Then I Did [Rascal Flatts]

Monday, August 31, 2009

Hungarian of the Day: "Excellent!'



This is going to be pretty simple because today just was EXCELLENT! I love walking through old churches and other historical buildings. I love climbing up to the other side of the river and through the crazy steep passageways up to the castle district and finding cozy little places to eat. Everything about today was just excellent.


Today we decided to trek back up to the Buda side of the city for all the things that we missed during the folk festival. But

before we could do that we needed to get lunch, because as you guessed, we slept in again. This sleeping in is something mom and I have come to love as she goes back to teaching on Tuesday and I start school on Monday. We’re enjoying our sleep while we can! So we decided to go back to the Chinese place we went to the other day. When we got there the dining room

was full so we started to turn around to leave but the waitresses told us there was more space - so after a tour of the kitchens and closets we arrived in a HUGE second (and third) dining room. We were trying to be smarter this time about our food (so that we wouldn’t end up with so much) so we each got a soup and decided to split the spring rolls a

nd the dumplings. Delicious again. The spring rolls were different from any I’d had at home, but they were pretty delicious (cabbage, pork, mushrooms).

After this we headed across the chain bridge and started our hike up the hill (as we were only going to pay for the funicular once!). Man was that a long hike, I’m sure there’s public transit that will haul you up there, but we wanted to enjoy the little bit of nature we could get (this is kinda a lie, while Budapest is a city they have little parks with trees and grass and fountains spread out all over. Green grass, trees, and flowers are never that far away for the country girls [ha!] like me who need it now and again). After about a million stairs and a million ramps we made it to the top.

We walked past the President’s house, the national dance theater, and the war memorial building. That last

one is pretty neat

because they haven’t repaired any of the damage to the exterior since WWII so there are still bullet holes and holes from other shrapnel and such across its exterior. Kinda pulls you back a little bit to see chunks taken out of a stone building like that. I’m sure my knowledge of Hungarian history is incredibly poor, but I hope by the time I leave here in two years I have a better understanding of their torrid past.

Next stop on our journey was a big one for me as I had heard such great things about it. Mátyás Church (Mátyás-templom) is officially named the “Church of Our Lady” but is usually called by

the name of the king who ordered it’s southern tower to be built. It’s 700+ years old and it’s beautiful. Its history is closely connected with that of the city - Mátyás was married there (twice) and it was the site of numerous coronations (including the last Habsburg king Charles IV). It was occupied by the Turks for a period where it was pillaged and all of its ecclesiastical treasures were shipped off to Bratislava and used as a mosque

(where they painted over all the ornate wall decorations and tore out all the furnishings).

An interesting event that the church can lay claim to is a “Mary wonder” where during the siege of 1686 a wall collapsed revealing an old votive Madonna statue which had been hidden for years. Members of the church in an attempt to hide some of their more precious valuables sealed up an old vault to look like just another wall in the church. When the wall came crumbling down and the Virgin Mary appeared to the praying Muslims it — to put it plainly - freaked them out. They left the church, troop morale fell, and the city fell the same day. It has since been repainted and restructured (and is currently getting a facelift on the exterior giving us a beautiful view of scaffolding).

Behind the church is the Fisherman’s Bastion (The Halászbástya), which is pretty much just a terrace offering some beautiful views of Pest. THe seven towers of the bastion represent the original seven Magyar tribes that settled the Carpathian Basin in

896. It’s quite a beautiful structure and made for a good resting point for the afternoon. From there we walked down a few of the small side streets in Buda. In one of the squares there’s an old bronze (now green colored the way bronze gets when it ages) statue of a horse and his rider (the name of the statue escapes me now). It’s nothing spectacular but it’s kinda got a cool story. Local kids on the days of big exams rub its -well - underparts for luck. So those parts are all bronze and shiny while the rest of it is green and grimy. Kinda hilarious.

Afterwards mom and I found a little cafe close to that statue. Mom had been saying that she had to have Hungarian goulash before she left and this place had it - in a cauldron! It was quite the selling point (and it wasn’t that expensive) and it was delicious!

Goulash is basically beef soup. It tastes just like what my mom makes at home - just with more paprika. It’s chunks of steak, carrots, potatoes, sometimes other vegetables - all in a broth with some seasonings. I love beef soup/goulash. If it wasn’t such the tourist food (and therefore expensive every where you go) I’d eat it more. I, on the other hand, opted for my first salad of the trip. It was a delicious “caesar” salad. I put caesar in quotes because it was similar but not quite - the dressing tasted more like a light honey mustard and it came it pesto as well as parmesan flakes and chicken. And it was huge! Yay for green and vegetables! And the bread that came with it all was delicious also.

Another exciting note about this meal is that the girl who was our waitress was SO

pleasant. This is unheard of in Hungarian food service - they pretty much see you seat yourself, come over get your drink order, come back with your drinks and take your food order (so you better decide quick what you want!), come back with your food and then wait for you to make eye contact with them when you want your bill (or dessert - though the portions here are HUGE, Hungarians seem to love to eat. So I don’t know how I’ll ever get to dessert!). There’s no real “service” in the mix - and you’re still supposed to tip (but it’s lower than the US - only maybe 10% at most).

After dinner we just decided to go back to the hotel to pack and relax. We later took a walk to the river, got some ice cream, and just enjoyed walking around the city by our hotel with no agenda. I love that about European cities - you just wander and take in everything without paying too much attention to anything.

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