Three Days in Budapest & riding the retro metro

It was wet, grey, tiring and dingy in places. Not at all the way I’d imagined a January. I imagined it colder, much colder. However that is the kind of weather that awaited my wife and I on a recent short city holiday into Hungary. Budapest to be exact.

A cheapo Easy Jet flight three nights including breakfast at a reasonable price in a well situated and well appointed Hotel in the midst of that large city was just the thing.

Budapest as seen from a higher vantage point on the western side of the river Danube

Budapest as seen from a higher vantage point on the western side of the river Danube

Not that the weather where we live on the German side of the Swiss/French border was any better as we were herded through the airport gate like so much documented cattle. It could have been worse, much worse. The city could have been held in the frosty clutches of mean old man Winter. But it was not. And so a little bit of wet weather didn’t seem all that depressing when we stepped out into the Hungarian rain for the first time.

We arrived mid afternoon and  it being a Sunday and us not having planned anything touristically urgent as far as activities go, we located our hotel via our helpful little and later much used city/map book and my suddenly in demand sense of direction (albeit a bit confused with having to read/decipher a new language neither one of us was face with before). Then we set off and rather embarrassingly our very first jaunt  took us to a pretty big mall. Say no more, say no more.

January darkness fell more rapidly than we had anticipated and as the rain had let up a bit, we took advantage to look at the city lights from Margit Hid bridge over the dark Danube at the southern tip of Margaret Island. Nice.

View of Hungarian Parliament building on the bank of the Danube from bridge

View of Hungarian Parliament building on the bank of the Danube from bridge

going down to the retro metro on the transit escalator; we also went up these escalators towards daylight

Going down to the retro metro on the transit escalator; we also went up these escalators towards daylight

Very glad to have a guidebook/map along for this trip. Knowing and figuring out exactly where we were or exactly where we wanted to be/go wasn’t all that much fun all the time but it certainly made getting around easier. The locals we approached were very helpful when asked for assistance in either German or English. Thanks kindly you friendly Budapestians.

tourists looking at map books and waiting for transit salvation

Tourists looking at map books and waiting for transit salvation

There were tips on good eats in the guide booklet at several, actually two indoor market halls where various delectables from all over could be sampled and I had set my mind and stomach for an afternoon stroll of deliciousness in silly proportions/portions. I was really looking forward to the culinary experience and the usual list of local eats such as goulash and … well, goulash was the only culinary dish I knew of. But we were open to new things too. After wandering down a canyon of tourist shops lining the Vaci Utca;

One of the lesser shopping display along the Vaci Utca

One of the lesser shopping displays along the Vaci Utca

…pretty much all of them selling pretty much the same wares. Hmmm. At the end of that Utca we suddenly came upon the Nagycsarnok or Central Market Hall. Halleluja I thought; well maybe not thought so much as I felt something akin to that expression as we pushed our way through the heavy dirty darkish green woolen curtain flaps that separated the winterish outside from the warmish interior. Let the fun begin.

Inside the Central Market Hall where disappointment bit me in the ass.

Inside the Central Market Hall where disappointment bit me in the ass.

One stall sold fresh and colorful vegetables, the next sold honey, various sized bags of Paprika both sweet and hot along with different alcoholic souvenir bottles along with nuts, dried fruits and trinket sized wooden scoop spoons. Along the lines of ‘Souvenir’ accoutrement. Noted. The next stall sold meat: poultry, pork, beef, various cuts and meats in differing states of deconstruction depending on what the butcher was doing. These stalls also stocked huge supplies of the ‘Pick’ salami that I also was keen on purchasing to take back and sample in the comforts of home. These salamis came in different sizes and the different stalls appeared to apply differing prices for these same wares, depending on where they were located in the hall. The wife made note of that fact. Nevertheless we bought some. In a nutshell, a large market hall with many stalls but all stalls basically selling the same things. And upstairs arranged around the outer walls, more stalls with traditional embroidery and more tourist trickery. Bummer. The whole thing could have been condensed into four shops based on goods sold. Nothing for my belly other than a couple of excellent spicy dried snack sausages. We did not go into the basement for further my disappointment.

National Spice of Hungary is Paprika ... ok, so these samples had collected a lot of dust over the course of many years of being window displays.

National spice of Hungary is Paprika … ok, so these samples had collected a lot of dust over the course of many years of being window displays.

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Nope … didn’t eat here. Why not? Well, the name implied certain culinary danger. No matter that the hustler out on the street touted the menu to be “just like your mother home food”.

We did however stumble across the ‘Strudelhaus‘ on October 6 Utca. Wow, who knew Strudel could be so good. This restaurant also offers other traditional Hungarian fare but we spoiled our appetites with mouthwatering late afternoon goodness. Absolutely recommend this establishment for a delightful and very tasty visit.

Below is a sample of the sights and personal impressions:

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Parliament building besieged by constructionism

Solitary tower view point overlooking Budapest

One of the towers of the Fishermans Bastion overlooking Budapest

Bronze Aged Police

Bronze Aged Police on Zrinyi Utca/Oktober 6 Utca. Budapest

Wooden restaurant facade

Wooden restaurant facade on Vaci Utca

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Post christmas blues in the city

from there to here (camera viewpoint)

Rokford restaurant on the corner of Honved St and Szalay St. Didn’t eat there either.

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Seriously guarding the Hungarian Presidentat Sandor Palota

Looking across the Danube river  (beside the 'Chain Bridge')

Looking across the Danube river beside the Széchenyi lánchíd or Chain Bridge

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Detail of historical graphic context

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The unintended monumental asphyxiation of statues in an unnamed square somewhere in downtown Budapest

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Two tram cars as seen from Vemezo Way

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Yup Unicum … tastes exactly like ZWACK

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Still in rail service to the nation at Nayugati Railway Terminal

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Lonely morning street with retro VW bug

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Cool colors and wheels

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Dekagrams of decadent goodness

We can imagine how Budapest might look like in spring time.

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tired tourist feet

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Good’bye’ Budapest. Thank you kindly for the hospitality.

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wrong-way adventures on the M3 Blue Line to get to the airport

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Captain, please start this engine for takeoff

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At the movies – German Style

It’s a Friday afternoon when the urge to see something on a screen bigger than the smallish TV we have strikes. Lets say it’s … oh, 16:00 or thereabouts. This urge does not strike too often thank goodness, given the admission prices at most movie theaters and really good films/movies are few and far between. So I generally avoid the rubbish.

I check local theaters on-line and find something worth the price of admission, a French flick that I initially mistake as something German.

Paulette, French Film

Paulette, French Film

Ok, honest mistake I insist, even if the name Paulette does not have that Teutonic ‘Klang’ at all. Instead of reasonable start times that I am used to from the North American movie entertainment palaces, I find myself struggling with the odd menu offerings where this film is shown then but not later, or that one later and not earlier. And I find it a bit constricting in terms of an impromptu movie binge.

The constraints don’t stop there. Oh no, it gets better. In fact it is very organized this movie viewing thing. You see you just can’t just buy a ticket for a certain show and simply wander past the ticket taker and into the theater and pick whatever seat suits your fancy at the moment. No, you must choose a seat via screen at the time of ticket purchase. Meaning that you buy your specific seat. Perhaps that is so because most theaters around here are fit into existing buildings instead of the mega entertainment mecca’s that consume valuable acreage in or around most fair sized towns and cities elsewhere. It’s more discreet here. You can even pre order/reserve seats online or via phone if you so choose.

Ok, so we (I didn’t go alone) bought our tickets and selected our seats from the available slots onscreen and settled in for the pre-show. The place was nearly empty, not bad for a 200 seat room. Most of those taken were behind us and I was enjoying the leg and elbow room when to my right I spied a group of four studiously comparing the fine text on their tickets to seat row numbering and then narrowing in on the row we were seated in. “Come on” I thought … “this can’t be”. It was. They edged their collective way past us and much to my surprised dismay they sat down in the seats right next to my left elbow. “Damned” was my next thought.  Row upon empty row before us, and more empty seats further along this row. I had to smile because somehow that sense of German efficiency had calculated that someone would choose exactly those seats; and not be swayed to move a few seats over so as to give some ‘personal space’, even after it became apparent that no other movie gowers would occupy any other of the empty seats. I even chuckled, cause the guy who got to sit next to me never even once tried to rest his right elbow on the arm rest between us; I having laid claim to it by rights of having sat down first. Weirdness indeed.

The movie was worth the experience and we laughed at all the right places. Well enjoyed indeed. Check it out if you get a chance.

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A Canadian abroad in southern Germany

Ok, so what’s it been now, three weeks I think. Yup. I’ve been here in my new home for a scant three weeks and it feels like a few months already. Why?

Because I have  had so little time to just hang out and absorb the new culture, instead I’ve hit the ground running, looking and applying for full time work, looking at  a new rental Wohnung/apartment that my wife found for us (ironically in the same village I lived in that life time ago). Then there was the painless waiting for the residency/work permit which just arrived and I repeat myself in spending most of my free time online looking for work. That’s my full time job now, for now.

The good news is that I’ve got a tax free part time job at a nursery in the village we are moving to end of this month. However I will need much more than that to create a new normal and I can’t let up until that happens. I am not worried nor will I let it get to me. Things are happening in their own time and I am in a good place.

Cat at Rest

Cat at Rest

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then sometimes I am suddenly hit but the immensity of what I’m actually doing. Adjusting to a new life in a still new to me country; even after all these years away and its familiarity I am constantly reminded that this isn’t just another visit counted in weeks or months, no. As I peel back the layers of normal life beneath the wide eyed tourist curiosity of it all, I recognize the new real I have committed to.

How am I holding up? Given the circumstance I am well, I suppose. A bit more stressed out than I expected but that is a forgivable condition. How are my language skills? Ok. Good enough? Yes, and they will improve as I immerse myself in the culture and the daily life.

Given that the Fastnacht season aka carnival is in full tilt and the fools are out in inebriated force and colorful garb and dense, close knit village Umzüge/parades, it is I who at times feel like the fool in that often even the smallest of mannerisms, conversational etiquette and other such given formalities elude me. “Das macht mann einfach nicht,” (One simply does not do that) as a German saying intones when faced with something out of the expected Teutonic order of things.

And then there is the food … another subject for another entry.