Three countries in one day is what it took to get to Budapest – we traveled up through Slovenia to Vienna in Austria and then over to Budapest in Hungary. The 2nd leg of the journey was on one of the Austrian Rail’s OBB Railjet trains, which was very nice. It was basically like being on a plane with TV’s updating you on the speed of the train, how far from Budapest you are, etc.
The journey went fairly quickly, we got on our first train at 8:20am and we ended up arriving at Budapest-Keleti Pu station at around 3pm. The arrival to the station was pretty hectic and it reminded me of being back in Thailand again with people yelling ‘taxi’ at us and asking us if we had accommodation, etc. After trying to scamper away from all of that we finally managed to find the metro to follow the directions for our hostel. We found out that the metro is an awesome way of getting around Budapest as it costs only a Euro per person.
Our hostel (Pal’s Hostel) was fairly easy to find, located very close to the Erzsébet Square which is full of pieces of modern art. We arrived at our hostel and got settled – we were stoked as we were paying 25 Euro a night and the room was awesome, the bathroom and the rest of the hostel were spotless.
So like always the next step was, what to eat?? We headed further into Pest (the districts on either side of the Danube River are called – Buda & Pest) to a café that our hostel had suggested to us and they had given us a 20% off voucher. The Hungarian eatery was called Kiado Kocsma!
It was a quirky little place with a very Turkish feeling interior. We started off with a wine and beer naturally after which I moved onto the Tokaj winecream soup. Very interesting to say the least – it was basically like a cold mulled wine made from sweet white wine with a bunch of raisins in the bottom. I probably wouldn’t be ordering that again! Next up were the mains; Morgan went for the ‘pork medallions fried in potato pasta and garlic sour cream’ and I went for the ‘spicy sour cream marinated chicken breast with vegetable tocsni’. Neither meal looked like the interpretation of the description but we were still rather happy and Morgan still claimed it was the best meal he has had in awhile.
We followed up dinner with a stroll through the streets, picked up a couple of bottles of red for the evening and some yoghurt for breakfast and headed back to the hostel for an early night.
The next day we were determined to see as much of Budapest as possible since we were hoping to do daytrips outside of Budapest the following days. I think we did pretty well as we left the hostel just before 10am and arrived back at something like 7:30pm and we didn’t take the metro once!
We thought we would tackle Pest first after a quick stop at Costa Coffee (Dubai memories!). We strolled up the iconic boulevard, Andrássy Avenue – on the way we saw the Terror House (we didn’t go in due to time constraints but it looks like it would be quite good) as well as passing by the 19th century neo-renaissance mansions ad townhouses that were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site (2002). Once we got to the end, we came across the Heroes’ Square – a sort of memorial of the struggle against the Habsburgs in the 19th century. Behind the square we found the City Park as well as the Vajdahunyad Castle which was built between 1896 and 1908. It is a very pretty castle that has various architectural styles; Romanic, Baroque, Renaissance and Gothic.
Once we were done strolling around the castle grounds we made our way back to the Danube River to have a walk through the Grand Market which sits right on the bank of the River. We then crossed the river via the Liberty Bridge. It was in the district of Buda that we struggled our way up the highest point of downtown Budapest – Gellert Hill. At the top is the Citadella fortress and Liberation Monument. The views were amazing and were worth the 20 minutes of puffing and panting to get there. We wandered around the citadel for a while before heading to Castle Hill – the Buda Castle.
Within the Castle District we saw a 700-year-old church – the Matthias Church with it’s brightly coloured tile roof and pronounced gothic spires. Beside this is the Fisherman’s Bastion which also has great panoramic views of the city. By this time we were absolutely starving, having had only a coffee and yoghurt for breakfast and it was nearing 4pm so of course we did the typical Ewers thing. Ended up walking and walking, not finding anything worthwhile.
We finally found a small bistro at about 4:30pm and sat down for an ice-cold Budapest beer and a sandwich in the castle courtyards.
It was here in the courtyard we saw the statue of the Turul, the mythical guardian bird of Hungary. We were also able to see the neo-Gothic Parliament building across the Danube, which I heard through the grapevine, is based on the Westminster Abbey in England.
Next up we were ready to end our day of sightseeing on a very pleasant note – visiting the Royal House of Wine and Cellar Museum.
It was an awesome experience. For 6 Euro we got to explore down in some 13-19th century wine cellars of the past Hungarian royals. Of course we also tasted some Hungarian wine which was nice. For more details on the Royal House of Wine and Cellar Museum, check out my post by clicking here.
After our wine tasting we headed back across the beautiful Chain Bridge, which was an absolute stunner at night, back to Pest. We were completely gutted after a long day on our feet but we both agree that Budapest is an awesome city and one of our favourites so far. Dinner was pretty unspectacular – a bottle of red and some spicy noodles at the hostel as it was going to be an early one the next day for our day trip out to Eger.
I think our trip to Eger was one of my favourite days. It was about a 2 hour train ride out of Budapest. When we first arrived we headed straight into the village to grab a map from the Tourist Info. The town is pretty small so it wasn’t hard to find our way around the place. We had a quick look in the village before heading out to where the famous Bull’s Blood red wine comes from – The Beautiful Woman Valley. However nearly all the signs in the town either say ‘ The Nice Woman Valley’ or ‘The Lovely Woman Valley’. I have read various versions of the story behind the name of the valley – the best one I have read (sorry I can’t remember the source at the moment) is that Egri Bikavér aka Bulls Blood came about when a beautiful woman from Eger was deemed to be married off to one of the Turk generals. The Turks had seen the Hungarians drinking this deeply coloured red wine that had stained their beards and quite rightly named it Bulls Blood as it gave the men incredible courage and bravery in battle. The beautiful woman took a bottle to the Turk and being of course Muslim, could not handle the alcohol. She was then set free. Trust me there are many versions – it’s quite interesting to read them if you feel like getting your google on.
The Valley is about a 15minute walk from the center – so nothing too drastic and there is treasure at the other end. On our way out to the valley we stopped off for a Hungarian Langos – very similar to the Czech ones, however you have more choice of toppings here. We saw a local family eating ones with sour cream on so we thought we would try one of those. That is after we worked out what ‘sour cream’ is in Hungarian on my Eng-Hun app on the iPhone.
The valley consists of about 200 growers – however there are about 20-30 cellars you can visit in a sort of small loop road. It is really cute as the cellars are carved into several hundred-meter thick rolite tufa – so it’s like going into little caves that sit at around 10-15 degrees Celsius permanently. I think we tried out about 5 cellars, having a glass of Bulls Blood at each. The quality varies dramatically and when we splurged on a more expensive glass we definitely saw the difference.
We ended up buying some to take home, well actually 3 liters! Haha it wasn’t intentional – we tried to buy 1 liter from our favourite one, but could only get 2 liters, so we got that. Then when we were walking out of the valley we came across probably the dingiest one of the day – the old guy was smoking like a train and had a small counter where he was selling 1 liter’s in little plastic barrels. They were so cute we just had to get one, of course after tasting the product!
We had about 20-30 minutes until our trains so we popped into a Csarda restaurant and ordered a pancake ball each. We weren’t sure what we were going to get as I had just briefly read on the Internet about the pancake balls in Eger. So basically it was a coffee-chocolate mixture rolled up in crepes and then covered in custard and chocolate sauce. Absolutely delicious! The best thing is we got to work it off a minute later as we had to half run/half walk to the station to catch our train on time.
We did make it and thankfully we had a lot of refreshments to get us back to Budapest ?
By the time we got back to the city it was about 7pm and we were starving. So we took the metro back to the hostel to drop off our goodies before heading up the road for a good curry with naan. Not very Hungarian but it was good, cheap and easy after a long day. We were buggered by the time we got back home and the next day was going to be an even earlier start.
Day three was another day trip out of Budapest, to you guessed it – another wine region. This time it was Tokaj – the home of the famous sweet wine that basically put Hungary on the wine map. We got up to catch the 7:30am train, which takes 3 hours to get out to the village. By the way Tokaj is also a World Heritage Site. I think the best thing was about 5 minutes before we arrived the train went past all the vines – it was spectacular as dotting around the vines were brightly coloured little matchbox houses. Very cute!
Our day in Tokaj was a pretty quite one, as nearly everything was closed. However we still had a great day strolling the cobbled streets of the village. We did do one tasting at a little wine shop, however not the best quality!
So we decided since the cellars were mostly closed that we would head to the one open restaurant in town for a nice flashy lunch. It was great; I splashed out on a 1000 HUF glass – about 3.20 Euros – a Tokaji Aszu 4 puttonyos. Not a huge fan of the sweeties, but when you’re in Tokaj, you just have to do it! Morgan had a beer and then we both had a Hungarian stew with gnocchi for our meals. Morgan had beef and I had deer, which was absolutely divine!
So in the end our day trip out to Tokaj was lovely, a gorgeous flashy lunch, beautiful scenery and I managed to catch up on some sleep on the train. We got back at the reasonable time of 5pm to get ourselves organized for heading to Romania the next day. We were absolutely stuffed from lunch so it wasn’t till about 9:30pm that we finally got hungry. We picked up some supplies for the 7-hour train ride in the morning and grabbed some pizza’s to take back to the hostel.