A Whole New World [Aladdin]

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hungarian of the Day: "Can you recommend a restaurant?"

Tud ajanlani egy ettermet?

[tud o-yan-lo-ni ej eyt-ter-met]

While at the Central European University I asked, though in English, where would be a good, cheap, and local restaurant for mom and I to try. We were pointed in the direction of a Chinese restaurant about a block and a half away. “You will pass one Chinese place, buffet like, don’t eat there. Go a little past it, make a left and look for the place with the lanterns.” We found the place with the lanterns. It was delicious and potentially more food than we should have ordered, but still awesome. This may be my new adventure, just asking random people where I should go for lunch. Perhaps a new direction for the blog? Courtney’s Phantom Gourmet of Budapest & Beyond?


I am totally getting used to this sleeping in late thing. I’m also over feeling bad about it because mom is sleeping in too, and she rarely sleeps past 6:00 when at home (which will never cease to boggle my mind). So we got up, got ready, and decided

what was on the agenda for the day.

Goal one was to find the University. I had emailed the department about when the best time to visit was and the told me they would all be there after 10 (good thing we didn’t get up before then!). So we wandered our way down the river and up the road from the Chain Bridge and lo and behold, about 15 steps from where we had adventured the day before was my lovely school. As I do not yet have an ID for the school we had to sign in with the desk. We then made our way to the 4th floor of the Faculty

Tower, which will become my home for the next two years. After greeting the women in charge of keeping the department in order Csilla (one of these fabulous ladies) showed me the kitchen and the area where I will have my “pigeon hole” (which I had never heard of before, it’s basically a mail slot where people can leave me things and professors can put materials and such. I kinda like the term pigeon hole.). It’s a really interesting building and I can’t wait to get started!

I mean, I’m enjoying being a tourist with mom (which means I’m enjoying spending time with mom in the city, not that I like being a tourist. If you know me, you know this is the case)., but I am really looking forward to just settling into the city and being in school. I can’t wait to just settle into a cafe table with a book and some company and just let the Hungarian world roll by.

We then headed to the aforementioned Chinese restaurant where we ate like queens. I ordered Hot and Sour soup (which is much hotter in Budapest than any location in the US I’ve ever eaten - and much more delicious) and fried Pork Dumplings (4 HUGE dumplings. I could eat these every day. Wow). Mom got sweet and sour chicken (which was very tasty, but served with pineapple and cucumbers, unlike the pineapple and peppers we’re accustomed to in the US) and won ton soup (which was called Hun Tun soup here, but she said it was delicious as well).

Next we decided to make our way to the Great Market Hall (Nagyvásárcsarnok) where I saw far too much of the most delicious looking food of my life (except for maybe the markets in Rome, but I think that Rome is my city. I think there’s a place in each of us that connects to a certain place in the world where we think we could just exist in absolute harmony with the world for the rest of your life. For me that’s Rome. I would be completely content spending the rest of my life in a little flat in downtown Rome. But that’s all a digression. Sorry.). There is booth after booth of fresh fruits and vegetables, booths selling piles of paprika, booths with every sort of meat, pate, whole/halved chickens and ducks and various other assorted parts of animals, booths

selling wines, booths selling cheese, booths selling bread, and so many more. It was a feast for my eyes. Good thing we had just eaten or I would have been buying everything. As it was mom bought some paprika to take home (and followed the advice of Rick Steves and went down around the corner from the main paprika store to a smaller, cheaper one that let you taste the difference between hot and sweet paprika. Thanks Rick!), and I bought a bunch of grapes. They unfortunately have seeds, which really weirds me out, but they’re tasty still. There’s also a grocery under the market (crazy, I know, but what can you do?) where I bought a 1L bottle of Coke Light and some water.

We meandered back to the hotel where I was going to go for a swim, but instead mom and I took a much needed nap. Jet lag still seems to be kicking our collective behinds. Oh well, it’s not like we’re not doing anything the rest of the day!

So when we ventured back out we decided to wander back up to the University because it sits about a block away from St István’s Basilica (Szent István Bazilika). We got to admire it from the outside as it closes every day at 17:00, but it’s pretty remarkable (I mean, it’s no St. Pete’s, but what can you do?). It’s gelded on every available surface of the doors and the domes are pretty impressive as well. From there we wandered over to take a look at the exterior of the parliament building (Országház). Now that’s a cool building. We’re going to have to go inside at a later date (mom and I are considering shelling out for the guided tour as I think that’s the only way to get inside without personal invitation), but it’s a lot to look at from the exterior. While we were outside admiring the architecture some motorcade complete with police on motorcycles and in cars drove right up front and let some (apparently) important diplomats out. Would have been cool to know who they all were, but some old Hungarian men sitting in the small park we were standing in were yelling at the police man who was directing traffic and gesturing wildly. Man I wish I

understood this language!

When we got up closer we were in Kossuth Tér, a square with a handful of very important and powerful monuments. To the right of the square is a big black slab of marble that seems to be just melting from the top where an eternal flame is lit. This is in honor of those who died in the 1956 uprising (many of those who died actually died in the square where the monument is located. Google 1956 Hungarian Uprising if you want to know more about this horrifying piece of Magyar history.). Even more to the right is a statue of Lajos Kossuth who was the leader of the 1848 Revolution against the Habsburgs. To the left of the square stands a flagpole with a Hungarian flag that has a hole cut out of the center. This flag commemorates the 1956 Uprising (beginning October 23) when protestors cut out the communist seal that had been added to their flag by the Soviets.

We then proceeded to walk around the Parliament and came to a statue of Attila József , a much beloved Hungarian poet who killed himself at the age of 32 by jumping in front of a train (Youch!). He is posed to be sitting as though reenacting one of his most famous poems: “As I sat on the bank of the Danube, I watched a watermelon float by.” And finally from here we made our way to the edge of the Danube (we probably didn’t do this the best way possible as it involved waiting for breaks in fast traffic. Oops.) and walked to a new Holocaust Monument that is very powerful without being very large. It consists of 50 pairs of bronze shoes bordering the ledge of the Danube. This monument commemorates the Jews who were killed when the Nazi’s puppet government (The Arrow Cross) rose to power in Hungary in 1944. Though many Jews were sent on to concentration camps the Arrow Cross also killed many of them at this spot and just let their

bodies fall into the Danube to be carried away. (Much of this information came from the Rick Steves’ guide to Budapest as well as a little internet research of my own. If you want to know more you can just Google it and pick the sources you want to trust.)

On the walk back we were trying to find some more food around the University when we pretty much fell into this tiny little hole in the wall Hungarian restaurant. It was pretty fabulous and probably the best food we got for the least amount of money we’ve spent for food thus far. Lori will understand just how excited I am about living in a country where they put sour cream on EVERYTHING they eat. This may be an overstatement, but they do use it in a LOT of meals. And I love sour cream. This could be an awesome adventure for me :) So I got mushroom goulash with sour cream over noodles (which were homemade pasta chunks and not really noodles at all. They were quite delicious though) and mom got fried pork over spaghetti (pretty much veal parmesan). Full and happy and pretty tired out from the long walks of the day we went back to the hotel to relax and try to get some sleep.

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