutcases are chatting away. It’s been a wonderful, relaxing, chilled, eating, drinking, sightseeing, laughter-filled, crazy, few days. The funniest moments were when the hands on the clock in our apartment whizzed round several times – making me think of that horror film, where someone’s head whizzes round. We were in fits of laughter (possibly because at one-thirty in the morning your reactions are not quite the norm). The other time was when Lucy jumped in the wrong side of the taxi and didn’t even notice that she was sat in the drivers seat until I asked her, ’Are you driving, love?’ We all roared…the driver included.
I am sharing this via Martha’s blog and my personal blog as it seems to fit the bill for both! Hope you enjoyed it?
P.S. Hoho bus story: years back, when in Istanbul, I asked Tom, ’What’s a hoho bus?’ Needless to say he doubled up laughing, as did I as soon as I realised what a bonkers questions I had asked. ’Hop on, hop off’, he replied! Doh…