We got up early the next morning, ready to hit the ground running on our third day in Budapest. I checked the Weather app on my phone. It was minus 5. This was all too much for a tropical girl like me. I rugged up in 4 layers of clothes and a chunky scarf but my only boots were not made for outdoor winter conditions. Nevertheless, I was prepared to face any onslaught, be it snow, cold winds or hypothermia.
First thing on the agenda: join a free walking tour. We turned up at Vörösmarty square 10 minutes beforehand and signed up on arrival.
About 30 minutes into it, I was starting to lose contact with my hands and feet. Our guide was most likely sharing something interesting in this picture but I was finding myself zoning out at this point because of the biting cold.
We passed by this quirky Michael Jackson Memorial Tree. It was a random tree outside Kempinski Hotel, where the King of Pop used to stay when he toured in Budapest. His fans would gather at the park across the street from the hotel to try to get a glimpse of him. After he died in 2009, fans began to decorate a tree at this park with pictures of him, handwritten letters, flowers, and candles.
For the life of me, I couldn’t carry on with the tour. We had to bow out after an hour and a half. While everyone else in the group was heading uphill the Buda Castle, we decided to stay for a second round of tea and langós (deep fried flatbread) at Clark Picnic. In my defense, a 10-minute break wasn’t enough to warm up my numbed feet. The moraleja of the story: proper winter shoes is key.
Next stop: Margaret Island. The first thing that caught my eye was the yellow bridge and the pastel-colored houses along the river banks.
It’s a small island nestled in the middle of the Danube. There is not a lot of green space in the city proper so this serves as the main recreational park frequented by both locals and tourists.
Granted it was a bit bleak during winter, we still had a blast wandering around the massive park grounds.
It goes without saying that winter days are a lot shorter. At around 4 in the afternoon, the sun was already setting, bringing about a nice silhouette of ornamental lamp posts and sun glitter on the river.
I love that everything was accessible via trams. They have the Millenial Underground, the oldest subway line in mainland Europe but the tram system in Budapest won me over. They are excellent and not to mention, cheap alternatives to hop-on-hop-off buses. You can take unlimited trips with your purchased BKK travel passes. For a fraction of the price, we were able to see a good part of the city.
We took Tram 2, an old-fashioned tram which went parallel to the Danube, to get to our next destination: Nagyvásárcsarnok (Great Market Hall). It’s a large indoor market with a great selection of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat on the ground floor and a plethora of stands selling Hungarian paprika, goulash creams and all sorts of souvenirs on the second floor.
There was a narrow balcony with food stalls selling all kinds of Hungarian traditional food. We hadn’t had lunch yet so even though it was insanely crowded, we braved the long queue and endured eating standing up. The goulash in a bread yet again didn’t disappoint. Beware of the extras that they offer, they’re not for free. Somehow I got intimidated into ordering a rather disgusting red cabbage side dish.
The smell of freshly-baked bread and cinnamon brought me to this Kürtőskalács stand. Kürtőskalács or chimney cake is a sweet Hungarian delicacy made of dough baked around a wooden cylinder and topped with sugar and sprinkled with cinnamon, nuts, chocolate or sprinkles. It was so good for its price. One chimney cake costs 350 Forints which is just one euro.
The boyfriend was the one who insisted we stayed more days in Budapest than in Vienna. Although thinking it was just another European city, I had caved in (mostly due to budgetary reasons). Three days into our trip, it was getting harder to conceal my growing love for Budapest. I just don’t like admitting that he’s right HAHA.