Why I love living in Budapest No. 6

IMG_3769There’s shopping. And then there’s shopping. And then there’s Ecseri and Petőfi and Keleti and the other flea markets in Budapest, each one better than the next. Like people, each market has its mood and like people, each market has its good days and its bad days. Sometimes you’re both in sync and spending a couple of hours wandering the stalls is like being with someone whose company you really enjoy. Other days, you may as well be at each other’s throats! There are too many people, everyone’s in a  bad mood, there’s nothing remotely interesting to see (no, that’s not true… there is always something interesting, it’s just a matter of having the patience to look for it).

My favourite is Ecseri. It’s a hike… about 30 mins from the flat via metro 3 to Ecseri ut and then bus 84E or 195E to the market.  I’ve only recently discovered the fleamarket bit (like a carboot sale at home). People load up their cars and vans and trucks and then park them just beside the actual market. The only trouble is that you need to be there early as by 9am they’ve all pretty  much sold out and gone back home. There are temporary stalls at the back and then the more solid ones in the middle which now have a roof so that you can wander out of the rain. You can buy everything from old-fashioned porn to gramaphones, from walking sticks to suites of furniture. It’s a great place to bring a camera for unlike many of the markets in BP, you can actually take photos without risking life and limb. PM got a classic of three violins next to a heap of vintage porn mags! Talk about crosscultural! And the food!!! There’s something magical about a coffee in the market in winter – huddling against the rain or cold trying to get some feeling back into your fingers – while around you, people go about their business, buying, selling, making the world go around!

IMG_3764I lucked out on Saturday and found a wonderful antique tablecloth for my art deco table. Unfortunately, I went to buy chairs and lights… but no joy. Ah well, there’s always next week! My favourite furniture shop there has now opened a shop in town and has gone upmarket! And lovely lads that they are, they’re on the lookout for some chairs for me. It becomes quite the challenge, shopping for stuff. You spread the word and then soon, everyone is on the lookout for what you want – like a community spend! The thrill is in finding exactly what someone wants. I’ve sent texts and had texts about something somewhere that would suit someplace… I’ve just seen X and it would be just perfect for Y…. love it!

For a Sunday morning stroll though, a little more central, is the great Petőfi Csarnok up in City Park. It’s smaller and hasn’t much in the line of furniture but you can still find textiles, statues, lamps, pictures, and washing powder! It sells all sorts! And the journey in itself is worth it. Metro 1 to  Szechenyi (M1 is the oldest metro in continental Europe and still has the leather straps to hold on to!) and then a short walk through the park, past the palaces, and stopping to touch the statue of Anonymous for luck! In winter, you can help yourself to a glass of hot wine;  in summer, a fruit lemonade. My favourite there is a man in his eighties who is selling off his own pen and ink etchings. For a song! I have two of his nudes on my bedroom wall and a monk librarian in my hallway. He’s a dote.

IMG_3768If you’re feeling particularly brave and ready to take on the world, then Keleti market (M2 or the No. 7 bus)  is the place for you. The aisles are narrow and the crowd is large and everyone seems to have a little bit of an attitude going on. I have it on good authority that it has its good days…and I’ve not yet written it off. Mind you, the morning I was there it didn’t do anything to warm the cockles of my weary heart. But never say never. We all have our bad days, and it’s worth trying again. Likewise with the Four Tigers Chinese market. Not one to visit if you’re in any way claustrophic. It’s a maze of stalls, all selling the same tat. But the food… that’s supposed to be out of this world, if you can find it! I know people who go there for lunch! I’ve been there a couple of times and have to fess up to panicking slightly. Too much for me. I have visions of disappearing into the hold and not surfacing for months.

Nope, I think I’ll start setting the alarm a little earlier on Saturday mornings and heading to Ecseri… that’s where the action is!

Why I love living in Budapest No. 9

IMG_3803In victory deserve it; in defeat need it. So said Winston Churchill of the great elixir that is champagne. Mind you, he had a thing for the Pol Roger heiress so maybe his love of the nectar was a little suspect. Still, he is supposed to have started his day with a glass of champers and that’s a habit I could willingly fall into. If I had my druthers and could find the heir to the Törley throne, I’d quite happily end my days personifying Churchill’s abhorrence of exercise. You have to love  man who reckons you should ‘never run when you can walk, never stand when you can sit, and never sit when you can lie down!’

Since arriving in Budapest, I’ve been a great fan of Hungaria Dry. The very sight of that blue foil cap makes me weak at the knees;  I find the sound of a champagne cork popping positively orgasmic (and let’s leave Freud at home with his knitting!)

But what I didn’t know was that Törley makes Hungaria Dry! I’ve been so busy drinking it that I never took the time to read the writing! It’s a long and complicated story that spans more than a hundred years. Back in 1882, old Joszef Törley reckoned he’d made something ‘far superior’ to champagne… And I for one would have to agree. Now, I’m not for a minute saying that I’d ever refuse a glass of Dom P. It’s quite lovely. But wasn’t it Warren Buffet who said that price is what you pay, value is what you get? and spending a small fortune on a labelled champagne has always struck me as a rather silly thing to do. But, if it ain’t my money, who am I to argue?

IMG_3808On Saturday, thanks to a very generous invitation from the lovely HE to join her at the 20th Budafok wine festival, I had the rare opportunity to have a guided tour of Törley (it opens to the public one weekend a year) and it was there, at the tasting, that I discovered that not alone does Hungary produce the very palatable Hungaria Dry, it also has about 15 other perfectly respectable sparkling wines. La Method Traditionale is alive and well. I was in hog heaven. Serenaded by the sound of popping corks, clinking glasses, and that ever so subtle rush of bubbles…paradise. And that’s not even mentioning Törleycastle! I had a hard time dragging myself away from that particular fantasy!

I had no idea that sparkling wine took so long to make. And the detail: turning the bottles at 30 degree angles over 18 months, by hand, and then icing the necks to extract the yeast, and picking the most acidic grapes to begin with! A far cry from adding some carbon to a bottle of white! Had I to start life all over again, I’d seriously consider a careers as a champagne master!

That afternoon, we wandered the streets of Budafok with our wine glasses, stopping at various pincek (cellars) to sample what they had on offer. It’s all a bit of a blur really. I had two boxes of soapflakes made from goats milk in my bag when I got home, along with the four bottles of bubbles I just had to buy! (De Wimmen are coming over in October and with them, it always pays to be prepared! )

Hungarian wine doesn’t get the global credit it deserves. And while up to now, I’d have rated my sparking wines in the following order: prossecco (Italy), cava (Spain) and then champagne (France), I’ve had to revise the list to put Törley at the top. Ah, the Chardonnay Brut is to die for! So, not alone have I discovered the joys of Nyakas (a relative newcomer to the Hungarian wine scene), I have now experienced the sublimest (and yes, it is a real word) taste of all…  Francois President!  I love this city!