The Mystery of Faszaládé!

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t look to close or you might see tears. Then again, you might have to look closer to see the details of this 50% coupon for Faszaládé. Oh never mind, the place has gone out of business yet again, but more on that in a bit.

Budapest is currently feeling the fatty wrath of the hamburger craze. You can’t walk far through town without encountering a hamburger joint or restaurant on your way, and these don’t even include the retro places that serve something akin to a burger (more a throwback to pre-regime change food called a burger).

Being an American, and a Texan at that, I’ve had my fair share of burgers. Hell, my mom, in hospital at the time, was once asked what she would eat if she could have anything she wanted. The answer: a cheeseburger! So yes, I guess I know burgers. I do come from the land of Whataburger after all.

Back to Faszaládé…and what is it with that name? Well, that name is a bit of a joke, the kind of Hungarian humor that is largely missing from public life and discourse these days.

Let my wife explain: OK, so general linguistic background: “fasz,” excuse my Hungarian, simply means “cock,”–not the farmyard animal of course. Out of this less than complimentary term came the slang word “fasza,” meaning “cool.”

Now, the pun in “faszaládé” can only be fully enjoyed if one’s familiar with the terrifying world of processed meat products in Socialist Hungary and beyond. Besides frankfurters or wieners (frankfurti virsli and bécsi virsli – the latter is supposed to be entirely pork), there’s also krinolin and szafaládé. The differences between virsli and the latter two are mainly in thickness (virsli is skinnier) and the quality of the meat ground into the pink pulp inside. The difference between krinolin and szafaládé is probably very esoteric and entirely beyond me, and so is the etymology of these bizarre-sounding names.
My grandma used to buy szafaládé and it actually used to be a well-loved consumable, you still find it in university cafeterias and greasy spoons. It is rather thick, comes in edible casing, the better ones are made from beef (well, let’s say cow-parts), they are sold in pairs or longer chains of about 5-6-inch-long pieces, and generally have more flavour (flavouring?) than frankfurters. It’s normally boiled in whole and served with bread and German mustard.

Back to Faszaládé: 1. visualise what szafaládé looks like; 2. understand that we’re talking about a hipster-cool (fasza) sausage eatery with fliers that wilfully allude to genitalia by visual means; 3 hey presto: you have a cheeky but rather cryptic name for a business ran by amiable young men with tattoos and beards. Whether any of the above has anything to do with the fact that the place keeps closing down and deprives us of its excellent food and service is unknown. The sheer memory of their cardamom bun makes me want to invent time travel.

PS: It is a little-known but true fact: if you swear in Hungarian it probably doesn’t count. Go on say it: faszaládé!

– End of guitar solo….

Now that you understand the name, also note that many of their flyers (not the coupon pictured) featured rather phallic images (eat meat and all that). It always gave us a chuckle. Other than that, they gave us the best damn hamburger in all of Budapest. In my opinion, it was hands down the best, but they’ve gone and disappeared, and for the second time I might add.

Another odd fact about Faszaládé is that they had custom-made lamps produced for the restaurant. Not only that, but they went on to win some architecture awards and get featured in a Hungarian design magazine. It didn’t seem like the place that would just up sticks and disappear. Well, it hasn’t up’d sticks, as the lamps and all the rest are still there, but they have gone on a permanent vacation. Yes, a handwritten sign on the door said something about temporary, but it’s been a good 3 months at the writing of this blog entry.

Originally, after eating there just a time or two, but enough to fall in love, grow concerned about the future of my wallet’s contents and my ever-expanding waistline, they shut down suddenly and without explanation. Life went on, and sub par burgers were consumed with little hope of ever finding anything comparable.

Then suddenly, nearly a year after the first closure, Faszaládé was back. As my son had an exercise class of all things nearby, I started treating myself about once a week. This shows a modicum of control as he had two classes there a week, so I could have been much worse than I was. Just saying. Also, as well as great burgers, they also had great sausage, and oddly, absolutely wonderful sticky cardamom buns. An odd after-compliment to a hamburger, but it worked. Never mind they knew it worked. Everything at Faszaládé was done with purpose and design, and it was executed with precision and finesse….but not more, for they have closed for a second time as stated above.

My wife has a theory that just might hold water, although Faszaládé was in an area that should have overcome this particular problem. Anyway, her theory states that Hungarians will support and keep a restaurant open as long as it doesn’t look flashy and overly expensive. She has a point. People flock to McDonald’s and sometimes spend a few thousand forints on a death-meal. They could go to Mák Bistro and spend just a bit more and get a 3 course meal with an alcoholic beverage, but that place looks like money, so it gets held up by tourists for the most part, but I digress. We’re all sheeple after all.

Anyway, this long-winded entry is just a public service announcement. If you are walking near the basilica in downtown Budapest and happen to notice a little burger restaurant next to a drinks’ bar called Innio, that’s Faszaládé. Who knows why they are open? Just step in and enjoy some old-school Hungarian butcher’s touch in regards to some high quality hamburgers.

Gardening á la Hungarian Style

Friday, July 1st, 2016

Gardening is a big thing in Hungary, and yes, even in the metropolis of Budapest. The yards, courtyards and gardens of Hungary serve a most specific and important function. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first off, I’d like to mention that as far as the blog post and our lives in Hungary go, we will refer to backyards as back gardens. This is how the British refer to their yards (although they are quite a different thing from what most of us have in the U.S.), and it is the common usage here and the literal translation from Hungarian. Okay, now that’s out of the way, onward and upward we go.

Gardens here serve the purpose of producing food. Yes, there are absolutely beautiful flowers and the like, but gardens for the most part bear fruit. In our garden alone, we have a cherry tree, a fig tree, a peach tree and an apricot tree. As my wife tells it, it used to be even more full of edible treats. For one, there were raspberries. Here in Hungary, like the UK, they drink cordial or squash, known here as szörp (syrup). For the most part these days, you buy szörp in the store, but when my wife was little, a lot of people still made it at home, and one of these people was her grandmother. She just went out to the garden, picked some raspberries and then cooked up some szörp. Presently, we don’t have any raspberries, but we do have our fair share of fruit trees and delightful flowers that are largely in full bloom as I write this.

 

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These are just a few samples from our garden of earthly delights, but one must always remember that the better pickings come from fruit producers. We certainly enjoy the cherries, grapes, peaches and apricots, but there is one point of uninterest: figs! Yes, we have figs, but no one here likes to eat them, not even my son who will eat nearly anything. Last year, my wife had co-workers ask that we pick them and bring them to her. My wife let them know that not only do we not eat them, but that we wouldn’t be picking them either. Just the other week though, when some friends were over for dinner, said friend asked if she could come over and pick them as she just couldn’t imagine letting all those yummy (some people) figs go to waste. You see, some people are just more realistic than others. You want our figs, you’ve got to do your own picking.

When it comes to gardening in Hungary, Bálint Gazda is king. This master of the Hungarian garden is 96 years old, and even has his own YouTube channel. He is both well respected and well known. He has seen a lot in his lifetime, including losing all his family except for one brother to the Holocaust. He also had the Communist regime take away his family’s land after WWII. It appears that what has gotten him through is his love of agriculture and gardening. In 1995, he even received a doctorate in agriculture. I always admire and respect someone who sticks to one love and somehow persevers with it over the course of their entire life. Here he is in a video from about 6 years ago. Play along and test your Hungarian language skills.

 

 

How did you score? I’m keeping my results a secret. No fair peeking. Just trust that after two associate degrees in the language, marrying a Hungarian woman and living in the country for 3 years, I did just fine (wink-wink).

It should also be said that Hungarian fruit is really something wonderful. I’m not a big fruit eater myself, but the juicy, fresh fruit that comes out of the gardens of Budapest and beyond really is something to try and then sample over and over again. One story that sticks out to me about this came from a German friend of mine, who backpacked through Hungary after graduating from school. One of her fondest memories from this trip was gorging on all the ripe fruit they found during their travels across the country. Her eyes would sparkle when she talked about not being able to stop eating the cherries, peaches and apricots. They really are something, and if you are here sampling the goods during summer and find yourself a bit overheated in a country without excessive air conditioning, then do what the Huns do. Get yourself a net bag, dawn a pair of skimpy swim trunks and go buy some beer and watermelon. Once you’ve mastered that, then we can move onto roasting bacon in the back garden, but that’s for another blog and requires a bit more experience.

One last thing to note about Hungarian gardens has to do with Hungarian grandmothers, and this is preserving all that fruit that your garden hopefully produces. Being that my mother-in-law has both our home garden and a lakehouse garden to choose from, she’s got lots of preserving to do. First comes the mad search for all the available jars in the house. Then comes hauling all the fruit in from the garden, and in our case, the lakehouse as well. Sadly, just like figs, my wife & I don’t really like canned fruit. Therefore, even though my son’s grandmother, know here as Nagymama, does her best, we are just ungrateful beasts that never show the proper amount of respect to the holiest of holies. Behold (both the sacred workspace and the sacred temple)!

 

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Starting in the kitchen, these jars eventually wind up in the basement, to hopefully be consumed at some later date.

 

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In the first photo, you can see apricot pits, which when broken, contain what my son calls an almond. These insides are slightly bitter and edible, and my son seems to love this most of all when it comes to apricots.

We are very lucky to live where we live in Budapest. We are close to the city but have a lush, fruit producing garden that is safe for my son to play in and would hopefully make Bálint György proud (probably not, but one can hope).

Come on over already and get to trying some of this amazing fruit!

Communist Factory Bricks

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

Or how L’oreal reused the old and then lost its way and headed to Buda…

Or something like that. We live in the 14th District. On a corner not too far from where we live, there is an interesting sort of reverse archaeology going on. Back when my wife was just a tad younger, and after the regime change in 1989, L’oreal found itself wanting to make inroads into Hungary. They moved into an old communist factory building that had been (either they or some developer) made up to look quite new. My wife remembers them there quite distinctly because it was the first and only time she ever saw someone on their hands and knees trimming grass with shears. Hell, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone doing that. Anyway, the building is now being demolished, but you can still see some of its former glory from a movie trailer that was partially filmed in said building. On a side note, the air conditioning was out while they were filming this movie. The actors were apparently sweating like mad.

Now, a salvage company of sorts has begun to cherry pick what it can from the building. So, instead of a derelict building on the corner that was used to some extent by the homeless and graffiti taggers, you now have a half deconstructed building that sadly may be left in such a state. The interesting bit of reverse archaeology is that the bricks of the former Communist factory building have been re-exposed. You can even see later work where newer bricks replaced older ones when a new door was added to the factory. Have a look at the photos below to see what I mean.

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Now, cross your fingers with me that this won’t be left in this state. I have a strong feeling it will be until yet another overzealous developer comes along and builds a new office building on the corner. Until this happens, Hungária & Egressy is kind of the black hole of Zugló. Off the train line, sandwiched between Embassy row further up Egressy and between the somewhat pleasant confines of the leafier end of the 14th distritct that is home to nicely priced houses and a somewhat large number of luxury cars. Then there’s that corner again.

….Alas, some of the above information is wrong, or at the very least, poorly informed. In cases like this, I seek out the help of my Hungarian wife. Now, if she were to write this blog post, she would edit herself to lose at least 20 percent of her sarcasm and the like, but not so when I choose to include her reply to an e-mail I sent asking what she knew/could find out about this building. So, building deconstructed and blog writing process deconstructed as well. She is much more detail oriented than me. Also, she is often much funnier than I and also more on point. Just try to figure out who wins arguements between us (never mind who writes better blog posts in my opinion).

**My wife’s e-mail begins**

The building was originally redeveloped by Kontrax, a post-regime change company that had the first sexy commercials on tv and which also died a dubious death soon thereafter. They were about the launch the first private telecommunication company with a good number of future subscribers when it all came a-crumble.
The building is still celebrated as a landmark architectural development of the 1990s: the interiors were designed by Chicago-based architect Heimi Velez of Skidmore, Owings & Merill. There is a fairly recent article about how this building and this company was like a whiff of Manhattan / cosmopolitan power business. Anyway, Loreal was only renting it for a couple years after the collapse of Kontrax. The other thing people remember it that there was a large slab with the brand engraved right in front of the office building, like in films. It was at the time very far from Hungarian reality. In this battle of culture titans, the shiny Western business world did not take Hungarian reality by the hand to soar into new heights together. Instead, Hungarian reality seemed to bring it all back down to earth.

Interestingly, the bankrupt company was bought up by the Texas-based Jim Sowell Co for 1.5 million dollars. I don’t know if the building is now owned by them or someone else.
 
The article has many links to the 1990s commercials and the present state of the building.

The film was ‘Overnight’ with all the power actors of the time.
 
Film, suits, power, office technology – somehow Manhattan never really happened.
 

Some time ago I was looking for some images of the original tool factory or whatever it was, but couldn’t locate anything. The area behind it used to be the Aquincum organ factory, which has also been demolished in the process.

**My wife’s e-mail ends**

There was yet one more communique about this building site and corner. It contained the interesting information that the budding pro-wrestling community of Hungary had a couple of get-togethers in the short-lived Oli Beer garden that was established in place of the Organ factory. America IS HERE after all. You can even see a different side of the half-demolished building in the background of the photos. I have to admit that these wrestling photos look a bit like Sunnyvale Trailer Park (this reference is only for fans of the Trailer Park Boys). Where that hell is the Green Bastard?!?

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There you have it. Now I fully understand that as a reader who also might be a tourist staying at our apartment here in Budapest that you probably won’t come out and see this wonder of wonders (see sites as they call them), but I always find it interesting to discover these oddities of normal life when I travel somewhere.

As for L’oreal, they eventually regrouped in a corner of Buda somewhere.

Elysée Bistro & Cafe Mini-Review

Monday, December 7th, 2015

As our apartment is in the 5th District of Budapest, there are no shortage of places to eat or drink. To be honest, it is sometimes a bit overwhelming, even for someone who lives here. Considering this, I thought I’d write a mini-review of a place or two as we visit them.

The first, one I visited today for a late breakfast, is the Elysée Bistro & Cafe. It sits on the edge of recently renewed Kossuth Lajos tér. It has a nice looking and somewhat inviting patio space. They even had chairs and tables with blankets out today, but it seemed a bit nippy for dining alfresco.

The inside is very nice, but overdone a bit in my opinion. There were 3 lights in particular which seemed a bit overstated.  There was 1 television which was anything but obnoxious. Its lack of centrality was appreciated, but I still think the place could have done without. They are very much trying to harken back to the days of old (pre-WWII), and the television just hampers this. Also, the end of the bar looks just a tad too much like a LA nightclub with the underside lighting. This area seems to be in some sort of disagreement with the rest of the cafe. Beyond this though, it is quite nice and lovely.

Now, the food and drinks. I had a cappuccino and 2 dcl of freshly squeezed orange juice. Both were very nice and well presented. Neither were the best I’ve had in Budapest, but certainly enjoyable. I then ordered an omelette. That is exactly all I got. It is probably my own silliness, but I expected cheese at the least. I also thought I might get some advice about certain additions you could order, but the waitress failed to mention anything. I found this a bit strange. So, for a simply 3 egg omelette, it was a winner. The salad on the side was not the freshest, but the red peppers did add some very nice crunch. The lettuce and tomato could have been a bit more presentable though.

The service was pleasant and attentive. The only problem was that there was only 1 server for the entire cafe. She did quite a tremendous job, and it wasn’t lunchtime yet, but it would have been nicer if she had some sort of backup. Also, I was a bit put off by 2 people (possibly managers/owners) who really distracted from the atmosphere by throwing purses down and the like. I can certainly say that the service is better than the average Hungarian restaurant that you find in Budapest (hate to say it, but the average is a pretty low benchmark).

I did enjoy the many vintage black & white photos on the wall from the square’s earlier days. This was very nice. I just wish the whole place had more of this vibe. All in all though, pretty good service and not a bad menu. I just wish I would have been helped with my order more. To say the least, I am planning on going back for lunch. The bacon wrapped catfish sounds quite nice.

Don’t expect the cheapest prices by any means, but I didn’t think it was that overpriced for the location. If they just run a slightly tighter ship in the near future, they will really have a cafe to be proud of. For now though, it is still very much worth a visit, at least to see if it is to your liking.

Római Part

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

Try to disassociate the following photo from Római Part, Budapest. Legs this pasty white have no place in conveying the chilled out vibe that is this (somewhat) hidden gem along the banks of the Danube. They are my legs, so please be kind if you feel compelled to comment. I know that kindness rules on the interweb, so I expect nothing less.

 

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The following photo does a much better job at telling you how Római Part makes you feel (boob pillow neither supplied nor included to my knowledge). Listening to the water, drinking lemonade or beer, singing along to the music softly playing from the ruin pubs scattered along the river, and things generally related to such low-key and relaxed activities, are what one finds along the part of the Danube bank known as Római Part.

 

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I had been hearing of Római Part since before my move to Budapest, but this was my first visit. We went on a wonderful day that saw cool summer breezes. Prior to this weather, Budapest had been experiencing a heat wave of sorts. I can picture beer drinking throngs trying to kill the heat in the early evening during the canicular days. Due to the cooler weather and our early arrival on a Sunday morning, we were lucky to find smaller and calmer crowds, which is more to my liking. It was quiet enough to just sit and listen to the waters of the Danube lapping against the riverbank.

Apart from relaxing, a large part of what happens on Római Part is bicycling, but it is also a great place to walk (just keep an eye out for overly zealous bicyclists). People also go boating. There are a number of places along the riverside to rent kayaks, canoes or sculling/rowing boats. We chose lunch and relaxation over this, and it was funny to watch some of the passing boaters look at the beer drinkers with envy.

We ate at Fellini Kultúrpart. The food was good, a bit on the pricey side considering the portion, but everything was made fresh with above par ingredients. My wife had a chicken and pesto panini. This was chosen because of my allergy to pesto made with pine nuts. She does this to keep me from sampling her food. She is tricky like that. My son had frankfurters with chips/fries. I had fish and chips. It was not the commonly known British style of fish and chips, but it was good and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. We also had lemonades, which were one of the standouts of the meal.

Nap Bácsi is just next door to Fellini Kultúrpart. We didn’t try the food but our son did try the kid’s area, which apart from his enthusiastic fun, I rated a firm excellent. It was very basic, but it had everything most kids could want. There was a rope ladder, a treehouse, a colorful tire obstacle course and a very small branch tunnel. He easily enjoyed 30 minutes there, and it was the grown up stomachs that moved us away from that action. Although the following photo is a bit out of focus, you can definitely see a smile on his face.

 

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He had so much fun there (again, see above photo) that we are actually considering going back for his birthday party.

Skipping rocks was also a common past-time at Római Part. There is only my eye-witness account to be believed here, but I wasn’t half bad. My wife, and she will readily admit this, was never one to have the rock skip 4 or 5 times like her late father made them skip. Our kid is still getting the hang of it, but his technique was coming along nicely.

Római Part is firmly in its ‘faded glory’ phase, but this is part of the obvious charm. Never mind I found an abandoned building that had dive bar written all over it. Well, that would be ruin pub in these parts, but they do share some things in common. Here it is.

 

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My wife & I also collectively spotted a rundown building that had us both chomping at the bit. It has that old Socialist worker’s holiday resort feel to it, and we are sucker for anything that circles that designation. It also has a toe dipped in Brutalist architecture waters, and that was the final nail in the coffin. No, we aren’t going to buy it and fix it up, but it would be a beauty if it was restored to some sort of its former glory. Don’t laugh when you see it. The potential is there. Just look at those drapes and the cool overhang.

 

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This isn’t the best photo by any means (I didn’t take a shot from the front), but you should really go down and see all of Római Part for yourself. It’s worth a quiet Sunday morning, or a late Friday night, or whenever you happen to find yourself there.

On a side note, if you do want to invest in property on or near Római Part, I say do it now, as you can see the very first signs of gentrification creeping in. None of the really negative aspects of it are there yet, but I imagine prices will be going up over the years to come. For now though, there are plenty of little plots that are nothing more than a private place to store a rowboat and a hammock. Fingers crossed it stays like that for a while.

As a parting shot, enjoy the Hungarian band known as Middlemist Red. Here is their video for Multicoloured Drive. Try to somehow see the house in the video as the what we imagined for the place in the photo above. We aren’t totally crazy. Just a bit. And who knows, I might just get around to opening up that dive bar/ruin pub one day.

Can’t Hear No Buzzers and Bells

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

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When I was a kid, this pinball machine artwork scared the devil out of me. I don’t know if I ever played it, but I do recall the fear I felt whenever I came across it at a roller rink or arcade. I recently visited the (soon to close) Budapest Pinball Museum. With a modest fee of 2,000 Hungarian forints to enter (students do get small discounts with an ID card), you can play all the games they have therein. The only limitation is that some might be off limits due to tournaments (although I cheekily played a Spider-Man pinball machine marked for the day’s tournament while it was free to use and none of the staff seemed overly fussed). There is also a Hungarian pinball machine called Mese Vonat (Story Train), but you can’t play this, and I imagine it is due to preservation concerns. I imagine getting another Gorgar machine is easier than procurring another Mese Vonat one. As for Gorgar, the couple of games I played on it were rather disappointing and lackluster. The fear I felt as a child in no way translated to a decent game of pinball for an adult.

 

My favourite part of the Mese Vonat maching was an area in the upper right corner of the game where you could see a small reproduction of how trains are turned around. I assumed this factored into the gameplay, but it’s hard to know for sure without actually being able to play the machine.

 

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I just can’t say how much I enjoyed this museum, and I certainly consider it that, even if the collection isn’t your typical fare. I swung between being overwhelmed with nostalgia and being completely pulled into discovering older machines from before my time and seeing how they worked. My favourite of these by far was the shooting gallery machines from the 1960’s. It was also interesting to see the information cards on all the machines, as you could read the dates the individual machines were manufactured. Many of them I would have pegged as being firmly from the 1970’s were actually from the 1990’s, which just adds credence to my theory that pinball artwork has changed little over the years (the themes do change, but the artwork certainly doesn’t). I imagine this consistent style of artwork adds to one’s feeling of nostalgia.

 

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I have to apologise for the quality of the photos, but I only took them with my iPhone and then quickly ran them through Pixlr. They aren’t the best, but they certainly work. Even with a proper camera, I think it would be a hard place to photograph due to most of the light coming from pinball machines. Barring all of this, if you look closely at the photo above, at the shooting gallery on the left, you will see a small shiny object in the middle and at the back. This is a small metal bear (I think all the targets were tin) that popped up for extra points. I had the most fun trying to shoot this. The game was great because it used real “bullets”. These bullets were small metal bearings that were fired out of the gun by air. The air level seemed to fluctuate, and this made aiming that much more of a challenge.

The following pinball machine wins my dual award for best geographically relelvant/most historically inaccurate game. It was also listed as a tournament machine the day I visited, and I wasn’t going to cheekily play two of them in one night, even if I was rather tempted to.

 

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The award for most interesting game concept goes to the machine you see below. My wife remembers these from Balaton when she was younger. I can certainly imagine people enjoying langos and Soproni beer while watching the game play out in flashes of quick moving colour after a day of swimming in the lake. This is a football game, and it works with a ball controller and air blast (as far as my non-expert eye could see). The ball entered the playing field from the left of the photo and was blown out by air. It landed randomly in one of the cups. The players then had to use the ball controller to move their colour of light (pink of my side) to the cup first. If they did, they were able to use the buttons to use a blast of air to “kick” the ball towards the opponent’s goal. I found it absolutely fascinating, and even enjoyed a one player game of sorts as I didn’t have anyone to play against. Apart from an opponent, lake air, langos and Soproni were also lacking.

 

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On a side note, my 3 year old son recently learned about Guns N’ Roses. I was reminded of him singing the chorus of Paradise City when I saw the following machine.

 

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This game was interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game with a light that reads ‘Coma’ before, but it was the 1980’s after all.

Sadly, the tax authority has decided this is a gamgling establishment. I don’t see it, but the recent tax bill that was handed to them is beyond their means, and they are closing sometime in June. I only hope that the resourcefulness of the Hungarians will find a way to get around this hefty fine. It really is a collection to see. You can enjoy a game of Space Invaders, classic pinball machines, early versions of bowling machines and a whole range of other games. Enjoy it while you can. The best part is that it’s very near the Street & River apartment. You’ve only got about a 15 minute walk at most and you are able to enter a world of flashing lights, bells and buzzers.

 

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The Other (Closer) Statue Park

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

A good number of visitors to Budapest visit Memento Park just outside of Budapest. For a westerner, these preserved examples of Communist era statues can be quite fascinating. However, there is another statue park much nearer to the city centre, and for me at least, nearly as fascinating. These statues express some common Communist themes, but some of them are more generally sports related for the obvious reasons (see below).

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I don’t know if this park has an official name, and it possibly doesn’t, as it is actually a jogging track and sports field that runs around and between the statues respectively. It is situated very near the Puskás Ferenc Stadium metro stop, between the Puskás Ferenc Stadium and the Papp László Sports Arena. It is well maintained and really something to see. I recommend making the trip on a sunny day in during spring or summer. My son and I often go here for a walk, and there are almost always a number of joggers making their way around the track. We have even run into a large group playing Ingress. I spoke to one of the Ingress players, and they admitted that even though they lived somewhat nearby, they had never know about the statues, jogging track of sports field (this is not a comment about the general interests or knowledge of your average Ingress player).

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I should stress that this area is free of charge, and that there is even on-site parking. I highly recommended this trip just outside the city centre of Budapest, not far from the Keleti (Eastern) Train Station, especially in light of the fact that you can combine it with a few other nearby destinations that worth a visit as well.

 

*This site tends to be inaccessible if there are events going on at either the stadium or arena.

B9 to F4

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Our most recently departed guests from Street & River was a British bicyclist named Richard. He was planning on bicycling from England to Japan. When we welcomed Richard to Street & River and had a chat with him, he explained that his plans have somewhat changed after talking to a number of cyclists on his journey so far. The plan is now to make it to Mongolia or somewhere in China. We were glad to host Richard and his girlfriend (who joined him for a city break in Budapest). If you would like to keep up with his future journeys and find out where he finally winds up, see following blog.

 

He told us that it took 2 1/2 months to bike from England to Budapest. We can’t say it’s our style of travel, but we wish him the best of luck!

Pirog Heaven

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Why did the chicken cross the road? I honestly don’t know, although some people in Texas claim it’s because the chicken wanted to show the armadillo it could be done.

Why did the couple living in Budapest drive to a strange corner of the city and eat food in the parking lot of a Lidl while not really admiring the view of the surrounding cityscape? I’ll show you why….

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I don’t know the history of the word in the English language, but I do know that these things are damn good. I call them piroges. My wife, who I trust more in these matters and only speaks English as a second language, calls them pirogs. They can be found in a number of places, some of which include the Balkans, Sweden and Russia. They also come in many different forms.

To add to my confusion, this was at the top of the Wikipedia page:

This article is about the Eastern Slavic pie. For the Eastern Slavic fried buns, see Pirozhki. For the Polish and Ukrainian semicircular dumplings, see Pierogi. For the village in Poland, see Piróg. For the boat, see Pirogue.

Whatever the case, this little food truck turns out some of the best pirogs money can buy….in Budapest at least. To jump forward, as we were leaving, we spotted a now closed Uzbekistan/Azerbaijan  restaurant. My wife suddenly clicked that this corner of the city used to contain the army barracks for the Soviet soldiers during the Cold War and their occupation of Hungary. When the Soviets up and left, some of the Russian families must have stayed behind. They have now assimilated and speak impeccable Hungarian. Thankfully, their assimilation has not included losing their food traditions. I still wonder what in the world you would order at an Uzbekistan/Azerbaijan  restaurant, but I do now have some inkling as to what you order at a pirog food truck.

I, being the American I am, had to order something called the Balkans burger. This was definitely not a pirog. It was definitely the size of my head, and somewhat popular, as the two guys who ordered after me got one each as well. I ordered mine spicy. It was a nice call. They had a few bottled hot sauces, but they offered me a homemade version of Sriracha which they warned my wife was slightly akin to rat poison. I took a pass on that. I wanted to enjoy my meal.

After devouring the deliciousness of the Balkans burger, I joined my wife in consuming fantastic pirogs! I don’t  know about the standard pirog, but the ones at this place were prepared just about perfectly. They are fried, but they weren’t overdone or greasy, and the cooks added crunchy vegetable garnish after they were done. This was a nice touch, as the garnish remained fresh, crispy and crunchy.  We had both meaty ones and chocolate ones, and I have to recommend them both. The Balkans burger is optional, but I did enjoy it. I would recommend saving room for an additional pirog instead of having the burger.

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Again, the surrounding beauty is lacking, but it doesn’t stop all the tall, lanky, overdressed girls who drive from Buda in their tiny cars from swinging into the Lidl parking lot and enjoying some of the best fast food to be found in Budapest. It will never be the most beautiful garden patio you’ll ever see, but it really doesn’t matter, and the deliciousness of the pirogs have you imaging yourself in a picturesque Russian landscape.

The only real problem is that it is really outside of the typical tourist area. It would be quite a feat to get there with little knowledge of the Budapest suburbs, but I imagine a good GPS or map would do the job, or you could let us know in advance you want to go and we could talk about getting you out there.

It’s worth the trip.

Let’s Segue to Segways

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

This is Bernadett.

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She is a segway trainer and tour guide for Yellow Zebra in Budapest. As I discovered, never having the chance before to ride one of the devices that at rare times are deadly, it is incredibly intuitive. You kind of don’t need a trainer as such, at least not one for more than 15 minutes. After those first few minutes of practice and brief instruction, Bernadett takes on the role of tour guide and segway pack leader.

I only went on the tour because my friend David won two free tickets for the tour from his insurance provider. If you don’t have a friend like David, the tour will set you back 18,000 Hungarian forints. This is roughly about $82.00, £48.00 or 60.00 for a two hour tour.

The tour information for me wasn’t the best, but then again, I live here, so a story like the missing tongues of the chain bridge lions isn’t anything I haven’t heard before. I simply enjoyed tooling around Pest (we wisely avoided the hills of Buda). I can’t fault the tour completely, as I did learn a few new things. For one, the statue of Ronald Reagan at Liberty Square is oddly walking towards the only remaining monument erected by the then ruling Soviet Union. Here’s me and Ron going to enjoy the sights of the once glorious USSR.

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As for the actual itinerary, it went like this.

Yellow Zebra to the Hungarian State Opera House (super short as they are located right behind the Opera House). It was a bit hard to hear our guide here as we were basically on Andrássy út. I also couldn’t pay attention because I was in the mood for a ride that would last longer than the two minutes it took to get from Yellow Zebra to the front of the Opera House. At least we got to cross the street. I did enjoy that.

Opera House to the Budapest Synagogue and the Jewish quarter. I had never been up close to the synagogue and it lovelier than expected. I am now planning a tour of the synagogue itself. On the segway tour, you get the chance to see the Holocaust memorial, but only through a fence. I can attest that the grounds around the memorial and the synagogue itself are lovely. After a short leg rest here, Bernadett kindly turned the speed governor off on our segways. This significantly increased my desire to speed away from the group at top speed.

Synagogue to Vörösmarty square. This seemed like a bit of an odd stop as it is largely a shopping district, but it has an interesting and lovely statue at its center of the gentleman whom the square is named after. It also is looked over by the rather lovely Café Gerbeaud. This building is stunning from the outside, and I am told it is equally stunning from the inside. It has been well cared for since 1995 by a German businessman.

Vörösmarty square to the Danube Promenade. Here we took another short break from standing on the segways. Even though they are amazingly easy to maneuver, they do make your legs ache a bit, and walking feels unnatural after riding them for a while. We had a chance to look at Gellért Hill and talk about the city’s many famous baths. This talk once again covered a grisly death, although it wasn’t a suicide for once. Instead, it was someone being rolled down Gellért Hill in a barrel.

Danube Promenade to the Chain Bridge to talk about the lions. I have to point out that as of writing this, I have heard three versions of the story about the lions. I won’t go into detail here, but I’m not sure anyone knows the actual story, and most of the Hungarians I know seem to tell the story that involves suicide. I am sure the truth is out there somewhere, suicide or not (I should state here that Hungarians in general seem to love a good story about suicide – a lot of the more famous poets have taken their own lives). We also had a brief talk about the Hungarian Academy of Sciences which is next to the Chain Bridge.

Then to Parliament square. In Hungarian, this is known as Kossuth Lajos tér. I just now remembered that we were given a task at the Academy of Sciences to think of famous Hungarians besides the inventor of the Rubik’s Cube. That would be Ernő Rubik by the way. We oddly never got around to discussing this at the Hungarian Parliament, even though this was our task. Well, there are many famous and infamous Hungarians, but that is another blog post, and apparently another tour as well. I did learn a bit about the buildings around the square, so this part of the tour felt quite worthwhile. It was also nice to consider that our lovely flat was just a short segway ride away.

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Then to Liberty Square to see Ron. This is a lovely square (including the fountain below). I mostly know it from the fact it has a great playground that my son really enjoys and the U.S. Embassy sits just off of it.

This awesome fountain below was one I had recently visited with my son just a week or so before. I did learn something new here, and that was the fountains stop if you stand in front of them, on a segway or otherwise. I had thought it random on the previous visit. Another note from the previous visit was that my son was enjoying himself immensely, sans shirt. A woman with a professional (media grade) camera was taking photos of him being his adorable self. My wife and I both thought this meant he might make the papers or some local magazine. He might have, but due to some difficulty in getting a shot and the fact he fell down after five minutes and wound up in tears, his moment in the spotlight had to wait. Notice us segway riders hogging the inside of the fountain area. Kids be damned!

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Liberty Square to St. Stephen’s Basilica to talk about bones and how tall things are in meters. There was some strange comment here about the matching heights of the Basilica and the Parliament, but I can’t verify this or agree with the sentiment expressed by our tour guide. You’ll just have to go for yourself if you want to hear that one. I did find out one interesting fact though. I knew they had the right hand of Stephen, but I never knew they apparently have the left leg of Puskás Ferenc. Actually, they have his whole body. He was interned there, but Hungarian apparently joke that there are two holy relics at the Basilica; the right hand of Stephen and the left leg of Puskás Ferenc. I should note that this was interesting to me because I pass the sports stadium named after him on a daily basis (Ferenc, not Stephen).

This was sadly our last stop before we returned to headquarters. It was about 10 minutes or so to get back, so there was at least some whizzing around left to do.

I can’t knock the tour. It hit all the right spots and gave a lot of pertinent information. It’s just that I have heard a lot of it before due to the fact that I live here now. For me, this was mostly about the segway ride and the beauty of Budapest. Overall, I highly recommend it, whether you are just visiting or want something a little different to do for a about two hours.

*All photos were taken by David, or Bernadett with David’s camera.

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