Monday, December 28, 2015
A few memorable days with our wonderful children and grandchildren for Christmas, then we’re heading back over the ocean to work. But our work is such fun! First stop- Budapest-where we’ll fill our days with interesting research as we plan a few add-on days for our Music and Markets Prague tour.
Charming little Gerloczy Cafe and Rooms is our headquarters for the next three nights, and we’re delighted with our room tucked underneath the rafters. Although we admire the beautiful spiral of stairs each time we walk by, we take the elevator up and down the 5 floors – we know we’ll get plenty of steps to fill our daily quota with our city walking!
The last time we were here was in ’99, and we stayed across the river, in Buda. This time we’re in Pest, with its wide boulevards lined with elegant buildings.One of Pest’s main squares, Vorosmarty, is just down the road, and the Christmas market is still in full swing, with one booth after another filled with Hungarian crafts. Those adorable hats are so tempting…but we’re traveling light, and I’m determined not to add anything more to our stuffed suitcases. I still have an eyeglass case and a vest with the typical distinctive swirls from our last trip.Up a few steps in the center of the square is a fascinating food court. Pita-type sandwiches weighted down with heavy irons here, a massive skillet to prepare another specialty there, pigs knees (ham hocks to us?) galore, roast suckling pig….are you getting hungry??
Decades ago, shortly after Kirk and I began dating, I invited him to my parents home for a traditional dinner of stuffed peppers, the recipe I learned from my Hungarian grandma. That was NOT a hit – I’ve never made it again! But cabbage stuffed with duck? That’s a different story – and Kirk enjoys his lunch choice, as do I my goose drumstick with red cabbage, both accompanied by cups of steaming mulled wine.We landed in misty fog, and it’s stayed that way all day – you can hardly see Buda’s castle across the Danube!Rick Steves guides us through the streets of Pest with one of his well-thought-out city walks in his Budapest book, and after passing through several squares, it’s time to pause at one of the city’s grand old cafes for a delicious break. In the late 1800s café culture took off here as it did in Vienna, and though the coffee houses, as they are known, were closed down during communist times, suspected havens of dissent, many are now restored, bringing back the vibrant café life of centuries ago. As one of the grandest of all historic Budapest coffee houses, Centrál Café was not only a place for drinking coffee and nibbling cakes (we can recommend the plum tart!) but a meeting place for writers,poets, editors and artists, whose photos still adorn the walls. The Centrál was the first of the historic coffee houses that reopened after the fall of communist dictatorship in 1989.
Warmed up and ready to continue our explorations, we walk on to the Great Market Hall, where most of the stalls are closed for the day – we’ll return! Just down the street is the elegant Elizabeth Bridge, crossing the Danube to Buda. We stay on this side, riding the number 2 tram to the grand Parliament complex, right on the river. A holiday-decorated tram, packed with sightseers, trundles by as we walk around the elegant building. Strolling back along the Danube, we admire the Chain Bridge – we’ll cross to Buda tomorrow. More Christmas lights draw us away from the river…another Christmas market, packed with revelers, in front of St. Istvan. Booth after booth entices with beautiful crafts and delicious treats – square donuts! We already had our afternoon treat, and dinner at Café Gerloczy awaits, so we resist.
The city is so beautiful, even more so decorated for the holidays, that we just keep walking, no metro or tram for us! Through Vorosmarty Square again, and back to dinner (very good, by the way, and complete with a talented harpist!) and a good nights sleep.