When we set our sights on Budapest for a New Year's trip, I'm ashamed to say I didn't know much about the city, or Hungary for that matter, at all. Upon visiting I was pleasantly surprised to find that the city has a vibrant history and offers so much to travelers looking to learn how modern day Budapest came to be.
One of Hungary's most popular figures is Saint Stephen, the first king of Hungary, who ruled at the beginning of the 2nd century AD. As the first devoutly Christian ruler of Hungary, he spread the faith throughout the lands and experienced a relatively peaceful reign. Today he is commemorated in Budapest with the city's largest church, St. Stephen's Basilica. This church is a great stop for visitors not only for the impressive interior, but for the view of the city you can get from the cupola. And if you like relics, the church also boasts Saint Stephen's mummified right hand! If you happen to visit around Christmas time, you can stroll through the Christmas Market located right behind the church in Szt. István Square. This was actually one of my favorite Christmas markets because it had lots of original vendors and funky food trucks.
Did you know that Budapest actually used to be two separate cities, Buda and Pest? The two cities sat on opposite sides of the Danube river, but were unified in the 19th century. Buda was the capital of Hungary in the middle ages and is home to many historic landmarks, such as Buda Castle and the Citadella. Pest, although it still dates from the medieval times, is home to more modern sites, such as the Parliament building and thermal baths. Due to the historic treasures on both sides of the Danube, Budapest is a UNESCO World Heritage site. To get the best of both worlds, take a stroll along the Danube so you can look out across the river at the cityscape of the opposite side, then cross one of the bridges so you can do the same on the other side. You might want to do this around sunset for even better views.
My favorite part of the Budapest trip was visiting the House of Terror. The museum is located in the former headquarters of the Arrow Cross Party, the Hungarian fascist party from World War II. The museum tells the story of a country caught between two ideologies, the fascists from the west in Germany, and the communists from the east in Russia. Unfortunately for the Hungarian people, both sides ruled the nation and did so by terror and fear. Part of the tour includes visiting the former basement prison where the Arrow Cross Party would interrogate, torture, and kill prisoners. While the content of the museum is not pleasant, it is a big eye opener into what life in Hungary was like between World War II and the fall of the Soviet Union. Information in the museum is posted in Hungarian, but information sheets in English are available in each room. You can also get an audio guide if you prefer to listen to the information. See the House of Terror website for further information. If you don't have time to visit the entire museum, there are a series of panels outside that detail the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, which is quite interesting, as well.
Budapest is a wonderful city for history lovers, and I hope you'll consider a visit to the Heart of Europe.
In Hungary the currency is called the forint, and 1 forint equals .033€. So don't be shocked when you see prices in the thousands. If something costs 6000 forint, it's under 7€! Vendors will usually still accept euro as a form of payment, but will give you forint back as change.
As I mentioned above, Budapest actually used to be two separate cities, so there is a lot of ground to cover to see all the sites. Comfortable shoes are a must, and if it's winter make sure they are warm. The metro is simple to use, with a flat rate of 350 florint (just over 1€) for a one way ride. For more information on public transportation, see the Centre for Budapest Transport website.
Try the goulash. This meal actually originated in Hungary, but naturally spread to other European countries over time. You can find it served in almost every restaurant, but each place will have it's own unique take on it. Just like you can't go to France and not have a croissant, you can't go to Hungary and not have goulash!
Kristin is an ordinary girl with an extraordinary love of fashion. She says, "I don’t have an extraordinary budget, but I still believe that you can look amazing, feel confident, and enjoy fashion without breaking the bank." Countdown to Friday is about sharing her style journey, and as an American currently living in Germany, sharing her travel adventures and tips. Why the name Countdown to Friday? "Well, I measure the work week by outfits and look forward to traveling on the weekend, hence I’m always counting down to Friday!" Website: https://countdowntofridayblog.com Email Kristin at email@example.com
I LOVE BREAD! I really do… I know I sound like Oprah, but it’s true. I’m not picky, I love all kinds of pastries: breads, rolls, cakes, croissants, and the list goes on. If you are like me and thought when you got orders to come to Germany you had died and gone to “BAKERY” heaven only to get here and fumble at the counter, have faith this article is for you. I will be happy to share my “goof-ups” that turned into me becoming a master!
Counting the German-way Germans use their thumb as the number “1.” Unlike us in the states, where we use our index finger, Germans use their thumb as only one, bitte (please). So, if you are like me and asked for two items with your fingers instead of your thumb and index finger, chances are you confused the clerk or you would receive three of the item.
Mohn? What? Okay, Mohn is NOT chocolate! I repeat, not CHOCOLATE. If you head to the counter and see a lovely streusel like donut/pastry that appears to have a chocolate stripe running through it ask politely if it is “Mohn.” Mohn is a spice that is made from crushed poppy seed. I have found it is an acquired taste. I like it well enough now, still not my favorite, but my German friends love this and make several pastries from it.
Brötchen (rolls) These beautiful little rolls are usually made fresh every day in the local bakeries. They are great Würst holders at fest, quick sandwich rolls for lunch and found every day on German tables around the country. They range between €.20 to €.50 and come in various forms. Sandwiches at the counter made in Brötchen are “Beiliges.” They often come with salami, cheese or vegetarian. I have found each bakery has a different assortment of these and are great pick-ups for when you are in a hurry as they are typically under €3 too. Want a loaf of bread, but are intimated by a “whole” un-cut loaf? That’s okay, ask for it to be “Schneiden” (schneeden) sliced, they have a little machine that will slice it for you.
Berliners These puffed doughnuts filled with strawberry jelly, made famous after JFK’s visit in the 60s, are a favorite among our American community. I love seeing families scoot to the front to get half a dozen or more to share with visitors. Fun!
Butter Brezels (Butter Pretzels) If you haven’t tried a “Butter Brezel” (pronounced booter, bretzel) yet, you’re missing out I tell you. This is where they take a browned, large pretzel twist, slice it horizontally and smear it with butter. Just lovely!
CAKE - can’t forget cake! The cakes in Germany are richer and not as sweet as they are in the States. That’s why having them mid-day with a cappuccino or coffee is delightful. They come in all different shapes and sizes.
Don’t be afraid to test them out, I haven’t had a bad one yet. The bakeries in Germany are amazing and will keep you wondering what tomorrow’s beautiful creations will be. In the meantime, “Guten Appetit!”
Spring, to me, means Keukenhof. It’s become a bit of an annual pilgrimage for our family to travel to the Netherlands and experience the beauty of the Dutch flowers. During a long, dreary English winter I look forward for months to a visit to this seasonal park. Each year they choose a different theme for their displays with the most dramatic being the large outdoor mosaic made entirely of tulips. This year the theme is “The Golden Age,” celebrating the era in which Holland became a wealthy nation.
Kids and adults love Keukenhof! There are two large playgrounds, including one inspired by the Netherlands’ favourite bunny, Miffy. The centre of the park houses a petting farm. Upon entering, pick up a children’s treasure hunt to keep them busy. There are also giant shoes to stand in, a pathway of stepping stones across the water, a maze, a boat ride, pancakes and more! For adults, there are 800 varieties of tulips to discover (among many other flowers), history exhibits, sculpture exhibits, and more. Personally, I love to wander through the park on a sunny day, visit the greenhouses to explore the tulip varieties and stop for a fresh waffle from the stand next the the Mill.
The real trick is in timing your visit just right to catch the park in full bloom, plus the blooming of all the fields in the surrounding area. We have yet to get it just right, but I’m hopeful for this year! The park is only open from late-March to mid-May, so if you have the Netherlands on your list of places to travel I highly recommend planing your visit during that time.
There’s no shortage of fabulous spots to have tea in London. From the ultimate, ultra-pricey Ritz, to the traditions of Selfridges, to a room with a view at the National Gallery, you can have your pick of teas in any price range.
But if you’re looking for unique setting and a great introduction to London, there’s nothing better than the Afternoon Tea Bus. It’s a vintage Routemaster bus (that’s an old-school, red, double-decker to those of you not familiar with your London transport) that the lovely folks at BB Bakery in Covent Garden have converted to a moving tea shop. Reservations are a must, and the earlier you make them the more likely you are to get the prime seating on the top floor at the front.
You'll meet your ride on a shady, tree-lined street just off Trafalgar Square. Each table is pre-set with a gorgeous tea tray for each person filled with delicious sandwiches, savory treats and delicate pastries. As you settle in the waiter will come around and take your order of tea. Tea is served in specialty BB cups with silicone lids to avoid any hot beverage lawsuits.
Once the bus is off and running it’s a fairly quiet journey, no tour guides will be talking your ear off. Each table has a booklet detailing the sites that you’ll be passing by. The tables have giant route maps on them. If you’re looking for a lot of information, this wouldn’t be the tour for you. It’s an opportunity for you to get oriented to the city and chat with your traveling companions while someone else does the navigating for a while.
No tea is complete without scones with clotted cream and jam. As you come around the far side of Hyde Park, your friendly waiter will clear the tea trays and bring around the scones, so be sure to save a little bit of room for them.