No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Palinka Festival

October 6, 2013

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Palinka Festival

When I travel, I like to keep very active and try and see as much as possible. I tend not to rest a whole lot, Kathy likes to take some time to relax while traveling and thus occasionally I end up going out on my own to explore while Kathy relaxes. On this trip, one afternoon I had some time and decided to walk from our hotel, across the Chain bridge and up the Castle Hill to spend some more time exploring that area.

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I had no real destination in mind, just to check out the Castle District and Buda Castle which is the historical home of Hungarian Kings dating back to its construction in 1265. Of course it has been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times, but remains an incredible example of much of Hungary’s history. 

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When I finally made it to the top of the hill, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the area around the castle was hosting an annual festival celebrating what is probably the national drink of Hungary, Palinka.  I have been to a number of beer festivals, wine festivals and even a whiskey festival, but never to a Palinka Festival. Actually it was a Palinka and Sausage festival as there was also a large selection of traditional Hungarian sausage.

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There were probably 40 booths featuring manufacturers sampling the latest vintage palinka. Palinka is a traditional fruit brandy in the countries of the Carpathian Basin, known under several names, and invented in the Middle Ages. Only fruit spirits distilled from a mash of ripe fruits produced in Hungary, mashed, distilled, matured and bottled locally can be called palinka. Fruit spirits made from concentrates, semi-dried or dried fruit cannot legally be called palinka.

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There was also a number of sausage stands which featured homemade products, such as Gyulai and Csabai kolbász sausage, which was pretty damn tasty. In addition the festival welcomes an honored guest country and their traditional drink and this year, Cuba was the country that was being honored so there was an entire pavilion dedicated to Rum including the wonderful Havana Club Rum, probably the best known Cuban Rum.

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Palinka is made from just about any type of fruit including apricot, plum, orange, cherry and more and is strong, harsh at first but also delicious if made correctly and most of these were top notch. There was also first class entertainment as some of the top bands in Hungary performed at the festival. The band that was playing while I was there was really good, sort of a folk-rock ensemble called Zombori. I could not understand what they were singing, but I still enjoyed the music. I have included a youtube video of them so you can get an idea of their work.


I also managed to go to the Marzipan museum on castle hill, a small museum dedicated to the sugary confection where some amazing marzipan works of art could be seen and where I was able to buy some smaller examples of the tasty treats. And speaking of tasty treats, after returning to the hotel, we took Marta out to eat at the famous Gerbeaud. Gerbeaud has been a confectioner in Budapest since 1858 and is one of the best and most famous coffeehouses in all of Europe.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

To Market

October 5, 2014

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To Market

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One of the coolest things to do in Budapest is to spend a few hours in the huge Central Market. Kathy and I visited it twice during our visit to Hungary and probably could have spent even more time there if we had the opportunity, in fact we tried to visit a third time with Marta and Michele, but it happened to be after the 3 PM Saturday closing time and we unfortunately missed out.

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The Great Market Hall is located just on the Pest side of the Danube at the Liberty Bridge, it is the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest and was first opened in 1897. The market is at the end of the famous pedestrian walking street Vaci Ut and it attracts thousands of ordinary citizens and tourists alike each day.

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The market offers a huge variety of stalls on three floors. The entrance gate is in the neogothic style and when the roof was restored in 1991 a distinctive architectural feature of Zsolnay tiling was added. The building is 10,000 square meters, which is covered by steel structure that towers over the three levels of stalls. During the World Wars it was completely damaged and then closed for some years. Throughout the 1990s restoration works brought back the market to its ancient splendor. Te building was awarded with FIABCI Prix d’Excellence in 1999. The Central Market Hall is one of the most popular tourist attractions of the city.

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Most of the stalls on the ground floor offer produce, meats, pastries, candies, spices, and spirits such as paprika, tokaji, palinka, túró rudi, and caviar. The second floor has mainly eateries and souvenirs. Kathy and I made a visit to the lángos stand, which famed travel writer Rick Steves considers to be the best at the market. The deep-fried snack lángos is something like an elephant ear except they add all manner of sweet or savory toppings, creating unique and yummy treats.

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The basement contains a supermarket, fish market, and pickles. Not only do they have traditional cucumber pickles, but they also offer pickled cauliflower, cabbage, beets, tomatoes, and garlic. We spent a lot of time perusing the second level and the many souvenir vendors and had great visits to the Market.
Another place we visited on more than one occasion is the beautiful St. Stephen’s Basilica. The second tallest building in Budapest ( Budapest has a regulation limiting buildings from being any taller than 96 meters – which is the height of both the Basilica and the Parliament building), the Basilica is a popular tourist attraction and yet still an active church of the Roman Catholic faith.

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Even though we are not particularly religious, one cannot help but to be impressed by the building both inside and out. The building actually contains the religious relic of St. Stephen who was the first king of Hungary as his supposedly incorruptible right hand can still be seen in a special display case in the church.

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We enjoyed a delightful dinner all together at Rezkakas restaurant near the Basilica and enjoyed the live gypsy band that once again had Marta singing along to old Hungarian standards. It was quite a lively evening as we enjoyed the yummy and strong Hungarian “digestif” liquor Palinka.

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