Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gourmet Tour of Budapest

Perhaps overstated but cute nonetheless, the tour was organized by what looked very much like a student co-op located behind the old Opera House.  They sold second-hand English books, rented bikes and organized tours on foot, Segway or by bus.  Their tiny office even boasted a wine cellar.  They were bright, energetic, patient and very knowledgeable about their country.  We certainly felt we got our money's worth.  They even gave us a calendar full of delicious Hungarian recipes!

Slogging through near 40C heat, we disembarked from our ship for the last time and took a cab (10E) to our apartment, located by the Elizabeth bridge, facing the Danube.  Our particular unit faces a courtyard but is perfectly adequate, even boasting an elevator (dating from the 19th century) though sadly, it lacks air-conditioning.

After a briefing on the unit and its formidable security doors and their five locks, we headed off for our rendezvous with the tour guide at the steps of the Lutheran Church in Deak Square, on foot .  The heat was so intense that the city had set up cooling stations for pedestrians, with cups of water and fans blowing refreshing mist about.

After some minor confusion, we found our guide.  Another couple was scheduled to join the tour but they didn't show, so we had Barbie's undivided attention for the next three hours.  She told us in excellent English that she was a student studying International Relations and guiding tours on the side. Then she led us through the heat (back the way we'd come) to the main shopping street and down it to the central market, a massive building housing innumerable stores and stalls. There we ran into two fellow cruisers from BC who were exploring the city too.   After an explanation of the varieties of cheeses and sausages available, we sampled a strudel stuffed with sweet cottage cheese (graciously paid for by Barbie; we had no local currency) and caught the tram back to Elizabeth Square. From there, we walked to the ornate Opera House and the tour operator's office where we descended into the cool cellar for tasting and commentary on 5 of Hungary's large selection of wines, two delightful whites, two reds (including the famous Bull's Blood) and a 3 basket Toqai (their sweetness is described by the number of baskets of grapes it takes to make a bottle, with 5 being the sweetest).

Back out into the heat and around the corner to a traditional pub for a huge bowl of Goulash and refreshing beverage.  There, our three-hour tour ended as Barbie had another group to see to, so we toddled off to an ATM and withdrew some Florins (270 to the Euro).  Finally we collapsed into a cab and went home (3400 Florins) to do some laundry.

Our apartment's inner courtyard

LR, BR, Loft

We meet our great guide Barbie on the steps of the  Lutheran Church

Central Market building

Interior, Central Market

Antique Limo

Ornate opera house lobby

Wine tasting at the Tour's own cellar

Athens tomorrow!

1 comment:

  1. ...Barbie has a nice smile..... :-)

    City looks very nice, too!

    Cheers and Love,