Beautiful World [Coldplay]

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hungarian of the Day: "How much is this?"

Mennyibe kerül?

[men’-nyi-be ke-rewl]

This one will be pretty self explanatory once you read what my day has entailed. Basically I spent a lot of time asking the prices of assorted hand-made Hungarian goods. While attempting my meager skills at Hungarian most vendors looked at me with a smile and called for their friend who spoke English. I think they realized that while I might be able to ask them the price of any assorted items, I probably wouldn’t be able to understand what they told me anyway. Another handy trick they used with me was to type the price up on a calculator. This way I got to say my phrase of the day and they responded to me in a way I could understand. It’s an interesting relationship.


Today, again, we slept in. This is a pattern I love, but kinda feel bad about as mom only has a week left in this beautiful country and I have two years. But she didn’t bother to wake me up and therefore I cannot feel bad. So we just took a while to get ourselves ready and made our way out the hotel.

Mom had a request for lunch (well, an early lunch/late breakfast - we didn’t really get on the road until about 11:00!) which was Subway. She had seen it the day before, and as it’s one of her favorite places to eat she was really craving it. I swear this is

going to be my last American fast-food meal while I’m on this “vacation” part of my stay! Maybe I’ll eat at them again once school tarts, but for now we really need to lay off :) It was good though, quick and not too expensive and we didn’t have to hunt through all of the streets to find some place that isn’t a tourist trap (if you ever visit Budapest, never ever eat anywhere that has a “tourist menu” it’s not that great taste wise and is far too expensive. We were warned and we heeded that advice).

After we ate we took a stroll down the Danube and up to the Chain Bridge. Today we decided to take an excursion across the river - Ciao Pest, Hello Buda! I took a handful of photos while we crossed the river. I don’t want to go too photo-happy just yet otherwise by the end of my time here my laptop will be full of photos of the Chain Bridge and the Palace. I took a bunch because the clouds were beautiful over the city - it was between a morning rain storm and a storm that would (thankfully) hit after we had made it back to our room. It was quite impressive. This is one of the reasons I keep a camera on me at all times throughout life. We decided to be as touristy as possible and rode the funicular up the hill to the Royal Palce (about $4 for a minute long ride, but it was pretty neat and gave some gorgeous views of the bridge).

The palace is quite impressive. In the 18th century the Habsburgs laid the foundations for their royal palace here on top of the hill. It was later destroyed in 1945 and not rebuilt until the 19th century. The part I found the most interesting was the legend of the Turul bird statue that sits atop a gateway into the palace courtyard. The Turul is a mythical bird that, according to folklore, led the Hungarian migration from Central Asia in the ninth century. He supposedly dropped his sword into the Carpathian Basin as a way to show the Magyar people that this was the place for them to settle and set up shop. It’s still a symbol of Hungarian pride. This statue was placed at the millennium anniversary celebration in 1896 as a reminder of the Magyar conquest of 896. I love legends like these.

Now, what is very special about today is it is the last day of the Hungarian Folk Festival (Népmũvészeti Egyesületek

Szövetége - don’t ask me how to pronounce that. Yet.). This has to be the most awesome and HUGE fair I have ever been to in any Country. It’s all sorts of Hungarians dressed in more traditional garb selling wares that are unique to a more medieval/renaissance time. There had to be well over 200 stands for selling things (the paths that wind up to the hill were lined on both sides with stalls) and a ton more for food. However many stands there were, there was a LOT of repetition of goods. For example you could buy these charming little cookies (we think that’s what they were at least), pottery, fabric (traditional navy with white designs), leather goods, hand made baskets, jewelry made of straw, needlepoint doilies and larger spreads, and a multitude of other things. All beautiful, some reasonably priced, others far out of my budget (found a beautiful pair of hand-made lace-up leather sandals; much too far out of my budget).

The food was magnificent. My nose was dragging me from booth to booth and my stomach and taste-buds were demanding I try everything. When we first arrived mom and I wandered around a little bit until I found a place where a lady was doing hair in these awesome braids for free! I had to wait a little while as I was down the list a bit so mom and I did some shopping and decided to loop back and eat something. I ordered us a plate of this potato/onion/paprika/other assorted deliciousness and a chunk of a sausage. The potatoes were pretty much just french fries, but I wasn’t complaining. It was a sensation for my mouth - I hope I can find a place to eat this in the city not on festival days/special events.

Then I got my hair braided. The girl before me had hair down to her waist complete with a few random dreadlocks. However it was my short, fine hair that gave her the most problems! She ended up doing a delightful set of five braids that look really cute if I do say so myself. Too bad my hair’s so

fine, otherwise it would be able to last more than a day or so. Oh well.

Later on mom and I went into the National Gallery. Let me tell you something about Hungarian art - it’s depressing. It looks as though you ought to take a bucket of soapy water and scrub the heck out of everything. I mean, I guess with the tumultuous history of the Magyar people you would expect art to be an outlet. But room after room of dark paintings of uprisings and widows kinda gets you down in the dumps. I was therefore very thankful to find a set of two very bright and colorful paintings tucked away in a corner hallway one was a field of flowers and the other was a blue ocean. Nothing artistically that impressive, but they brightened my day!

For dinner mom and I stepped back out into the festival and found some more traditional Hungarian dishes. I ended up selecting a tomato and mozzarella salad (how Hungarian!) and this pizza-esque food that was probably the most delightful thing I’ve eaten here so far. It was

dough that was cooked over a fire and covered with ham, onions, and sour cream. Now, while you’re digesting that mentally and questioning my palate please don’t knock it until you’ve had it. I recognize it sounds quite questionable, but trust me once you try it you’ll crave it just as much as I do right now thinking about it. Promise.

And finally for our long walk home I decided to buy mom and I a traditional Renaissance(maybe?) Hungarian snack. They take these long rolling pin type things,

wrap some sweet dough around them (probably around a foot and a half long), bake them until they’re golden brown and then while still hot they roll them in the topping of your choosing (I got cinnamon and sugar but you could also chose from vanilla sugar, coconut, or walnuts). They slip it off the pin, wrap it in this plastic sheet, and hand it to you still piping hot. All for 1,000 Fts (about $5). I’ll try to find the recipe for the dough, I think anyone who wants to join me - we’d make a killing with these at state fairs everywhere (maybe not NC, unless we find a way to deep fry it too).

We wandered our way back down the hill, across the bridge (where I took some more pictures because the sky was even more impressive than before), and back to the hotel. It may not have been a long day time-wise, but we did a lot, saw a lot, and bought a lot. It’s probably a good thing it only happens once a year!

1 comment:

  1. I think I've gained 5 pounds just reading your blog. If I hadn't been there before, I'd say, who knew Hungary had some many culinary tempations? But I have and I did.


Thank you all so much for your comments! I'm only happy when I have comments. Really. You are contributing to my future happiness right now! XOXO