Thursday, August 2, 2012

Have I Mentioned The Food? - Great Market Hall, Hungarian State Opera House, New York Café, And Raday Utca - Budapest

June 11th - Monday

Today was our last day in beautiful Budapest.  I wasn't ready to go, usually by this time I am but Budapest had some affect on me!

Our first stop of the day was the Great Market Hall.  I was so excited. I love going to grocery stores in foreign cities and this was the grandpappy of them all!  This place is enormous!  It is beautiful outside with the brick work and the colorful roof.

Great Market Hall top

I mean, look at that roof!

Great Market Hall roof

Like I said the Great Market Hall is ginormous! It has 2 floors AND a basement!  That is three floors of food and souvenirs!  Here is picture where you can really see just how big the first floor is with the basement being the same size.  The second floor isn't quite as big since it just goes around the outside with "bridges" in several places.  There are even tunnels connecting the basement with the Danube river so they can easily bring in goods that have been shipped there. Massive!

Inside Great Market Hall Budapest

We started off on the first floor with all the food.  Talk about overwhelming goodness!  There were local Hungarian items, vegetables, fruit, and more!

There were so many different kinds of paprika.  I never realized how good paprika was until trying some from here!  I had some at the house they had been there for, well, I am embarrassed to tell you how many YEARS. (I actually can't remember either.)  I bought some to take home and now need to put it on EVERYTHING. (Ok, maybe not EVERYTHING, but you get the idea.)

Paprika Great Market Hall Budapest

I love cheese so I took a picture of the cheese. Do you see that huge blob of cheese??  The angels sang when I saw it, I promise! I thought it was funny that they did have Philadelphia cream cheese.   It cost about $2, so it wasn't actually too expensive for being imported.

Cheese Great Market Hall Budapest

Crusty (in a good way) breads!

Bread Great Market Hall Budapest

All kinds of Hungarian goodness!

Hungarian food gifts Great Market Hall Budapest

Then there were these.  I saw them in many places but didn't know what they were.  Those are grapes beside them on the left so you can see they are not very big.  I thought maybe cranberries at first but they are smaller than even that. I tasted one and they were not cranberries but they were sour. No one knew the name in English.  

I did later find out they are red currants.  We don't have them in Texas, I guess.  The way I found out the English name was interesting.  We were at a cafe and they were served to us as part of a garnish.  The waiter didn't know the name in English but some one sitting near us hear me asking.  She was French and didn't know either, but she looked it up on her phone for me.  Thank you random French person!

Red Currants Great Market Hall Budapest

The vegetables!  Someone at school brought one of these squashes to school to give away but didn't know what it was called.  I have since found out they are white squash or patty squash.

White Squash Great Market Hall Budapest

Colorful peppers!

Peppers Great Market Hall Budapest


Salami Great Market Hall Budapest

More sausage, more specifically, salami!  Don't freak out, it isn't white, it is just wrapped.

sausage Great Market Hall Budapest

After seeing all this food and having not eating breakfast we decided we needed to eat.  Lucky us, all we needed to do was walk upstairs!  Have I told you how much I loved the Great Market Hall??  The second floor has cheap places to eat and souvenirs galore!

It was still breakfast time technically, so I guess really what we ate would be called brunch.  We didn't really find breakfast type foods anyways so it worked out.  

I opted for a baked eggplant stuffed with meat and covered in cheese.

Baked Eggplant Great Market Hall Budapest

Frankie went with some sort of sausage wrap.  We both enjoyed what we ate.

Kolbasz -sausage wrap Great Market Hall Budapest

Refreshed we stayed upstairs and looked through the souvenirs.  We saw Hungarian lace.  It was beautiful and there were so many colors and sizes to choose from.

Hungarian lace Great Market Hall Budapest

We saw this funny t-shirt.  That is the Chain Bridge with Parliament and then Margaret Island shown.

Budapest shirt

We saw tons of these nested dolls.  While typically thought of as Russian there were all over Hungary to buy as well.  Then in the background are dolls dressed in traditional Hungarian clothes.

Nesting doll Great Market Hall Budapest

After looking around upstairs and purchasing a few things, we headed back down to the first floor.  We were now on a mission.  We had to find the dairy case that carried Túró Rudi.  Túró Rudis are a kept cold are a semi-sweet cottage cheese type of cheese covered in chocolate.  Maybe it doesn't sound that good, but when Hungarian mothers use it as a you-can-have-one-if-you-are-good treat, that does give some merit.  
We scored!!

Turo Rudi-sweetened cottage cheese covered in chocolate Great Market Hall Budapest

Oh wow!  They were soooo good!  We got the small one and immediately wanted another and I want one now.  I did link a recipe to a Túró Rudi cake and I will link it again here.  One day I might try to make this.

Yummi Turo Rudi Great Market Hall Budapest

We were in the cold area where they kept such delicious treats at these cookies.

Cookies Great Market Hall Budapest

And cheese stuffed breads.

Cheese stuffed rolls Great Market Hall Budapest

And cakes.  Oh my gosh it was a feast for the eyes!

Cakes Great Market Hall Budapest

We then headed down to the basement where they keep the fish, meat, more cheeses, milk and pickled vegetables.  I would eat more pickled vegetables if there were all packaged this cute!!

Pickled vegetables Great Market Hall Budapest

Having my fill of the Great Market Hall it was time to continue on our way.  I wanted to see a statue called The Little Princess so we started on our way to where it is.  Before getting there we saw this statue.  I fell in love!  There is no reason for it, it is just one of those for fun statues.  The best kind in my opinion!

Girl and dog statue Budapest

Here is the reason I love this one so much.  Just look at that face!  Oh my goodness!  His little upper mouth is all puffed out because of the ball and he is just adorable.  Plus he looks like my baby boy dog, Mac, so that made it even more lovable to me!

Dog of girl and dog statue Budapest

Not far from the puppy (all dogs are puppies no matter their age), we found The Little Princess.  Again no reason, no story for her, she is there just for fun.  I love her hat!

Little Princess left side statue Budapest

Yes, we just had brunch, but did you see how little it was?  So now it is time for lunch!  We wandered around looking for something that wasn't too expensive and that look appealing.  We decided on Boom and Brass.  I think it is a fancy restaurant but they had a lunch special consisting of a three course meal for about $13.  

We started with a salad.  It said it was a tuna salad, so we weren't exactly sure what that meant.   This is what we were served.  Literally, tuna on a salad. It had a light lemon like dressing and mozzarella cheese.  I like it, it was very good.

Tuna salad with mozzarella Boom and Brass Budapest

We were also served bread, which let's face it, you can't go wrong with that.

Bread Boom and Brass Budapest

Our main course was pork loin with rice and peas.  It too, was very good.  

Pork loin with rice and peas Boom and Brass Budapest

Just about everything we ate in Budapest was wonderful.  The dessert we were served at Boom and Brass was the only exception.  It was sour cherry poppy seed strudel with vanilla sauce, which sounded wonderful.  It looked wonderful!

Sour cherry poppy seed strudel with vanilla sauce Boom and Brass Budapest

The only problem was the poppy seeds.  There were soooo many of them and you could feel every single one in your mouth.  They didn't chew easy, they didn't swallow easy.  They didn't taste good.  The vanilla sauce was good though.  So I think I can safely say, I don't like poppy seeds and definitely not in large quantities.

Closeup at sour cherry poppy seed strudel with vanilla sauce Boom and Brass Budapest

After eating the next thing I wanted to see what the first McDonald's Restaurant that was allowed in a communist country.  Hungary was allowed a few more freedoms than other communist countries and this happened to be one of them.  It was built in 1988.  To find it you need to be on Váci Utca on the north side of Elizabeth Bridge and you will need to turn on Rgéiposta Utca towards the river.  It is not marked in anyway to let you know that this is the one but it is one of the biggest ones I have seen.  It wrapped around the block!  (P.S. There is free wi-fi there!)

Historic McDonalds on Vaci Utca Budapest

This says cheeseburger menu and 450 forint is about $2, but there is no way the combo they show cost only $2!  I am not sure what exactly is $2, maybe just the sajtburger.

Sajtburger McDonalds Budapest

I couldn't just walk by this monumental McDonald's and not purchase something!  I sprang for a coffee from the McCafe.

We made our way to the Hungarian Opera House.  In the late 1800's Budapest wanted to have some importance in the Habsburg Empire and that meant an opera house needed to be in their city.  Empire Franz Joseph provided half of the money needed on one condition, it had to be smaller than the opera house in his home town of Vienna.  It was build in the same style and grandness, just on a smaller scale.

Hungarian State Opera House Budapest

We bought tickets to take a guided tour of the house. (I had to pay extra to take pictures.) They offer tours twice a day in English, German, Spanish, Italian and French languages.  There were a lot more people in the English speaking tours.  They later said that many Hungarians take the English speaking tour because there is not one offered in Hungarian.  Go figure.  All I know is that there were a lot of people there period.  It was crowded and hard to hear/understand the tour guide because she had and accent and it was hard to hear over whatever language tour was near by.  It was a beautiful place to see and I did get some from the tour guide, but it seems they could do it a different way. 
Here is a picture of the lobby.  Just the lobby!  Can you image if the lobby looks like this what the rest of it must look like?

Hungarian Opera House lobby Budapest

Here is inside the actual auditorium.  Check out all those box seats!

Hungarian Opera House upper levels Budapest

The seats on the floor.  Love that deep red velvet! (If that is what it is...)

Hungarian Opera House chairs Budapest

When the opera house first opened up they only played Hungarian operas and apparently they were not that good.  The King and Queen of Hungary went to the opening and the King disliked it so much that he never went back.  The Queen, however, kept going.  When the house was built they put in a separate entrance for royalty.  The couldn't mingle with the locals, now could they?  

The photo below shows the stairway that was their private entrance...not that the King ever used it.  The red, white and black marble all came from Italy.  I made sure to touch it!  Smooooth!

Hungarian Opera House Royal staircase Budapest

I stuck my head in one of the boxes and snapped a picture.  Can you just image sitting in one of those listening to an opera?  I bet it is magical!

Full view from a box seat Hungarian Opera House Budapest

In addition to the the tour we paid to watch a mini opera.  I was a little disappointed by it.  I though it would be someone on the big stage.  It wasn't, it was someone in the concession area. The singing was beautiful but I couldn't really see him.  I had to raise my camera above other people to take a picture.  That is why they came out blurry.  I think from the mask, he was singing something from Phantom of the Opera.  I am opera-stupid as well as art-stupid. (uncultured American swine!)

Opera singer Hungarian Opera House Budapest

Oh, you wanted to hear him sing?  Well ok ok, calm down and here you go.  Again, sorry for the bad quality.  I am short, you will have to forgive me!

Frankie wanted to go to one of the fancy coffeehouses.  One of the fanciest is New York Café.  It is in the Boscolo Budapest Hotel, formerly the New York Palace.  In the early 20th century it was the place to be.  Artist, writers, and musicians would come here to drink overpriced coffee and bask in the beauty.  It was neglected when World War II and then communism set in, but in 2006 it was completely resorted and again welcomes all to come partake of the expensive food and drink.
We said, hey, it doesn't look that far on the map, let's just walk.  From the opera house, as it turned out, it was kind of far.  But we made it!

New York Cafe Budapest

The light fixture of New York Café.

New York Cafe light fixture Budapest

The inside!

New York Cafe Dinning area Budapest

One of the coupons from our Hop-on Hop-off bus tours was a free postcard from the New York Café that they would mail for you.  Frankie and I decided to write one to each other without reading each others and wait for them to come in the mail.  I has been 2 months....still waiting.....

We didn't order a meal here, I don't know that we could have afforded it, but we did order something to drink and a dessert.  You would think that since we were in a coffeehouse that we would order coffee, but we didn't.  Another drink that you find all over Budapest is lemonade.  All kinds of flavors too!  

Frankie went with a vanilla lemonade.  It was delightful!  (I, of course, taste test everything he gets. I don't want to miss a flavor!)

Vanilla Lemonaid New York Cafe Budapest

I went with the chili mint lemonade.  I don't know what I was thinking.  That mess was spicy!!  I drank every last drop though and suffered through the entire thing.  It was actually pretty good, but HOT!  They were heavy handed with those chili seeds!

Chili Mint Lemonaid with flakes New York Cafe Budapest

The dessert we chose was a selection of Hungarian cakes.  Yummy!

Hungarian cakes New York Cafe Budapest

The price of our two drinks and dessert...about $35!!!  It was our you-are-in-a-foreign-country-just-do-it-splurge.  But see, I don't think we could have afforded a meal!

Not wanting to walk that much the rest of the day we got on the metro to go to our next stop.  I don't know how I didn't see this sign before.  I must have not been near the front of a car, but this sign cracked me up!  Of all the things you can take on the metro, you have to, for some reason, limit your wrapped tree saplings to one bundle.  Is this something that happens often?  It must be a winter thing, because I saw no one with any sized tree get on the metro!

What you can take on the metro in Budapest

Down the street from Hero's Square is the Time Wheel.  It was built to celebrate the fact that Hungary became part of the European Union in 2004.  The concept behind it is really neat.  It doesn't tell time, instead it is one of the world's the largest hourglass.   The sand is computer regulated to end its trip exactly at midnight every new year and then it is manually rotated (which takes about 45 minutes for 4 people) and starts countdown again.  

However, if you look at the picture you can see there is a problem.  We were there in June and so the sand should have been half way gone, right?  Somehow condensation got in there and gunked up the sand.  It no longer flows.  Who ever decides these things, decided that it was cheaper to just let it sit there than tear it down.

Time Wheel Budapest

We kept walking down the road to see another memorial to the uprising of 1956.  I really liked this one and it even had that dreaded symbolism stuff tied into it!  It shows, starting from the left, how individual Hungarians  started to come together to form a shining solid iron force to fight the Soviets.  Love that!

Memorial to the 1956 Revolution showing how Hungarians came together Budapest

This was right at the edge of City Park and there were several people there with their dogs.  We sat there for about 30 minutes watching the doggies play.  It was so cute!  I loved hearing the people call for their dogs and seeing what people in other countries name their pets.  Amazingly enough, there was a beagle there named Baxter.   Isn't that pretty common in the States, too?  I am not completely sure but it seemed to fit.  (Keep in mind this is coming from someone with dogs named Mac and Katie and cats named Pan and Dal.)

This was going to be our last meal in Budapest (insert sad face here) so we wanted to find something memorable.  Near our hotel was Ráday Utca (utca means street in Hungarian) and it is famous (at least to the people of Budapest) for its many many restaurants.  Many tourist only know about the pricier restaurants on Váci Utca, which is a shame because Ráday Utca is just a few blocks over.

We walked down it trying to chose between all the possibilities.  Frankie saw a lady who had meat on a sword.  That was all he could think of the rest of our walk so that is where we decide to go. The name of the restaurant is Vörös Postakocsi and it is on the corner of Ráday and Erkel. 

It wasn't just some random meat, here is the description from the menu: "Tender fillet mignon of pork wrapped in thin-cut peppered bacon and grilled on the skewer over burning hot lava stones with onions and tomatoes. Served with Lyon potatoes and spicy tomato sauce."  

Oh my stars!  Frankie loved it.  I think he almost wept.

Sword Skewer  Raday Utca Budapest

We also ordered a mix of pickled vegetables.  Again, very good.

Pickled vegetables Raday Utca Budapest

I decided to go very traditional with veal stew paprikás.  You need to see the description from the menu for this one too: "Juicy and tender diced veal, braised in red paprika sauce with sour cream. Served with homemade dumplings, tossed with cottage cheese."  

Is your mouth watering yet?  Mine is and for good reason.  It was a fabulous last meal!

Veal Paprikash with potato dumplings mixed with cottage cheese and sour cream Raday Utca Budapest

Now that you are hungry and dreaming of Hungary (I had to wait until the very end to use that one!) I leave you just like we had to leave.  It was a wonderful trip and I LOVED Budapest.  It is a little off the "traditional" tourist map, which is a shame.  It is beautiful and well worth the trip!  

I hope you have enjoyed all of my posts about Budapest and we are already starting to plan for our next big trip.  If all goes well we will be in Paris for Christmas 2012!

Until then, viszontlátásra (vee-sont-laa-taash-raa) or in other words good-bye!

Update August 6, 2012:

Almost 2 months to the date the free postcards we sent to each other from New York Cafe arrived!
New York Cafe Postcards