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Expat Life

Visiting Római Part (Roman Beach) on the Danube for the First Time

August 12, 2018

My husband and I both love discovering new places – and we aren’t afraid to get lost. So yesterday, early on a rainy Saturday morning, we set off to visit Római Part. This riverside area is located on the Danube in Budapest’s 3rd District, Obuda. In fact, its pretty much the only area in Budapest you can eat and drink right beside the water. Your only other options are the two small (and tourist) filled bars at the foot of the Chain Bridge (Pontoon and Raqpart).

The name Római Part refers both to the riverside beach and the walking and cycling promenade that lies behind, stretching from the Barát-patak creek estuary in the north to the Aranhegyi-patak creek estuary in the south.

Római Part

Római Part is a riverside beach. It is located on an approximately 5 kilometers long stretch along the Danube in the city’s North-Western 3rd district.

But first, coffee…

Our first stop on Saturday morning was for coffee at our favourite place, Forest Cafe.  Forest Café is owned and wonderfully operated by Maxim Ferenczi. Its located at Papnövelde utca 2 – just across from the Good Spirit Whiskey Bar near Egyetem ter. Here, you will always find a friendly face and a great cup of coffee.  One of the best things for us, is that it is open early.  Strangely, we find so many coffee shops that are not open until 10am, where the Forest Cafe is always open by 7am on weekdays and 9am on Saturdays. They serve directly-traded Catalyst coffee, fresh baked goods and cakes. I highly recommend you visit him soon!

Maxim making our morning lattes.

A work of art. Almost too pretty to drink. Almost…

So lucky to have this just down the street from us. The perfect place to sit with a friend or with your book.

Getting to Római Part

The area is well connected to public transport. It is served by 3 local bus lines. It can also be reached by the suburban railway HÉV, via the stop Rómaifürdő. However, we opted to take the BKK (public transportation) ferry boat to Rómaifürdő  (line D12). We boarded the northbound 10:02am ferry at the Petofi Square stop near Elizabeth Bridge in the 5th district.

The Palace District and the Chain Bridge are a beautiful sites for anyone’s commute.

Taking the ferry, we were dropped off directly at the riverside promenade, rather than making the 20 minute walk from the HÉV station.  It also means you get to travel on the river surrounded by Budapest’s most beautiful landmarks. The entire ride took about one hour and fifteen minutes and cost us each 750 HUF (weekend and holiday price).

What to expect at Római Part

When you step off the boat, it feels like you are in cottage country – the big city no longer applies. Andrew and I felt like we were back in a village on Lake Balaton or up north in the Kawarthas of Ontario, Canada. Massive trees loom overhead keeping this riverside area shady and cool.  Everywhere you look you see families enjoying their weekend – and lots of happy dogs.

Along the promenade and riverside you will find at least 20 different bars, restaurants, and food trucks. Most of these venues open in spring and close only during wintertime, with some of them being open all year long.

Ordering our casual lunch of fried mushrooms and chips. However, the fried fish is definitely the most popular dish.

Két Rombusz

Our favourite discovery in this area was Ket Rombusz.  We were initially drawn in by the awesome latin music that played throughout this large spacious area. There are outdoor fire pits all around that anyone can use – FOR FREE.  They supply the wood, grill, stew pot and skewers. You supply your own food for the grill and buy drinks from their bar.  And if find yourself unprepared (like us), you can order cooked food from them directly.

The entrance with a sign that reads “outside drinks forbidden”. You can bring your own food – but not drinks.

I absolutely loved the vibe here.  It reminded me so much of summers I spent with my friends at the cottage. I could almost picture my sister and brother-in-law sitting across from us, while we drank and sang along to the music.

One of Két Rombusz’s most recognizable detail is the pair of double-decker buses that provide seating and the bar. This is place is an absolute treasure for those just wanting a chilled and relaxed summer afternoon. However, I suspect that on a holiday weekend you may need to book in advance.

Expats and Tourists in Római Part

Even thought I’m typically more of a champagne drinker than a beer drinker, I loved it here. And while its true you won’t find many expats or tourists here, that shouldn’t deter you from going.  In fact, that was one of the biggest draws for us. The locals were friendly and many vendors spoke English – at least enough to place your order.

Don’t miss this beautiful riverside promenade along one of the city’s last natural beaches. Enjoy the nature, sport venues, open air restaurants and bars. This is the perfect destination for families, couples, or individual travelers.

Next weekend is a long weekend here in Budapest, so if you don’t find us at the Gellert Baths, you’ll find us at Romai Part.

Oh, and it case you were wondering, we didn’t take Lucy with us this first time as we weren’t sure what to expect.  But she will definitely be joining us on the next adventure.

Budapest Expat Tips, Expat Life

How to Spend the Best Summer Day at Gellert Baths

July 22, 2018

In case you haven’t been paying attention to my Instagram of late, Hungarians are famous for their bath culture. There are baths all around the country dating back thousands of years. Some of the most beautiful baths in the entire world can be found in Budapest. Our favourite is the Gellert Bath located inside the Gellert Hotel in the 11th District of Budapest.

The historic Gellert Hotel as seen by sitting on the pool deck.

A Brief History

The Romans were the first to take advantage of the thermal springs that were naturally occurring on the surface of the land. Romans built both public and private baths – they had approximately 15 baths in the vicinity of Budapest alone. However, the Hungarian bath culture really started flourishing during the Turkish era. The Turkish introduced Hungarians to to the concept of “wellness” treatments. Massages and the use of different creams and oils were an essential part of Turkish baths. You will continue to find these kinds of treatments available at the baths today.

The Gellert Baths

This gorgeous bath complex was built between 1912 and 1918 in the Art Nouveau style. It was damaged during World War II, but then rebuilt, and finally remodelled again in 2008. Since its opening, it has only ever been closed for one day when a pipe burst. The complex includes thermal pools, saunas, steam rooms, plunge pools, an open-air swimming and wave, and an indoor swimming pool. Masseuse and spa services are also available.  That brings me to my first recommendation…

The wave pool at the Gellert Baths. Every hour on the hour during the afternoon, huge waves bring fun and refreshment to the bathers.

Getting a Massage at the Gellert

Since I have bunions on both of my feet, I often get a sore lower back and legs from having to adjust my gait.  So when I visit the baths, I often get a massage.  The massage “menu” varies in style and price, but I always get the 45 minute Thermal Massage for 12,000 forints ($43 USD).  No pretty perfumes or birds chirping, this massage means business.

However, if you have a woman masseuse, prepare yourself to strip down entirely right in front of them before your climb onto the bed.  I’m not particularly prudish, so this didn’t bother me, but it was a bit surprising.  On other occasions, when I have had a male masseuse, you keep your bathing suit (mostly) on and they work around it.  Either way, the massages are fantastic and an essential part of having the best day.

Just off the massage room areas you will find two gorgeous thermal bath areas. The thermal baths are to the left and right with showers straight ahead. (Photo: BathsBudapest.com)

Get There Early

I can’t recommend this highly enough.  While the outdoor area is quite large, it’s pretty much impossible to find a spot past 11:00 during the summer. Furthermore, if you want loungers with an umbrella, you definitely need to be there before 10:00 on a weekend.  The lounger chairs here are extremely comfortable and make relaxing easy.  There is no drink service at your chair, but there are two bars accessible from the pool deck  – and you can even bring your own.

My husband found us the perfect shaded spot to start off our relaxing day at the Gellert.

Bring your own Food and Drinks

So this may be slightly controversial, but I do thinks it helps to have the perfect day – and its thrifty too.  While the Gellert has two snack bars and a restaurant, the food is just okay.  It’s certainly not bad, but compared to the prices, its not really one of our favourite places to eat.  Therefore, we have taken to bringing our own little sandwiches, grapes, a couple cans of beer and whatever else we need to get through the day.  We still usually end up buying coffee (which is delicious there) and additional beverages when needed. Note: This is quite common with the locals, its not like sneaking food into a movie theatre. No need to feel weird.

Our bill for one pint of draft beer purchased at the bar. Quite expensive for Hungarian prices… $5.15 USD

Sit near the Musicians

Now I assume this only happens on the weekends, but do yourself a favour and find a lounger closer to the indoor area.  The Hungarian Folklore band that plays from noon until 3pm is AMAZING.  These five talented musicians play jazz standards, show-tunes, classical and Hungarian favourites.  I honestly can’t believe you don’t have to pay extra to hear them play. If you are a music lover, this is only another good reason to spend a day at the baths.

The incredible musicians a the Gellert. My husband is always requesting they play Acker Bilk… (sorry for my potato quality photo).

Enjoy the Wave Pool  – with Caution

The outdoor wave pool is open from April to October. This pool can be incredibly fun, but also a little dangerous if you don’t take care.  At the top of every hour, slightly bizarrely, the song “America” from West Side Story plays across the loudspeakers to let visitors know the waves are about to start. Once in the pool, a lifeguard manually bangs a cow bell that tells you to get prepared.

At first, the small tsunamis seem a little anticlimactic, but within minutes, you are being tossed around in high seas.  In fact, if you are quite close to the sides, you risk being taken completely under or slammed into the poolsides.  My own mother once had to rescue my father from this exact situation.  So for those that want less life-risking fun, stick to the middle in shallower depths.

Waves beginning their swirls and crashes around the pool. Hang on to your bathing suits and small children.

The Best Day

If you follow my advice, you can’t help but have tremendous fun.  You will be relaxed, well-nourished, cultured, sun-kissed and water-logged. All this for only 6200 forint per person ($22 USD)  – and that even includes a private changing cabin. Of course, if you go on a weekday or stay for a shorter period of time, you can get even lower pricing. Either way, the Gellert Baths are not to be missed.

You’ll find us there every second weekend all summer long….

To read more about what else we do in Budapest this summer, read this.

 

 

 

Expat Life

Learn to Cook Healthy and Plant-based with Chef Kamila

May 4, 2018

Nearly every Hungarian traditional dish is filled with meat, fat and carbs – and absolutely delicious.  But eating traditionally all the time is probably not the best for your heart – or your waistline.  The good news in 2018, is that Budapest has many vegetarian and vegan restaurants all over the city.  I’ve even mentioned one of my favourites, VegaCity, in a previous blog post. However, I wanted to learn to cook healthy and plant-based meals at home using local ingredients. Enter vegan Chef Kamila.

Who is Chef Kamila?

Chef Kamila is a friendly Polish expat living here in Budapest’s 11th District. She is certified as plant-based chef and is passionate about healthy living. Chef Kamila spent a year working in the top vegan restaurant in Budapest, Napfenyes, before opening her own school and catering company. Ps. I highly recommend Napfenyes in Ferenciak Tere.  They have excellent daily menus/lunch specials. Find out more on their Facebook page.

All classes take place in her clean, fresh and vegan home.  The kitchen has enough room for around ten people, as does the dining room. It is a very comfortable space – although you are standing for over two hours during the four hour class.  It may not be suitable for those with disabilities unless special arrangements could be made.

The home-based cooking school offers variety of classes, from knife skills to mother & daughter cooking and “Easy Vegan – how to start”. Photo: www.chefkamila.com

Healthy and Plant-based Meal Planning

Thanks to the Women of Budapest Facebook group, I got the opportunity to attend the “How to cook once & Feed yourself well for a week” workshop at a discounted rate. Now, for those of you who have known me for a while, know that I do love to meal prep for the week.  Nothing makes me happier than seeing all those little containers neatly stacked in my fridge, ready to be eaten.

However, perhaps obviously, I don’t have access to the same stores and/or food I had in Toronto, Canada. My meal prep meals just aren’t working out the way they did in the past.  I also have much easier access to local fresh fruits and veggies all year long compared to Toronto. This vegan cooking course promises to turn inexpensive, healthy and local ingredients into 9 different meals taking less than 10 minutes to make. All it takes is about 90 minutes prep, once a week. Perfect!

The Workshop

As promised, we were taught how to prepare and cook everything we needed for a one week meal plan.  Afterwards, we got to taste every single dish, so I can tell you they were all very tasty!  Included in the price of the workshop, is an eBook with recipes, meal plans and local shopping recommendations – so you can easily recreate again at home.

By visiting the website, you can see the variety of courses and events Chef Kamila offers and use the online calendar to book. There are also opportunities for catered dining experiences.

New (to me) Tips from Chef Kamila

  • You don’t need a ton of fancy gadgets to make good food
  • Keep your rice noodles in water in the fridge for easy stir-fry
  • How to chop veggies for best results in different recipes
  • Use boiled water from your kettle when making soup
  • You can eat plant-based or be a vegan without being smug 😉

Whether you are a vegetarian, vegan or just want to decrease your animal product consumption, I highly recommend Chef Kamila’s workshop as a great way to get started.  It was a fun day and I met some really lovely women from all over the world.  And while I won’t be adopting 100% plant-based diet anytime soon, I am thrilled to have more healthy recipes in my own personal repetoire.

General

5 Things you Probably Didn’t Know About Hungary

April 27, 2018

Hungary was established in the late 9th century making it one of the oldest countries in Europe. It’s current boarders were created after World War One with Hungary losing over 71% of its land. After World War Two, it became a state of the Soviet Union from 1947 to 1989.

However, Hungary is now known for providing a high standard of living with universal healthcare and tuition-free university. Hungary also boasts the highest Nobel Prize winners per capita. Plus, in 1974, we invented the Rubik’s Cube!

Here are 5 more things you probably didn’t know about Hungary.

Hungary Fact 1:

You can only name your baby from a pre-approved list.  This is usually to protect the child from an offensive or embarrassing name. If the intended name is not on the list, the parents need to apply for approval. There are currently over 4000 names on the approved list.  And yes, Anikó is on it 🙂

An excerpt from the April 2018 approved name list.

Hungary Fact 2:

Hungarians don’t clink beer glasses or bottles.  During the revolution of 1848, Hungarian Generals were executed in Austria. Their deaths were celebrated with clinking glasses.  Therefore, to honour their memory, Hungarians promised to not clink glasses for the next 150 years.  And even though that time has passed, you still don’t see too many older Hungarians “clinking”.

Many Hungarians don’t clink beer glasses.

Hungary Fact 3:

We are one of the top competing countries in the summer Olympics. We have won more metals than any other country to host the games.  The sport we have the most metals in is fencing.

Fencing is the top medal-producing sport. Ask my friend, Allison about it 🙂

Hungarian athletes have won a total of 491 medals at the Summer Games and 7 medals at the Winter Games. We first participated at the Olympic Games at the inaugural 1896 Games, and have sent athletes to compete in most Summer Olympic Games and every Winter Olympic Games since then.

Hungary Fact 4:

The Holy Crown of Hungary was kept in Fort Knox.  The Crown of Saint Stephen dates back to the year 1000, when Stephen, a devout Christian and the patron saint of Hungary, became King and Pope Sylvester II gave him the crown as a gift. From the twelfth century onward, the Crown of Saint Stephen was used in the coronations of some fifty kings.

At the end of World War II, the Hungarian crown jewels, along with the Crown, were eventually given to the United States Army by the Hungarian Crown Guard to keep them out of the hands of the Soviet Union. The Crown was kept at Fort Knox, Kentucky alongside the bulk of America’s gold reserves and other priceless historical items.

An image of the Holy Crown of Hungary also known as the Crown of Saint Stephen, is the coronation crown in the Kingdom of Hungary. Photo: kcharnick.

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter made the somewhat controversial decision to give the crown back to Hungary based on evidence that it had improved its human rights record and allowed for travel of its citizens.

Hungary Fact 5:

34 years after his death, Elvis Presley was named an official citizen of Budapest, Hungary.  Along with this honorary citizenship there is a park in his name. Elvis is popular here due to his support of the 1956 Hungarian revolution, which aimed to overthrow the country’s Soviet government.

The sign for Elvis Presley Park located in the second district of Budapest.

Presley saluted the uprising in January 1957, during his last appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Then 22, the singer performed Peace in the Valley, a gospel standard, as a tribute to the Hungarians’ plight. At the singer’s request, Sullivan solicited the TV audience to donate to Hungarian relief efforts – raising about 25m Swiss francs.

The more you know 😉

 

 

 

Expat Life

Five Spring Highlights from the Month of March

April 3, 2018

I can’t believe we’re already into April! It feels like the last month just flew by. Spring (and winter) finally arrived in Budapest with chilly and wet weather throughout the month. However, overall, it has been a great month. I’ve made good headway with some business projects and have even managed to book a trip to one of my “must-visit” destinations.

I’ve developed an almost daily habit of listening to my Hungarian lessons and other podcasts. My current favourites are Quirks & Quarks (the latest discoveries in science, technology and medicine),  Sword & Scale  (a true crime podcast), and the Global News Podcast from the BBC.

Spring has finally sprung in Budapest, Hungary. Flowers or “virágok” in Hungarian 😉

A gorgeous Magnolia tree soon to be in bloom.

March also meant our first delivery from Amazon Germany. That order included the first 3 books from the Norwegian thriller series by Jo Nesbo – so good!  I also played (just a little bit of) Far Cry 5. Thanks to our friends, Feather and the Wind, for loaning us their PlayStation while they travel around Mexico. If you haven’t seen their gorgeous videos, filmed in both popular and remote locations in Mexico, you must watch them on YouTube here.

Campeche, Mexico.

Wes and Fel, in San Francisco de Campeche, Mexico. A UNESCO world heritage site because of the well-preserved (and colourful) architecture.

Fel enjoying the beautiful Lagoon of Seven Colours in Bacalar, Mexico.

1. Visitors

This month we confirmed our first visitors of the year.  Starting in May and spreading out until July, we’ll have family and friends coming to enjoy this incredible city.  For some guests, it will be the first time in the city, so it will be fun to visit some of the most touristy places that we have already started to ignore.

One of the lions guarding the Széchenyi Chain Bridge. And yes, contrary to urban legend, they do have tongues.

The popular World War I centenary exhibition at Budapest’s Varkert Bazar.

2. The Spring Festival

Starting at the end of March and continuing until April 22 is the 38th Budapest Spring Festival. This festival includes food, drink and the arts. There are events in classical music, opera, jazz, world music, dance, contemporary circus, theatre and the visual arts. Venues are littered throughout the city. There is definitely something for everyone at every age.

Lucy at one of the Spring Festival venues patiently waiting for her latte and cake.

A Kürtőskalács vendor (or chimney cake as it’s called in English) featuring my life motto.

Delicious Hungarian cuisine – although not really know for its green vegetables.

3. Easter

For the first time, Easter was a 3 day holiday here in Hungary. Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday are all official holidays making this Easter a 4 day weekend.  Unfortunately, for us much of it was rainy.  However, we managed to have an excellent Easter Brunch at the Budapest Marriott with one of our new friends.

Leaving our friends and support network behind is one of the greatest challenges of an international relocation. However, it makes space for new fabulous people to enter our lives. Thanks to Shannon for sharing the day with us!

Part of my lovely buffet lunch that included traditional Easter Ham, eggs, and potato salad.

Giant Easter eggs on the banks of the Danube River.

4. Travel

This past month we booked two trips.  The first trip we booked is to the countryside of Hungary. We are going to a village called Balatongyörök. Balatongyörök is located on the north shore of Lake Balaton, not far from Keszthely. While there, we will also visit Lake Heviz. Lake Hévíz is the world’s largest biologically-active natural thermal lake. The lake is rich in sulphur and minerals and completely replenishes itself every 72 hours.

Our second trip is to the beautiful Algarve region of Portugal. Andrew has been missing palm trees and the ocean, so when a friend invited us to stay, we jumped at the chance. Unfortunately for Lucy, she will miss out on this trip.  However, I’m sure she’ll enjoy her own mini-vacation here in Budapest with my Aunt.

5. The St. Patricks Day Gala Dinner

OMG was this night a blast!  Hands-down one of the best events we’ve been to (or hosted). We enjoyed incredible entertainment and food all thanks to the Irish Hungarian Business Circle.  If you want to see what I mean, watch our Vlog that features this amazing night.

Andrew and I with the Irish Ambassador to Hungary, Ambassador Pat Kelly and his wife.

Last month was definitely wintery, but April has brought the warm weather.  Today it will be 19 degrees out, so I’m going to end this here and get outside.

What are your spring travel plans?  Any recommendations for more places I should visit here in Hungary this summer? Let me know in the comments below.

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Thanks for reading!

Budapest Expat Tips

The “Living with No Dryer” Laundry Survival Guide

March 25, 2018
laundry survival guide

Moving away to Europe is the first time that many people discover that not everyone has a dryer. Practically all classical apartments in Budapest come with washing machines – but not all have dryers. And while our washing machine is much smaller than we had in Canada, we’ve adjusted our loads according.  But living with no dryer is much more frustrating.

If you want to see more about our daily life, watch our latest video now live on our YouTube Channel.

Crunchy Towels are No Bueno

Seriously, nothing is worse than a line-dried towel.  They are disgustingly crunchy.  I hate crunchy.  Who wants to fiercely exfoliate your body on a chilly winter morning? You want to be wrapped up in warm, soft, caress like a cuddly bunny. You do not want to feel like you’ve been scraped by a sidewalk after falling off your bike.

As a child I remember my mother occasionally line drying on a summer’s day – I hated those towels too. I would always dig down to the bottom of the pile in the linen closet in hopes of finding something softer.

This may work fine for clothes, but not for my towels.

Things I’ve Tried for Fluffy Towels

Like any normal person, I searched Google for “how to get fluffy towels with no dryer”.  I found a bunch of suggestions:

  1. Add vinegar in the final rinse
  2. Wash towels at 40 degrees
  3. Use half the detergent amount
  4. Don’t use fabric softener
  5. Do use fabric softener
  6. Only do a very small load
  7. Shake towels vigorously before hanging to dry

Bottom line: none of these really worked.  I still continued to have crispy towels – only now they smelled slightly pickled.

The Solution

The solution is shocking obvious  – use a dryer!  This means a trip to to local coin laundry. For us this is the Wash Point Kávézó & Mosoda. Located near Kálvin Ter in District 9, this is the best one I have ever been to.  Ok, so, maybe I haven’t actually been to a lot of coin laundry places, but this place is awesome.

We continue to wash and line dry our clothes at home, but we always take towels and linens to Wash Point.

Wash Point Kávézó & Mosoda

As the name implies, this is not just a laundromat, but a coffee house too. You can find the coffee house at street level and the laundry in the basement. Watch your towels spin around while sipping on a latte and enjoying a sandwich.

The surroundings are impeccably clean and comfortable. They have free wi-fi, a kid’s corner and cool music videos playing on a TV. Additionally, they are open every day of the year from 7 am until midnight.  We tend to go in the mornings around 10am and always find machines to use.

How Much for Laundry Softness?

Each load – a wash or a dry – costs 1000 HUF (about $5 CDN). You can pay by card or cash. All instructions are in Hungarian and English.  The best part? You don’t need to worry about bringing detergent – its automatically dispensed in the wash.

If you live around this area, I highly recommend Wash Point for a enjoyable experience whilst performing boring laundry chores.

How about you? Any other tips or tricks for me to try?  Do you know of a great laundry service perhaps? Do you iron your sheets (asking for a friend)?

Let me know in the comments below!

Snuggly yours,

Anikó

Expat Life

A Quick Guide to Enjoying the Danube at The Bálna

March 13, 2018

The Bálna has been one of our favourite places to go for meal or drink since it was built in 2013. The Bálna or “Budapest Whale” is the huge glass and metal building on the Danube bank in the 9th district. It sits between the Szabadság (Liberty) Bridge and Petőfi Bridge. Here is my quick guide to enjoying the Danube at The Bálna.

The Bálna

When my sister and I first started visiting Budapest as adults, this stretch of the Danube was nothing more than some old, sketchy looking warehouses. We were always a little nervous walking around there after dark.  But at one time, these warehouses were essential to the city’s prosperity.  However, by the early 21st century, they fell into complete disrepair.

Construction of this modern structure began in 2009 but the 2011 opening had to be delayed due to legal issues until 2013. It was designed by a Dutch architect, Kas Oosterhuis. The historical brick building and the concrete structure typical is covered in a computer-designed metal-glass shell.  It is the shape of this shell that gives the building its name.

The Bálna as seen from the top of Gellert Hill.

The Bálna serves as a commercial, cultural and entertainment centre. Inside you will find galleries, restaurants, offices and shops. However, it was meant to be an architectural showpiece for Budapest just like the Eiffel Tower is in Paris.  Unfortunately, with the current city management, it never quite achieved the originally planned icon status it was designed for. The building is currently up for sale from the municipality.

Why We Love It

There are several restaurants that have seating both indoors and outdoors on the ground floor of the Bálna.  We have enjoyed the spectacular Danube view from them all.  I can’t think of a single time of the year where you can’t find a patio seat to enjoy the summer or winter sun. While this is definitely a more touristy destination, many of the restaurants have daily lunch specials during the week.

At the Esco Bar & Cafe, you can get a delicious pizza big enough for two people to share. This Peruvian bar serves more than 10 different pizzas with lovely thin crusts – just the way I like them.

Andrew and Lucy enjoying the sun at the Bálna Terasz

The Bálna Bistro & Terasz

Our particular favourite place for a drink is the Bálna Terasz. Last Sunday afternoon we walked over there with our dog to indulge in a sweet treat. The restaurant featured menu items that included Nutella. Who could resist on such a lovely day?

It is THE perfect place to relax at the end of the day and enjoy amazing sunsets.  Alternately, come on a weekend to simple enjoy the marvellous view of the Liberty Bridge and Gellert Hill. There is definitely something for everyone.

I have to admit, we did look at bit like tourists last weekend when we last visited.  If you don’t want to, read this.

Additional Information

Visiting by public transportation is easy. Simple take the Metro M4 to Fővám tér or Tram 2 to Zsil utca.

Parking at Bálna is available in a underground car park. The parking fee is 300 HUF/hour. The first hour is free on weekdays, the first two hours are free on weekends.

You will definitely find us there again sometime soon!

Expat Life

The Secrets to Having a Fabulous Brunch at the New TOPRUM in Budapest

March 5, 2018
Hotel Rum Brunch

Brunch. That amazing combination of breakfast and lunch that makes it perfectly acceptable to drink alcohol early on a Sunday. Budapest is full of many great places to indulge in this my most favourite of meals. However, my husband and I thought we would try a brand new rooftop brunch located the Hotel Rum. Here are our secrets to having a fabulous brunch at TOPRUM.

The Hotel Rum

The Hotel Rum is a beautiful boutique hotel located near the Central Market Hall in Budapest’s 5th District on Egyetem tér . It has 40 contemporary rooms located in a 19th century apartment block – all designed by Budapest based architects and interior designers. The building houses the hotel,  the URBAN TIGER restaurant and TOPRUM – the new rooftop sky bar.

TOPRUM was opened for the first time last weekend.  We attended the second ever rooftop brunch offered here. If you don’t want to look like a tourist while doing so, read my last post.

TOPRUM Secret One: Request a Table beside the Window

While there is a great view from all tables, if you want the ultimate view, request a table beside the window.  Due to the positioning of the restaurant, you have an 180 degree view of  the city.

There is a mix of both round and rectangular tables with comfortable padded chairs. We saw couples, and a group as large as 8, enjoying their meals. And while I’m sure children may be permitted at TOPRUM, we saw none.

TOPRUM Secret Two: Order the Shakshuka

Eating low-carb or gluten-free?  Then order the shakshuka.  Alternately, if you’re like me and just wanted something different from the usual brunch standards – order the the shakshuka.

What is shakshuka? Shakshuka is a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, and onions. This version included pieces of feta cheese for additional flavour and was served with a small fresh bun.  It was absolutely delicious!

Shakshuka as presented by TOPRUM with feta and fresh herbs for 2250 HUF.

The traditional Eggs Benedict with ham and arugula for 1990 HUF.

TOPRUM Secret Three: Enjoy the Live Music

Our reservation was for 1pm and we were lucky to enjoy the first set of a guitar and vocalist duo. The music was lovely and the perfect volume. The singing was loud enough to enjoy but soft enough to not have to yell at each other across the table.

TOPRUM Secret 4: Have Dessert

I’m not normally a dessert after brunch time of girl – especially not when mimosas are available – but I went for it.  Initially our waiter seemed perplexed that I didn’t know what “Floating Islands in Vanilla” were.  So in case you don’t know either – its a sweet egg white “dumpling” in melted vanilla ice-cream.  Yes please!

Both my husband and I ordered one of these simple but scrumptious desserts.

Floating Islands with Vanilla for 1100 HUF.

If you’re looking for a laid-back place for brunch with an incredible view and great food – look no further then TOPRUM. Maybe we’ll see you there next weekend?

Want to see more of our expat life in Budapest?  Watch our latest YouTube Video now!

More Information

For reservations please contact Demján Balázs +36 70 319 5742 between 8am-8pm.

TOPRUM hosts brunch on both Saturdays and Sunday and is open to the public. Brunch is served from 12:00 to 5:00pm with live music from 1:00 to 3:00pm.

TOPRUM is located at Királyi Pál Street 4, Budapest 1053

Note: This blog was not sponsored in any way.  All opinions are my own.  Brunch was paid for solely by my husband 🙂

Budapest Expat Tips

Tourist Alert: What Not to Wear in Budapest, Hungary

March 3, 2018
What not to wear in Budapest

Budapest is an amazing city. Everywhere you look you’ll find amazing architecture, museums, hotels, bars, nooks, and crannies. And while there are many cultural differences between North America and Hungary, the way people dress is one of them. So unless you want to be immediately identified as a tourist, here is a short list of what not to wear in Budapest, Hungary.

Tourist Alert

Please note that these are my personal observations after 3 months of living in Budapest.  I have absolutely done ALL of the things listed below (as I’m sure some of you have too). You (and I) may even continue to do so in the future. Guess what?  If that’s what you want, go ahead and be the best tourist you can be! But for those of you who want to blend in a little more with your European surroundings  – keep reading.

Dirty Shoes or Trainers

Since we take public transportation practically everyday, we get to see a lot of footwear. Hungarian’s shoes are practically always polished to perfection.  Even in wintertime, you would have to look hard to find salt stains on a fellow passenger’s boots. Laces are also neat and clean – with shoes/boots completely tied up.

Now I am not saying that all Canadians have dirty shoes (as I am sure not all Hungarians have clean ones).  However, both my husband and I noticed this almost immediately.  It prompted us to get to the store to make sure we had some good polish on hand. There is definitely a higher level of respect for an individual’s personal appearance.

Furthermore, wearing trainers/running shoes is definitely a sign that you must be a tourist.  You will discover most Europeans wear stylish but comfortable shoes or a higher-end sneaker look.  You’ll likely only find running shoes being worn during an actual athletic activity.

 mens shoes

A more likely shoe to be seen in winter is something like this comfortable, but stylish, men’s shoe.

Running shoes

While these bright coloured trainers may be perfect for the gym or track, wearing on the street of Budapest simply screams tourist.

Colourful Winter Coats

When the temperatures drop, I’ve always liked to beat the gloom with a bold coloured coat.  I have a turquoise coat, a bright pink down vest and my husband has a cobalt blue coat.  Unfortunately, these are not looks you find regularly on adults on the streets of Budapest. Most Hungarians above the age of 12 wear black or darker colours. Lucky for us, we own more than one coat.

Note that this doesn’t always stop us from wearing our coats of many colours, but we make a conscious choice to do so. Sometimes, and in certain places, its simply best to fit in and look “Hungarian”.  Why be a target for tour operators and pickpockets when you don’t have to be?

Check out our latest video on YouTube to see when we blend in and when we don’t bother…

Tourist with bright coat

While we have protected his identity, this man is immediately recognizable as a tourist in this bright blue coat.

Baseball Caps

As someone who has spent the last ten summers of my life on a boat, both my husband and I own more then one baseball cap (even if I did rarely wear one).  Baseball caps are often a complete necessity when sailing to keep the sun out of your eyes without losing your sunglasses. On the contrary, you will find few adult Hungarians wearing these on the streets of Budapest.

If you do see this style of cap, its most likely to be devoid of any slogan or sports logo. I’m not really sure why baseball hats get no love?  You do see lots other styles of hats – bucket hats, pork pie hats, straw hats, and my husband’s personal favourite, the Trilby. Ps. This does to apply to ladies as well.

Tourists in Baseball caps

Wearing this hat is not only a sign that your are a tourist but a Times Square billboard sized sign that you are a tourist.

Sweatsuits, Tracksuits and Yoga Pants

I love my yoga pants.  Who doesn’t love their yoga pants?  They can be be both flattering and practical when they fit right.  In the past, I never hesitated from wearing them to the mall, out for coffee or grocery shopping.  On the other hand, please know that I never wore them to work or to a dinner party. Rarely do you see these anywhere on the streets of Budapest.  Sweats? Track suits? Leisure wear? Nope.  You won’t find any of those either. Again, this applies to both women and men.  Sorry boys!  Leave those baggy track suits at home.

yoga pants

Defying all North American logic, these two women are wearing yoga pants to actually do yoga – not to meet at Starbucks for a latte.

Other Tourist Giveaways

Of course clothing is just one part of the tourist puzzle.  Carrying selfie sticks, wearing backpacks, multiple cameras, staring at large maps, paying in Euros instead of forints, are all huge “tourist alert” giveaways.  Perhaps the most obvious – and the hardest to avoid – is speaking in English.

Selfie Stick

Perhaps the most obvious of tourist devices – the selfie stick. Not only that – but many popular spots simply ban the use of these nowadays.

In short, no matter how you dress or what language you speak, please don’t hesitate to come and visit this extremely safe and beautiful city that I now call home. Hungarians are fabulous and will fill you to the brim with the best food, wine, weather and entertainment.

What do you think screams tourist?  Let me know in the comments below!

 

Expat Life, Personal Stories

Follow in my Grandfather’s Frightening Footsteps at the House of Terror

February 26, 2018
Grandpa

Yesterday, Sunday, February 25th, was the Memorial Day for the Victims of Communism. My husband is still learning about the older Hungarian relatives in my family – as am I. To mark this sombre occasion here in Budapest, we decided to follow in my Grandfather’s frightening footsteps at the House of Terror Museum in Budapest.

60 Andrássy Avenue

Hungary survived two terror regimes – Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.  By the early 2000’s, the time had come for Hungary to erect a fitting memorial to the victims.  As well as a memorial, the museum presents a picture of what life was like for Hungarians during those times.

House of Terror Museum Building

House of Terror Museum Building.  The facade that casts the shadow of terror onto the sidewalk below.

The House of Terror Museum opened on February 24th, 2002. The museum is located at 60 Andrássy Avenue.  It is the only one of its kind. It is a monument to the memory of those held captive, tortured and killed in this building. My grandfather, János Légrády, was one of them.

Janos Legrady

My grandfather, János Légrády, and grandmother with my father when he was just a toddler.

The House of Terror Museum

The museum starts on the second floor and finishes in the basement. Each level has a typical classic apartment block layout with a full size T-54 Russian tank in the courtyard. The three floors are full of black and white pictures of the Nazi and communist occupations’ victims. Many rooms have simple black walls with silver text, black and white television screens, dim lighting and bone-chilling music.

To get to the basement level, you take a slow moving elevator that brings you down to hell on earth. The elevator displays a video describing the torture.  This was my second visit to these dungeons – and I felt physically sick.  The different cells leave no doubt about the creativity of evil in humanity.

Basement Level

A view from inside a cell looking out in the basement level of the Terror House.

When you leave the museum, you see both the memorial Wall of Tears, as well as a wall that lists the perpetrators. And let me be clear, this includes everyone from the delivery boy to those that held the highest offices.

NOTE: A vast majority of the information written on the walls of the museum is in Hungarian only.  However, each room has printed sheets with detailed information available in English.  Many of the television screens do include English subtitles (some of it poorly translated). You can also get a guided tour or an audio headphones self-guided tour in a variety of languages.

Arrow Cross and AVH

The building was used by both the Arrow Cross Facist Party (Nazis) and the AVH (State Protection Authority). The Nazi occupation of 1944 was short but disastrous. Within two months, 437,402 Hungarian Jews were transported to death camps.

On August 27, 1944, Soviet Troops crossed the Hungarian border. And while the fascist regime lasted less than a year, the Hungarian Communist regime lasted for 40 years. The AVH were the communist secret police of Hungary very similar to the KGB. Furthermore, the AVH had a reputation for extreme brutality.  It was this under this authority that my grandfather was taken.

house-of-terror

Faces of the Victims on the walls at the House of Terror Museum in Budapest, Hungary.

János Légrády

In the mid-fifties my father came home from school to discover his father was missing.  After 3 days, they were able to figure out he had been taken to the AVH Headquarters.

My grandfather was allegedly held in a cell in the basement for 3 weeks. During this time he was routinely beaten until it was discovered that he was innocent of the charges against him. Upon his release, much of his hair had turned white.

My grandfather’s recovery from this ordeal took 9 months. While János was offered back his previous job, he took a new one instead.  My grandfather didn’t go back because he felt he had been betrayed.  He was one of the “lucky” ones.

My grandfather died here in Budapest in 1977.  When visiting from Canada, my family still regularly visits his grave.

Janos and Otto

My grandfather and my father during his only visit to Canada in 1969.

“As long as my finite mental and physical strength will allow me, I will fight. I will never be indifferent, weak-hearted or unconcerned. Should I find myself alone here – I still won’t give up.”  Imre Nagy (1896-1958)

Details

The House of Terror Museum is located at 60 Andrássy Avenue in the 6th District of Budapest.  It is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. A full price ticket is 3000 HUF. There is a reduced rate of 1500 HUF for people aged between 6-25 or 62-70 (citizens of the EEA).

I highly recommend a visit to this museum – especially for expats that live in Budapest. It is vitally important to not forget this very recent history.