Let’s start with Budapest. Or as Milos who insists on pronouncing it like Magyar way: Buda-pchest.
We were darn lucky to have rented a prime spot in the heart of the city, the apartment was right next to the subway, steps away from supermarkets, close to a major shopping district. In the lazy afternoons, the sexy tune of a saxophone drifted into our apartment from the square nearby (I must add, Airbnb is a très cool concept. I was iffy about using it at first for safety reasons, but our host was friendly, very hospitable and made sure we were comfortable. If you haven't heard about it yet, hop to it!).
The most fascinating part of our neighbourhood was Deák Ferenc Square, named after the famed Hungarian Minister of Justice. Every night whether it be a weekday or weekend, this square was crowded with people in their twenties and thirties, lounging on the grass or sitting by the wooden decks on the pond, their hands grasping cold beers.
We joined the locals one night, bringing our own drinks. As we sat on our bench, a small group of young girls in miniskirts and high heels strutted by, two guys on short bikes rolled past us, a cigarette in their mouths. A bearded man stopped before us to scour through the garbage can for recyclable bottles.
The lamp posts dimmed the marble sidewalks with an amber glow, the friendly chatter and laughter mixed with the two piece guitar band strumming away gave the air a sense of bubbliness and excitement, like you were missing out on the all the fun if you weren't here.
And that’s what Budapest felt like. Everyday there was something to do; we visited the Gellert Hotel and Baths twice on our trip, soaking up more than healthy doses of UV rays.
We crossed Liberty Bridge and watched the golden sunset cast a magical sheen on buildings facing the Danube.
We ordered wine in the early afternoon at Művész café. Then we couldn’t bear to pass up these colourful sundaes: a mixed berry sundae for Milos and a lemon sundae for me. I nearly fainted with joy at my first bite; it was delightfully tangy and refreshing.
Never once did it rain in Budapest. For six days, we were blessed with skies so blue, it looked like the sea.
One night on Andrassy utca, we sauntered through wide sidewalks passing fashion boutiques and tall apartments, it almost looked like Paris. Then we stumbled upon a grandiose building, ornately flourished with statues and pillars, glowing by yellow spotlights. There were groups of formally dressed men and women in stilettos milling about; it became clear that we were standing before the Opera House. To the left was Callas, a café with outdoor seating, so without hesitation, we settled at a table facing the main street and ordered drinks and dessert. It was a quiet night, motorcycles zipping past and dark leaves rustling in the nippy wind.
We showed up again the next night for dinner. I ordered ravioli sheets with seared goose liver and truffle sauce. To be honest, liver scares me. It doesn’t have the most attractive name in the food world—liver. It brings to mind a red slab of glistening organ. Sometimes it tastes overpowering, too iron-y. But then again, it is considered a delicacy like foie gras and pate, so it gotta be good no? And surprisingly, it’s popular in Budapest; its usually found on restaurant menus. So being the adventurous eater that I am, I ordered it anyway, it can’t hurt to try.
My dish was pure bliss. The goose liver was mild, slightly crispy on the surface and dissolved pleasantly on the tongue. The pasta sheets were succulent, each doused in earthy sauce. After five bites however, my dinner became overwhelmingly salty. But overall, it was delicious.
Milos’s veal paprika with bacon wrapped cottage cheese wasn’t bad. Chunks of veal was hidden underneath a coat of thick orange stew, served along side some pickled cabbage salad.
As we ate, there was a little band playing jazz. The violinist, clearly the leader of the group, is a funny character. On my way to the ladies room, he held up his hand, stopping his colleagues mid-song, allowed me to pass, then resumed playing the cheery tune.
We walked home in the spring breeze full and happy. Seeing all my pictures of Budapest still makes me chuckle. There were unforgettable moments with Milos that just made the trip a thousand times better than I could have ever imagined it to be. That freeness of drinking beer, wine, vodka or what have you out at Deák Ferenc Square under the glittering starry night really tied up my vacation. Europe (or most of it) carries itself with a sense of freedom, the I Can Do Whatever I Want Attitude. Though I could just have easily gotten this muddled up with how relaxed I felt on vacation, no work stress, no financial stress. It just felt good.