The events in this post took place on December 26 + 27, 2016 / January 1 + 2, 2017
You might remember that we landed in Greece on our 2nd Wedding Anniversary but weren’t able to celebrate it because of our multitude of housing issues (uuuggghhhhhhhh).
By the time we’d finally settled into our house and had dealt with all the pressing issues, Greek school had already started so we figured we’d go somewhere during our Christmas break to make up for it. Since I’d also promised Euphrosini that if moving to Greece became a reality, I’d take her to see a real European Christmas market.
So, we started thinking about Budapest or Vienna.
We told our friend, Archdeacon Athanasios (who works for the Metropolis of Austria and Hungary), of our plans, and he invited us to stay him in Vienna, home of the first traditional Christmas markets. And after finding cheap tickets (yaaayyyy wizz air) to Budapest and even cheaper train tickets to Vienna, we accepted.
This first part will be about our two days in Budapest on each end of our trip.
We landed in Budapest at around 5pm on Monday the 27th of December, took the bus and metro to the center, in the “Pest” side of the Danube, and got to our hostel at around 6:30pm.
Adiago Hostel 2.0 is on the corner of Andrassy Ut and Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Ut, right across from St. Stephen’s Basilica. We had a double room with loft and a view of Andrassy Ut. It was quite nice, clean, inexpensive, the staff was helpful, and to top it all off, you could flush paper down the toilet (a luxury we do not have in Greece)!
Starving, we asked the concierge for her recommendations on local pubs and she pointed us to Fekete Kutya, just a few blocks away. Though it was a Monday, there was still a good crowd out in that section of the city with restaurants and bars. The pub was a little way outside of the noise, but it was totally worth the walk.
They served a variety of microbrews on tap and in bottles for prices comparable to the Czech Republic (between 350-700 Florints/ 1.20-3 euro for a pint), small pub fare, and a main course of the night. That night it was a big bowl of sauerkraut with pork, a cabbage leaf stuffed with minced meat, and a big dollop of sour-cream. We ordered that, 4 pints (throughout the night), and an appetizer platter with a small salad, dried meats, cheese, and bread, and paid about 15 euro altogether! The bar had a lively and youthful vibe and was full of both local and international students, so English was the language we heard most that night.
The next day we got up early to see some of the sights including St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the surrounding Christmas markets and did a quick tour of the half of the city on the West Bank of the Danube called “Buda”. We had a quick lunch of a goulash bread-bowl and hot-wine in the Christmas Market before taking the train to Vienna.
On New Year’s Day (2017) we arrived in Budapest in the evening and walked to our AirBnB in the “Oktogon” neighborhood, about a 10 minute walk from the train station. As we weren’t far from the pub where we went on our first night (Fekete Kutja), we tried going there only to see that it was closed. I peered through the window and saw that there was someone there moving tables about, so I knocked on the door and asked him if he knew of a similar pub that might be open, and he recommended Kisüzem at the end of the block. Fortunately they were open and we found a couple of open stools at the bar.
The place had a “classier” feel to it and focused more on wine and mixed drinks rather than beer, but the prices and the crowd were about the same. When I saw that they had roasted, smoked pork-knuckle, I ordered it immediately. A talkative guy next to us insisted we order the special for the night, which was a traditional lentil soup eaten by Hungarians on New Year’s. Because lentils are shaped like little coins, they’re supposed to bring good fortune for the next year, much like the tradition with the coin in the Vasilopita. Though we were hesitant to get something vegetarian (and lentils to boot) after the Advent Fast, we ordered it anyway, and man was that a great idea! First of all, the dish was made with cream; secondly, after enjoying through the top layers, we discovered smoked-pork and spicy sausage underneath. That was, without a doubt, the best lentil dish we’ve ever had, if not one of the best dishes period.
The next morning, we rose with the sun and booked it to Buda, the more photogenic side of the Danube. It was freezing cold (not to mention I’d lost one of my gloves in Vienna), but because of this there weren’t as many tourists at the Fisherman’s Bastion and St. Matthias Church. Euphrosini took as many tourist-free photos as she could before we had to head back to meet our friends for coffee.
We met Iosif and Sophia in Thessaloniki, where they’re also taking Greek classes. They came back to Hungary to spend the holidays with their family in the countryside and had just gotten back to Budapest. We met up in a part of town further south on the Pest side of the river in the Jazz cafe where they had their first date. Iosif had to catch a doctor’s appointment, and so Sophia took as on a walk through some beautiful parts of the city which we hadn’t seen before, including the front of the building that houses the Orthodox Church, and Budapest’s indoor market. She dropped us off near our AirBnB where we said goodbye, then packed up and headed for the train station.
I really liked Budapest for its walkability, architecture, culture, peculiar-spellings, food/drink prices, and layout which reminded me a lot of Prague, a city I still hold close to my heart and the place where Euphrosini said she’d be my wife. So, it was very fitting that we spent our much-delayed second anniversary in such a city.