Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I’m back and holy crap what weekend. So I alluded to the fact that I was taking off this weekend and here's the report on what I did. I’m tempted to not tell you where right away and make you figure it out based on what I write. Ahhh, I can’t keep a secret so I’ll tell you soon if you haven’t figured it out from the title of this blog. In general, this trip was pretty much perfect. I got to know a European capital in a country I have never been to and meet new and interesting people (some locals, some not so local).

So what happened? Well I left Brindisi frickin’ early Friday morning and I arrived at my destination and Juli met me at the airport to show me how to get to her friend’s house (another Juli, so I get to confuse you with the names) where I would be staying. The next stop was THE Wine Festival being held at THE castle in picture above overlooking one of the great rivers of Europe. The Wine Festival was one of the reasons I went there when I did and it was a big part of the fun. Juli was working the festival as translator/consultant for journalists and her mother is a VIP for this festival and we all know how important it is to have friends in high places. On Friday I ate, drank, enjoyed the view, and visited the museum in the castle. What more do you need? The photo below is the view from castle the first night. No, I didn't have a tripod. I was doing the old "balance it on a railing shot". The far left building in white light is Parliament. The bridge is "The Chain Bridge" and the other lighted building is Church of Saint Stephen.

The next morning I started out slow but really had no ill effects from the night before. Juli had to work at the festival again but she gave us (another American Joe, and French guy Nicholas) a brief tour and some things to do before meeting up with her later. My goal was to walk the city up and down to get a real feel for it. Of course, for me the first thing I needed was a good café, which I found in a nice piazza in the center of town. The waiter was immediately convinced I was Italian because of the way I asked for a caffe and I played along with him because I thought it’s more fun to be Italian.

Caffeinated and ready for anything I took the tram up and down the river, walked the exclusive Andrassy Street, and checked out the view from the cupola of Saint Stephens. I really liked everything I found and the more I think about it the better it was. This country is part of the European Union but they still use their own money and the language is impossible to pick up so you really have the feeling of being in Old Europe (the way it should be). I love the Euro but once in a while it’s cool to be playing again with money completely unique to the country. If you haven’t figured out by now I was in Budapest, Hungary (by the way the title of this blog is Hungarian in Hungarian, see what I mean about impossible to pick up words). I used the last bit of energy in my legs to walk up a to an overlook called the citadel. I hung out there until sundown. As it started to get cold, I went over to the castle but the festival was packed and Juli had to get away from the madness so we met up with the her friends and Nicholas at what I’ll call an “industrial style bar”. Nicholas was a hilarious kid that was just fun to hang out with. Hey he’s only 20, so I can call him a kid! His idea of not sleeping while on vacation could really expand the tourism market.

Sunday Nicholas, Juli, and I went out into the countryside where we were transported back in time. There's an outdoor museum about an hour from Budapest in a town called Szentendre. They’ve made buildings and structures that represent different types of old villages that used to exist in the various regions of Hungary. You could see everything about how they lived throughout the country in one location. You walked among the thatched roofs and mud walls from the towns that were on the open plains and then among the rock and timber buildings typical of highland towns. Again Juli had to get to work so Nicholas and I wandered around and ate some traditional foods and drank some wines (they had wine tasting here too!). The best thing to me was without a doubt the “pipe-pie” or “tube-tort”. This picture is that incredible pastry being made. They wrap dough around a wood cylinder and cook it over coals with coating of sugar and cinnamon.

Then we headed back to Budapest to experience one of their well-known thermal baths. After all the walking we did it was soooo frickin’ nice to slip into that hot water. After 5 minutes, I didn’t know how I would be able to get out. About 2 hours later I remembered there is one force strong enough to get me out of the hot bath. I started to get hungry! A quick bite to eat and N and I went back at the castle to meet up with both Julis to celebrate the last night of wine festival. I was celebrating a great first visit to Budapest too!!

Monday morning was spent relaxing and recovering. I had a late afternoon flight so there wasn’t much time to go around but did see a little more of the town. I was amazed at how well I could navigate the mix of trams, buses, and metro. Of course, it helped having both Julis give me directions but after 2 days I had a feel for all the different ways to get around. Hungarian doesn’t have ANY words I recognize so I thought traveling around would be tougher but it’s not. I had a great time in Budapest but I don’t recommend you go there because I don’t want to see it go the way of Prague and be overrun with tourists. So it was good for me but not for you!

A nice church? No. This is the Thermal Bath in Budapest that I went to. It's the one in the park behind Heroes Square. I was told by the locals it's a good place.

The last night celebration. Nicholas, Juli, Adam, and Juli. Adam kept the good wine coming so go to learn about good Hungarian wines, at Cezar Winery.
I wish I could post more photos but this is pretty long. I could paste random photo some other day....


Judith in Umbria said...

I am so envious! Budapest is my number one Euro-destination wish-- well Paris is always cool, but Budapest is next.

I fell in love with Hungarian Expressionist art years ago, and I love the food. I want to ride a Magyar pony on the steppes.

You did it before me. No wonder you never want to come to Umbria.

Kent and Lori said...

Nice trip bro! Photos are devine. Did you bring me back anything good???

Jeff Gromen said...

I didn't ride a horse anywhere near the steppes but it was fun to be in such a new and interesting city. I was a little off the beaten path with locals for guides and that was the icing on the cake as they say.

Kent and lo,
Actually I traveled light and didn't bring you back anything. I'm sure you guys will find a way to get here through Budapest on your next trip across if you want something!


Juli said...

Guys, this is Juli, "the tourguide" (that would be a good nickname in the Sacra Corona Unita - the Pugliese maffia...- too). I popped in only for a comment: Magyar means: Hungarian in Hungarian, not Hungary. Hunary is Magyarország, which basically is: Hungarian Land. Greets to all.

Jeff Gromen said...

Grazie Juli,
I always welcome corrections. Your nickname would more along the lines of "The Wolf". Wasn't he the guy in Pulp Fiction that fixed all the problems.

Sara, Ms Adventures in Italy said...

Hey Jeff!! What a trip! Looks like fun. I went to Budapest in '94 so I'd love to go back soon...You know those "pipe-pie" you loved? I found them at the big Convention in December in Milan - they're called "kurtoskalacs" and I have a pic and a video on the blog :) YUM!

Jeff Gromen said...

Hungary is so different than Italy but yet so close. You're in Milan so it's easy to go back. Hey, Juli is studying in Milan too so if you do back then let me or her know. Of course you've already been all over the place this year!