Europe | Hungary | Budapest – Hungry in Hungary
Sorry, I couldn’t resist….and we almost DID go hungry! Budapest is not as cheap as it used to be, especially if you don’t know where you are going. The fried cheese we had at lunch was better than any I remember in Prague; but at that price it should be -and if we keep eating like that we’ll spend all our money in less than a week.
Later in the day, we ended up in one expensive tourist district after another. The Citadel (communist monument on top of a hill – someone passing us on their way down said that’s what it was anyway) was not worth the hike, though the park around it is wonderful and full of shady, breezy, grassy areas for resting (very necessary when its 38 degrees C). Monuments to communism can be moving if you visit them with locals on a communist national holiday, as we did in Berlin when we went to the Russian memorial with our friend and communist newspaper editor, Conny. Old Russians in Sunday best laid wreaths and bowed their heads. Conny explained the significance of the statue which represented the defeat of Fascism.
No disrespect to Budapest at all; we are totally enjoying the city. But our trek to that Citadel took us to a cafe as expensive as if it were in Switzerland and the monument itself was so packed with Japanese tourists with digital cameras that we had to split quick.
Down the Big Hill we saw a few thousand motorcycles whiz by and then headed to the old town – up another hill, hundreds more steps, and poor Sexton’s sprained ankle was giving him hell. This time the trek was worth it, to me anyway. Not sure if ‘old town ‘ is what it’s properly called but it’s the area around the castle on the hill on the Buda side of the river. Small, quiet streets, an old bombed church preserved and wonderful coloured rooftops on majestic buildings. There was a performance of singing and dancing in traditional costume, and two weddings in what I think was St Mathias church. We drank beer in an alcove overlooking the city (it’s called Fisherman’s Bastion to be precise). Sexton said it was like being on honeymoon again, and started making up romantic poetry on the spot – don’t worry, I won’t make you suffer through it, just say that his ‘poetry’ is of a comical sort anyway ….
We had enough expensive beer and headed down the hill in search of cheap food. After seeing pizza stalls in Deli station I knew there had to be something less than London prices somewhere.
Down we went….past a few restaurants still above our daily budget….then found a place with outdoor plastic furniture and menus in Hungarian only. That was a good sign. We couldn’t make head or tale of what they said but the price was good. Upon queuing up we saw the dish on offer was crepes. Even savoury crepes did not appeal to my husband. He said his foot was feeling ok and we pressed onwards, in search of pizza.
Now we were in a definitely not touristy area. Grey buildings, dogs f*cking, a mustard yellow church and small hole-in-wall bars that did not seem to serve food. How about a kebab shop? They had falafels, too. We should have settled for that. But by now we both had our hearts set on pizza.
Back on the road by the river, a restaurant with Hungarian menus appeared, but one of the wedding cars we’d seen by the castle was parked outside. We didn’t want to walk in on the reception, sweaty and dirty, wearing baseball hats (Sexton is particularily proud of the sweat stains creeping along the brim of his). So we kept walking. We got to the Margit bridge, took a tram across it, and nearly fell off the tram when we reached the other side, we were so delirious with hunger. Now it was dark out, too. We found a side street and a sign that said ‘pizza’, though the sign was not lit. ‘It looks closed…’ Sexton said, sounding very dismayed. But the door was open. People sat at tables by candlelight. Outside a car alarm was screeching, unbearably loud. We didn’t care; we had to eat. But the waitress told us they had only salad, no pizza, as the electricity was off. Oh.
Back outside we noticed that the entire street was blacked out. We went round another corner, where we saw a parallel street which had lights. A Pizza delivery boy got off a moped. We thought about asking him where his pizza place was (we weren’t the sort to mug pizza delivery boys, no matter how hungry we were. In fact the thought did not cross my mind until right now sitting in this cafe where they are playing the worst shit pop music that I hate more than anything). Anyway we saw another restaurant, in Hungarian. By now I was used to the possibility of addressing people in pigeon German, as their language is so difficult they don’t really expect visitors to learn it. ‘Essen?’ I said hopefully to the woman inside. But the Kuchen was geshlossen.
Back outside we were faced with my worst nightmare. Just as the lights went out on yet another street, and another alarm started screeching, we saw that the only place open with food was McDonalds. They were still lit up, probably had their own generator. No, we wouldn’t do it. We’d starve first.
One more walk around the block and the lights had come on in the pizza place. Saved!
Must go now as I’m getting hungry…