What a dummy. I didn’t know that Budapest was the merging of the city of Buda and the city of Pest, each separated from each other by the Danube River. This actually happened several years ago, like in 1873. I had always read that Budapest was one of the world’s most beautiful cities, but I was skeptical, mainly because of the sheer size of the city. How could a capital city of almost 2 million people be all that beautiful?
Believe it. It can be and it is.
Beautiful. Really beautiful.
One of the surprises of Budapest was the “Ruin Pubs”. But wait, what the heck is a ruin pub? They are a bar or really a collection of bars in a well, let’s just say an interesting location. Basically, exactly what the name “ruin” implies, a type of place that enjoys a low rent. The decor is well, decor is too strong a word. Decor implies some kind of intent. This is a collection of whatever happened to be donated or picked up. But, they are fun, not at all dangerous or threatening, just kind of eclectic and kind of 60’s grunge. If you were wondering where you could go to relive the wonder years of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury, this is your place. For us, it was fun, just not where we would go for an evening out. But it was great to stop in, have a beer, and admire the decor and the people.
I just loved the name of this restaurant. So bold. So in your face. So chef-like. I know it is not pronounced that way, but great name nonetheless. My vote for restaurant name of the year. I also voted for the old Chevrolet Nova too. Remember that one? Means No Go in Spanish. Both classics.
The Shoes on the River Danube Memorial
On the Pest side of the Danube is this memorial to commemorate the Jews who were forced to take off their shoes at the river’s edge just before they were shot, so that their bodies would fall into the Danube during WWII. A powerful, grim reminder of the horrors of WWII.
Great Market Hall (Central Market Hall)
This is a huge, indoor market that has 3 stories. This is a must see for Budapest with locals doing day to day shopping mingled with tourists. You can buy chess sets to trinkets to clothes and anything in between. If you like shopping, you will love this and plan to spend a couple of hours. Great fun. I had no idea that paprika came in so many varieties and packaging. And I did not know (one more thing!) that Budapest was known for its paprika. I do now.
Deb and I went to see the opera Coppelia at the Hungarian State Opera House in Budapest. We were able to obtain great seats because of the concierge at the Kempinski. This reminded me of one of the reasons why you stay at very good hotels and that is the concierge. This is a good opportunity to mention the international concierge association Les Clefs d’Or.
I have found in a very unscientific sampling, that the very best concierges seem to belong to an international association called Les Clefs d’Or (keys of gold) and pronounced “lay clay door”. Their membership will be very evident by the crossed keys that they wear on their lapel. Anyway, worth mentioning this very fine organization of professionals. Be sure to look for the crossed keys.
Needless to say the concierge at the Kempinski was terrific and a member of the Les Clefs d’Or.
Back to the opera
The Hungarian State Opera House is a beautiful venue: traditional, splendid and magnificent. This, to me, is what an opera house should look like. Even though I usually like contemporary design over traditional, the Hugnarian State Opera House is the gold standard. Full disclosure: I have limited opera experience, having only been to operas in San Francisco and Santa Fe, so keep in mind this is from a guy who loves college football and cheeseburgers. Just so you have some perspective.
Restaurants, Food and more food