Many people I know who like to travel have extolled the virtues of Budapest. So when my hubby Rick and I finally traveled there, our expectations were high. Fortunately, this lovely city did a fine job of not only meeting but exceeding our expectations.
We traveled there through a US travel company called JayWay Travel. https://jaywaytravel.com/. This company offers custom tours of Europe. We had never used this company before but were absolutely delighted with them. They organized a 10 day trip for us to Warsaw, Krakow, and Budapest. Here is the itinerary for the trip we took. https://jaywaytravel.com/itineraries/budapest-krakow-warsaw
They booked our flights (from Madrid), found the hotels, arranged drivers for all required parts of our trip, bought train tickets for us and supplied tours for us to do in each city. I cannot recommend this company highly enough. They took all the stress out of the traveling. For example, when we took a train from Warsaw to Krakow, they arranged for a driver to take us from our hotel to the train station. This driver helped us found the correct train to take at this large station. Then when we got off the train in Krakow, a driver was waiting for us on the platform. He warmly welcomed us and then drove us to our hotel without issues.
I have found that the most stressful part of travel is navigating in a place you have never been before, especially when you don’t speak the language. Jay Way makes sure this is done for you by a local who speaks English. So you are never unsure where to go or what to do when faced with a new situation. The guides they chose were also fantastic. Rick and did a great tour of sights related to World War II in Warsaw and the ghetto uprising. Walking tours of Krakow, Auschwitz and Budapest were also included.
But the best part of the trip for me was the 4.5 hour food tour of Budapest. I got to taste some delicious Hungarian food and drinks at six different venues in the city. My guide was Nora Hegedus, the Hungarian owner of Food Tour Budapest. Nora specializes in English-speaking tourists, especially Americans, and there still aren’t many of us yet in Budapest so it was a private tour. Here is her website for more information about the different tours she offers: http://www.foodtourbudapest.com/.
We started out at a charming old cafe named Grinzingi borozó, where we ate traditional Hungarian food, including bread with onions and paprika called zsíros kenyér and a porkloaf type dish called fasirt. We had two drinks, one a Hungarian liquor called Unicum and a sour cherry palinka (fruit brandy) with honey.
I didnt care for the Unicum at all. It’s quite bitter. According to Wikipedia, “Unicum is a Hungarian herbal liqueur or bitters, drunk as a digestif and apéritif. The liqueur was created in 1790 and is today produced by Zwack according to a secret formula of more than forty herbs.”
The sour cherry brandy (Palinka) was good. Nora also told me that Hungary is a huge producer of wine and is especially known for its white wines. Here is a map of the 22 different regions of Hungary where wine is produced that Nora helpfully showed me.
I had not known that Hungary was a producer of fine wines. Nora explained that most of Hungary’s wine is not exported because most wine-growers run small-scale operations and don’t have the financial resources to export their wares. She said 90 percent of the wine grown in Hungary is drunk in the country. I tried several different white wines on our trip to Hungary and they were all very good.
Next stop was the Great Market Hall in Budapest. This place was huge with three floors and a wide variety of stalls selling food, drinks and local delicacies, like Hungarian paprika and the fruit-flavored brandy Palinka. While there, we sampled Hungarian sausage and crackling. This later is the crisp fatty skin of roast pork. I had tried to eat crackling in Spain but it was always hard as a rock. But this crackling was smooth and tasty.
After we left the market, we then walked through the Jewish Quarter and stopped at Juicy. This was a small shop run by two women that featured healthy juices. I had an “antioxidant” juice made of cucumber, celery, spinach and ginger. It was really healthy and tasty.
After this we walked to a Hungarian restaurant in a quiet neighborhood of the city. The restaurant was called Korhely. We had Bean gulyás soup (goulash) and potato lángos (fried bread) as a starter there. Both were delicious. We drank red wine with it. It was called Kadarka from the Szekszárd region of Hungary. I thought that was all we were having and it would have been enough. However, then the friendly waiter brought out two main dishes. They were called sztrapacska with ewe cheese, bacon, sour cream and lecsó, a dish with peppers, tomatoes, eggs and sausage. Both dishes were excellent. Here are photos of each main dish. We paired this food with Olaszrizling, a white wine from Badacsony region of Hungary.
For dessert we walked over to Hisztéria Cremeria, where we had gerbaud cake and the sugarfree cake of the year, which was apricot flavored. I was so full by this time that I couldn’t finish both cakes, even though they were both good. Finally, we walked to a cafe by the Budapest Train station where I was treated to a cortado, which is expresso with milk, at Frei Cafe. This cafe was started by a Hungarian man and now his coffee shops are in many countries. Based on my quick scan of the menu, he has way more drink choices than Starbucks so they better watch out.
What a fantastic experience this was. I cannot recommend this tour enough. Budapest is also a very special place with much to see and do. I will share just of a few of my many photos with you to give you an idea.
Pest is quite beautiful. But we never made it across the Danube to see Buda. Guess we need to go back! That won’t be a problem for us.