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10 Things I Learned About Budapest

Because learning is fun, and so is Eastern Europe


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1. Budapest is by far the largest growing city in Hungary. Severed by the Danube River, Buda and Pest unified in 1873.

2. “Buda” refers to the lush hillside west of the Danube, and “Pest” lies flat on the east. Together, the capital is pronounce Buda-pesht.

3. Despite the country’s border with Austria and close distance from the Czech Republic, Hungarian beer is quite dismal. The wine, however, is exceptional. Thanks to the vast regions in the countryside, vineyards are in abundance for harvest. Specializing in Tokaji, a sweet dessert wine, and Eger, a bold “Bull’s Blood”; Hungary competes fairly amongst Europe’s notable grapes.

4. Perhaps the wine is to blame, or perhaps the fruit-infused palinka is too good to refuse. Either way, Hungarians are the second largest consumers of alcohol. While my head may disagree with me this morning, my dancing shoes prove satisfied with the nocturnal bar scene this city has to offer.

5. Another second best: the capital’s parliament. Adjacent to the Danube River, Budapest’s enchanting parliament building is the second largest in Europe, behind Bucharest, Romania.

6. Historically, Hungarians carry more around the waistline. Thanks to a diet rich in protein and plenty of carbs. A few favorite dishes include Langos, a deep fried bread decorated with something savory or sweet; Kürtőskalács, a challah bread adopted from the Hebrews; and Goulash. Though after a day of touring and a night of dancing, carb-loading is a must.

7. Paprika replaces pepper on the dining table. You can find this spice lining the Market Hall, tucked behind the green arches of the Szabadag bridge.

8. The Magyar Tudomanyos Akademia, or the Academy of Science building hosts Hungary’s finest scholars. The country proudly represents 14 Nobel prize winners, the creator of the Rubik’s cube, and several other convenient inventions.

9. Service is alarmingly disappointing. Restaurants fail to acknowledge our presence and requests. As I speak slowly, the staff looks dumbfounded at the young woman ordering an extra glass of Syrah. Or the staff reiterates my order in loud, angry tones. During the Taste of Hungary Wine Festival, a married woman approaches our group of travelers and releases her frustration. “The man took away my glass and directed me elsewhere. I held my tongue as I wanted to belt out: ‘Well in America…'”

10. Besides the few upsetting instances, Budapest is exceeding my expectations. The diverse architecture influenced by the Italian, French, and Spanish blends in neo-gothic churches with hints of new age glass and steel. Framework and food consist of global flavors. While the language seems quite foreign, this capital makes me feel at home.

-JMM

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