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Budapest II: Walking Blind?

Do you know what these are called?

I’m choosing to believe they’re super traditional Hungarian food- because they were in all the bakeries in many different incarnations- but frankly they were tasty enough for me not to care too much about authenticity.

One of the best things about being in an international institute is that it’s fairly likely that someone has either come from or recently been to the city you want to visit. We hit the jackpot in Copenhagen- Joram had just frolicked in the city, and being the perfect Hipster, knew all the (soon-to-be) cool places to visit.

This time we had it one better- and actual Hungarian- Szilvia, who spent her uni studies in Budapest. Szilvia spent time telling us which wines to drink, which of the baths to go to (more on that later), and which places were not worth our time.

But her take home message was that Budapest (especially the inner rings of the Pest side) are really nice to just walk around.

Which coincided neatly with our traditional ‘take a free walking tour around the city’.

After a couple of false starts resulting from a desperate need for caffeine and the apparent absence of any non-Starbucks coffee shops in the central square, after getting scolded a couple of times for being late, and after eventually joining an entirely different tour group than planned, we were on our way.

Apparently she (yep, it’s a girl) represents the new Budapest- a bit of a change from the traditional communist symbol of big strong men.

Love locks. Including one from our tour guide, and one from the PM (or president??) on his marriage day. We did the cheesy thing:

St Stephen’s Basilica, named for the first Hungarian King, and also housing his right hand. We didn’t go to see it, because frankly I feel like my visit at 12 years of age to Italy and its multiple variations on ‘Mary Magdalene’s Eyebrows, St Christopher’s Fingernails and the Pinkie Toe of Saint Andrew’ were enough emotional trauma for one lifetime.

Still, the Basilica looks pretty from the outside, and is beautifully lit up at night (see the previous Budapest post…).

You might recognise this guy from the previous day. Apparently, if you rub his belly, it helps you in finding a good meal. If you rub his moustache, it helps with the growing of fabulous facial hair. Andy tried his luck..

We crossed the bridge to Buda, and headed up the hill to the Fisherman’s Bastion…

Where we came upon a ‘highly traditional’ changing of the guards, which had been introduced the previous year (presumably to garner tourist interest?).

It’s hard to see from my terribly lit photo, but one of these horse-parts is not like the others…

… Perhaps if we go in for a close up?

As with many great statues, luck comes to those who rub (in this case, luck in passing exams). And, as with probably the majority of those great-and-lucky statues, the rubbing place is not the leg, tail, neck or ears.

The tour guide told us that in her grandfather’s time, back when communism was in vogue and all things vaguely sexual where on the ‘What’s Not’ list, the student’s used to stage fights around the corner from the statue, drawing away the guards and allowing the lucky test-takers to get a good testicular rub in while the coast was clear.

Let’s move on to something a little classier:

We headed into a nearby mess hall, where we discovered that Hungarian food may be the only type to truly rival German cuisine for its heaviness.

I had some sort of Bigos/goulash cabbage and meat mixture that tasted like it had 1/2 a L of coconut cream in it. Tasty, but only edible in tiny portions.

Ellen had a pile of ‘noodles’ with egg and cheese that were slightly on the ‘Clagg glue’ side…. I think she got through about 1/8th of them…

(Here she is looking down at them in shear terror)

And Andy managed to eat about 1/6th of his bean stew…

Our next stop was the Invisible Exhibition! Which was a rather awesome experience. You’re taken through a series of rooms, lead by a blind guide (and in our case a translator). The idea is to experience complete blindness in a variety of settings: an apartment, a busy street with stalls, a forest, a bar, and so on.

It’s a pretty unique feeling, because we’re very rarely faced with complete darkness- and I think all three of us waited for several minutes after entering, expecting our eyesight to gradually adjust- but there simply wasn’t any light for it to adjust to.

In the end we all loved it- and personally it made me think more, and feel more positive about the ‘what would I do if…’ question that we all sometimes ask ourselves.

Anyway, the whole experience ended with us trying some Hungarian liquors: Unicum and Palinka, both of which were absolutely potent (and in my taste absolutely horrible).

Obviously I can’t show pictures of the exhibition-so here are a couple of the grounds near the exhibition centre instead.

But really, if you’re ever in Budapest, you should definitely check it out!

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