The Big Driving Trip – Budapest – July 26th

Our third day in Budapest was full of food! We started out the day at the Boscolo Budapest Hotel’s New York Café. The building was built in the late 1800’s by New York Life Insurance Company to be their local headquarters. The original intention was to go for just a six euro coffee, but after seeing the desserts they had (and that lots of other patrons were partaking in the cakes) we decided to indulge.  The coffee and desserts were delicious, but the best part was the beautiful architecture.

We took the subway (the oldest electrified underground railway system on the European continent) to Nagy Vasarcsarnok – the central market hall. It is a huge indoor market (about 10,000 square meters) with produce, meat, restaurants, gift shops, spices, etc. We bought some famous Hungarian paprika and we all tried a lángos for lunch. Lángos is a Hungarian specialty – deep fried flatbread. Mine was topped with sour cream, bacon and onions- yummy! In the basement they also had all sorts of pickled things, so the boys sampled pickles stuffed with cheese.

Like castles and churches, there is no such thing as seeing too many opera houses. July is an off month for the Hungarian State Opera House (no performances), so we opted for the tour. I would have loved to see a ballet or opera.. hopefully next time!  Construction began in 1875, funded by the city of Budapest and by Emperor Franz Joseph I (Sisi’s husband!- who stipulated he would help pay only if it was no bigger than the opera house in Vienna).  It is richly decorated with paintings and sculptures and is considered one of Miklos Ybl’s best works. While its size/capacity does not put it among the greatest in Europe, its beauty (hellooooo marble staircase) and the quality of its acoustics ranks it among the finest opera houses in the world. There were beautiful details everywhere you looked – I would say that they just did a better job of rebuilding than the Austrians after WWII, but from what I’ve read it was originally built to be more opulent than the opera house in Vienna. I guess it they couldn’t have the size they at least wanted to win with ornateness! The royal box is pretty impressive (it is three stores high) and there is even a special royal staircase for direct access to the royal box. This room was especially lovely. There is a large gilt mirror at the top of the stairs – the tour guide said that custom would not have allowed Sisi and the Emperor to look around the room to admire the details, so the mirror was put there so they could see the room around them and while looking forward as they ascended the stairs as protocol demanded.

After admiring some of the beautiful shops and architecture along Andrássy út (the road the opera is on) we headed back to our apartment to change for dinner. This night we had a special dinner on a boat restaurant that is on the Danube, right across from Castle Hill (thanks to the Schreiners!). I still can’t decide what I liked better – the view when the sun was setting or the view then it was dark and everything was lit up by twinkling lights. Goose liver is a Hungarian specialty, so tonight we decided to try it.. or maybe Morgan and Mathias decided to try it and then forced me to? I’m thinking the latter.  For an appetizer we went all out and got the goose liver trio – part 1: slice of cold fried goose liver (this was terrible in my opinion..), part 2: pressed goose liver with apples marinated in Tokaj wine with rosemary bread (this was ok), and part 3: pan-fried goose liver wrapped in bacon, served with puff-pastry and fine fig mustard (this was actually really good – but probably because it was wrapped in bacon and slathered in mustard). If I had to pick, this was the most memorable part of our trip in Budapest and the price was pretty reasonable given the location. You get a bill for 31,944 ft for dinner and you panic a bit, but then you realize that is only 116 euros so for 3 people not all that terrible.