Up until the mid-sixteenth century, thermal weapons were all the go. The objective was simple: inflict maximum damage by scalding or burning. Hot water and sand. Perfect. Hot animal fat. Even better. Nowadays, especially in Hungary, the smell of boiling fat is synonymous with festivals.
In a country where vegetarian menus often feature dishes with bacon (which hasn’t yet been given full meat status here) and vegetable soups are often made with chicken stock, meat reigns supreme.
At the Budafoki Pezsgő és Borfesztivál (the Budafok Wine and Champagne Festival) last weekend, the smells were enticing. I was particularly impressed with the sight of a full cow carcass on a spit. Beef is a luxury here in BP and it’s hard to find good stuff for anything less than exorbitant prices. But this simply fell from my fork. Beautifully cooked and a taste to die for.
In Budapest terms, Budafok is District XXII and home to most of the wine makers in the Budapest wine region. The biggest attraction at the festival by far is Törley. It opens its doors to the public this time every year, giving tours of the cellars and selling some of its harder-to-find champagnes.The rather clever exhibition hall includes a massive walk-through bottle of champagne. Out in the courtyard, jazz bands keep the punters amused while the reasonable prices for 1dl of champers gives the guzzlers a chance to sample the fuller menu.
Hitting the main street, stalls stretch far into the distance with 13 wine cellars and dozens of booths offering all sorts in the line of craft-ware and odd-ware. It’s the first time I’ve seen Pivní Kosmetika (beer cosmetics) and can’t for the life of me imagine rubbing Carlsberg onto my face. It seems to be a Czech concept and I wonder if it will ever catch on here in Hungary.
This was the festival’s 23rd year and my 3rd. It’s the first time I stayed into the evening and really got to see what it’s all about. It’s a very local gig – and with tourists (foreigners) few and far between, they were quick to adopt the three of us. I laughed so hard that I cried. Between us, with what Hungarian we could muster, we did okay (Wales definitely took home the cup for Best in Hungarian).
Budafok seems to have its own measure of measures with 1dl differing quite dramatically between the various stalls. As one blogger put it: ‘Here you still find wine makers who give you more than 1dl of wine just because they are proud of their product and not because they need to make the most money out of their stock.’ Others must be extracting vengeance on whoever left them in charge. It’s a regular fixture on my calendar now and I’ll definitely be going back again next year.