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Hungry? Food treats to love in Hungary

May 2, 2012
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As the saying goes, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”

The same thoughts go for my travels as well. Sampling the local food is a surefire way to immerse into a new destination.

I’ve done a big share of that here in Brussels, sampling the Belgian culinary offers with dangerous consequences. 😉  But hey, it’s food, so who I am to say no?

My recent trip to Hungary had us going through the Budapest nightlife, getting the best out of the amazing ruin bars experience. But after every party, there is the usual appetite for some food.

Hungary is not really known for its culinary prowess but it’s not an excuse for a chow. Here are some of my favourites and in my opinion, the must-tries!

Langos

Lángos

This is the food to die for … and literally death looks imminent after finishing one langos. Why? Langos is made with deep-fried dough smothered with your choice of toppings. It’s like pizza but deep fried and gleaming with oil. Like our favourite Italian dish, it comes with various toppings like ham, cheese, garlic, yoghurt and cream but you can also order it without any toppings. The sour cream and cheese combination is the most popular.

Langos is best experienced after a long night out as it’s good for draining all the alcohol out of your body.

Pogacsa

Pagachel / Pogácsa

Moving on to healthier pastries, we have pogacsa. It’s a round pastry baked with cheese often mixed with the dough. The cheese makes it taste salty and sweet at the same time. It can also be baked with pork skin, cabbage and onions. It’s great for breakfast but can be consumed as a snack too.

Pogacsa is a popular and staple food in the country. They are so well-regarded that they even have festivals for it. And they have reasons for celebrating this sumptuous bread. Travellers in Hungarian stories are usually depicted carrying pogacsa when they go on their trip!

Retes

Hungarian sour cherry strudel

Retes is Hungarian’s answer to the German strudel (more like equivalent). It’s a pasty pie cooked with plums, strawberries, apples, cheese or chocolate as filling. It’s then topped with confectionery sugar.

One fun fact: Did you know that the round version of rétes was also known as “lie-in” rétes, because it was given to women who just had come from child birth. 😉

Kolbasz

Mangalica-Kolbasz

Kolbasz are better known the English-speaking world as “Hungarian smoked sausages”. They are often prepared with paprika, and eaten dried and in small pieces. Kolbasz is prepared depending on the region where it came from. Gyulai and Csabai are the two most famous ones. It’s my favourite food from the bunch – and has this special ingredient that makes you want to eat more (maybe it’s just me though).

Turo Rudi

Desire

Hungarians are so crazy for Turo Rudi’s that they even ran out of stock when we attempted to buy from one of their supermarkets (and it wasn’t even zombie apocalypse).

And what is there to go crazy for? Honestly, I don’t know.

Well, Turo Rudi is a chocolate candy filled with curd and can come in a variety of flavours. It literally translates to English “curd bar”. Doesn’t sound very appetizing though. But believe me this polka-dot packaged delight is a treat. 🙂

That’s it – I don’t think you’ll be rushing to Hungary anytime soon with this post. But with a good ruin bar nightlife, amazing sceneries and now good food, I don’t see any reason not to go! Bon appetit!

Images from helmsjan, 1yen, JuditK, robot-girl and Backpack foodie – under creative commons at the time of posting.

Have you sampled any of these Hungarian culinary treats? What are the other must try delicacies of Hungary? Share them below.

 

Travel Blog

Crazy Nights in the Ruin Bars of Budapest

April 18, 2012
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I always think that for a trip to be full there should be a balance of a busy sightseeing day and a bustling nightlife. Any trip is defined not just by the sights and monuments you see but also by the places where you hang out after and the people who you spend getting drunk at night with.

During my first trip to Budapest in 2009, I have missed out on the Budapest nightlife – and it somewhat made me think a lot about coming back.

Back then, my host and very good friend, Csenge, lived outside of Budapest, which meant that she can’t stay & drive at night.  It was a great trip, don’t get me wrong, as I have seen a lot of Budapest – but by the time we were leaving I felt that there was something missing.

Csendes - Budapest Ruin Bar - 25travels

I promised to return to Budapest the minute I left Hungary. But things didn’t work out that easily – and it took me two years to finally make it back! This time, experiencing the nightlife is at the top of my itinerary – and I didn’t fail on it.

Together with Roy of the Riding Dutchman – we made it to Budapest for a two day trip during the Easter break.

We were hosted by my very good Hungarian friend, Daniel, who I met and hosted in Brussels three years ago. It was a long overdue reunion, and I was happy that he’s available to show us the night life of Budapest. I know from all my talks during the past years that Daniel knows a lot about the coolest areas in Budapest – and he didn’t disappoint I may say. 🙂

Budapest nightlife is all about ruin bars.

Ruin bars are called “ruins” simply because they used to be old buildings, apartments etc.

Ruin bars, from the outside, looks similar to most doors in the Pest district. But inside, each ruin bar has a distinct personality that differentiates them from bars I normally see. The look reminded me a lot of a living room of a student flat.

It’s a mish-mash of random things, numerous rooms, blackboards as menu. The interior is decorated with stuff varying from torn-up sofas, dolls, posters, sewing machine tables, zippers on the roof. It was as if an artist decorated the walls and ceilings from things bought from the flea market.

Even if it was eclectic in the eye, it runs like any typical bar. And most of the bars even have free wi-fi (other bars owners, hope you’re reading this)

As good as our guide was, we manage to visit a lot of bars (a given). And here are just a sample of the ones we visited (more likely, the ones I remember. :p)

Trapez

Trapez - Budapest Ruin Bars - 25travels

It was our first stop for the day (day meaning around 2PM) after a visit and some shopping at Nagycsarnok (Great Market Hall) on Fővám Tér. Trapez is a popular student hangout since its location is close to Hungary’s Corvinus University. A big black board dominates the ground floor with posters and masks accentuating the bohemian feel of the place. Going up the creaky steps gets you into the main hall – which looks like the attic of a mountain cabin – with wooden beams and decorated with road signs, large paintings and other random oddities. 

We were there early in the afternoon and on a weekend, so there was no one except us so we didn’t see it in its full life. But it didn’t stop us from order a beer and a shot of palinka – an Eastern European spirit made with plum mixed with flavours such as peach and apricots.

Szimpla Kert

Szimpla Kert - Budapest Ruin Bars - 25travels

Szimpla Kert prides itself for being the first ruin bar in Budapest having been established in 2001. It has a large open courtyard, a dwarf on a swing and a Trabant, an old communist car, as one of the tables. Definitely, I understand why it remains to be one of the most popular ruin bars in Budapest among locals and tourists alike.

Again, we were there in the afternoon – so by far, there was hardly any happening – but Daniel assured me that this place gets busy at night. He explained that it had lost its bohemian touch, given its popularity with tourists, but it’s still worth a visit.

At Szimpla Kert, I had my first try of Froccs – a Hungarian wine spritzer made by mixing white wine and carbonated water. And there are varying names to each mix depending on the ratio of wine and water. Ratio varies from 1 to 1, to 9 parts wine to 1 part water. We got hosszúlépés – a spritzer with 1/3 wine, 2/3 water.  It’s worth a try definitely, but I think after spending two years in French Brussels – mixing wine with anything is a bit strange. But hey, in the Philippines – we used to add ice on our wine glasses – so screw it. 😛

Corvinteto

Corvinteto - Budapest Ruin Bar - 25travels

Fast forward to late at night after a couple of glasses of Belgian beers, glasses of 1euro Jim Beam whiskey, countless Hungarian beers and wines– we ended up in Corvinteto. Corvinteto stands at the topmost level of a department store. It’s known for its rooftop parties with a grand view of Pest but since it was freezing outside, the rooftop wasn’t open. But with a little help from its killer electro music and dynamic (and hot*) crowd, we continued to party until late at night.

Instant

Instant - Budapest Ruin Bar - 25travels

Instant - Budapest Ruin Bar - 25travels

After recovering from a long Saturday night and a Sunday afternoon spent sightseeing – we started Sunday night at Instant. The interior is more close to a flat party – complete with rooms, sofas, tables and people who you don’t know – rather than bar. There are two dance rooms (basement and on the first floor) offering two different kinds of music. At the centre is an interior courtyard with a guy with an owl as an head and a herd of stuffed rabbits (?).One room has sewing machines as tables and furniture glued in the ceiling. It’s pretty much as eclectic as it can be. Crowd is quite good but alcohol is pricier compared to other places.

Anker Klub

By the standards of a ruin bar, Anker seems to be less bohemian and eclectic as how I defined it. It is unique (for not being too unique) in a way that it’s a “real” bar with a great crowd of people.  Crowd is good, music was so-so and drinks are relatively cheap. And they have some Belgian beers on tap which I think is enough reason to include as a stop.

Csendes

Csendes - Budapest Ruin Bar - 25travels

Csendes is Daniel’s favourite bar and I guess I see how it became so.  It’s less of club but more of a place to sit-down and talk kind-of-place (Csendes actually mean silent in Hungarian ).

It still keeps within the description of a ruin bar with its strong ambiance and eclectic-designed roofs, floors, toilets, and ceilings. Ornaments of posters, old photos, and electric fans to a bathtub for a seat, complete the entire picture.  We spent a couple of hours at Csendes just trying to chill and talk together with a pint of Soproni (so far, the only Hungarian beer that I liked) before going back to Instant to complete the night.

I definitely do not regret coming to Hungary even for a short week-end. Every minute of our trip counts and I can say that Budapest definitely should pride itself for its amazing nightlife, cheap booze, amazing music atmosphere and friendly people.

Definitely, I think there’s more to ruin bars and Budapest from what I’ve seen – so maybe I’ll calendar in another date to come visit!

 

Have you been in Budapest? Have you visited any ruin bars? Share your advice and comments on the box below!

Europe, How To Guides, Travel Blog

Tips on travelling in Europe on a budget

October 19, 2011
Dining with locals

Travelling to Europe doesn’t come cheap, we know that.  Airfare from Manila is already expensive costing at least 30,000 pesos return. It’s no wonder that trips to Europe are often reserved to those with deep pockets.

But travellers don’t despair, there more ways to travel than doing it high roll. You don’t have to be rich to experience Europe. For those adventurous and open-minded enough, here are a few simple tips you can follow:

1. Research before your trip

Planning on where to go in Bruges, Belgium

Doing good research before a trip helps in managing the budget.  Read travel blogs and forums as they offer tips on what to see and how much is needed to see them. Museum websites, for example, can give you dates to getting in free. Paris’ Louvre (first Sundays / Friday evenings for under 26) and Madrid’s Prado museums (from 6-8pm Tues-Sun)  both offer free entrances on certain dates and times. 

2. Do Couchsurfing

Couch in Brussels

Couchsurfing  is a great way to meet local people and get free accommodation as well.  The website offers over thousands of hosts with “couches” to surf into.  It’s also a good way to experience local living. Giving out a simple gift or helping out with household chores often is enough to pay back for their hospitality.

3. Spend a day on parks

Park Cinquantenaire - Brussels, Belgium

Europe has the best parks in the world– and most don’t cost a Euro to visit. They’re beautiful and usually donned with trees, bike paths and old monuments and statues. It’s a good place to relax and still feel the city’s vibe. During summer, parks also play host to free concerts and street performances. My personal favourites – Parc Cinquantenaire in Brussels, Retiro Park in Madrid, and Vondelpark in Amsterdam.

4. Eat local and stack up at groceries when you can

Dining with the locals in UK

When in a new place they say to “do as the Romans do”. This comes with dining too. Avoid tourist dining establishments if you can. Find places where locals go and try some local flavour instead for an authentic travel experience. They serve good perhaps even better food at a lower price.

For those who want to take shoestring travel to the next level, head  to a supermarket and get ready-made salad or sandwich. Stack up on water as well for your day trips. Another cheap alternative is to cook at your hostel or at your host’s place.

5. Join free city tours

Free city tour in Amsterdam

Keep an eye for organisations like the New Europe tours, that offer guided tours around most big cities. It’s a great source of information about the city and a good way to meet other travellers. It’s completely free yet they do accept tips for those who enjoyed the tour (which is often the case).

 6.  Rent a bike

Bicycles in Amsterdam

Public transport is already a good way to travel cheap around but to those seeking a richer travel experience, best is to hop onto a bicycle. It’s a cheap (and healthy way) to jump from various sites. You can go around at your own pace and can control which route or area you want to see. Smaller cities like Amsterdam & Brussels can easily be navigated with a bicycle. In Brussels, check out Villo which rents out bikes starting at 1,50 euro a day.

What are your tips on travelling on the cheap in Europe? Share your tips on the comment section!

This article has originally been published for Discounts Philippines.  I wrote it together with another article on tips about Backpacking in Bohol. Grab a copy of their anniversary issue on most magazine stands and bookstores today. 🙂

Travel Blog

Around Europe through Jumping Photos

August 4, 2011
Stonehenge Jump

 

For most of  my travels in Europe, I’ve tried to do a bit of a novelty (well, it was sort of a novelty then) by doing jump shot photos. We had loads of fun doing it and often people would stare at us and laugh at our every attempt. It takes a lot of jumps to take a good one, often times it will take several shots before you get a shot where everyone is off the ground.  It’s somewhat of a science with a camera that I’m proud I had mastered. Even my mom has been proud of my jumping shots, telling her friends that I started the jumping photo craze.

I’ve taken jump shots from 13 out of 14 countries I got to see in Europe. I’ve only missed taking one when I was in Slovakia because I lost my camera the day before I went there.

I’ve taken jumping photos seriously that I’ve even won Don’t Ever Look Back’s jumping photo contest.

Here’s a good round-up of some of the photos I’ve amassed during my travels.

 

Brussels, Belgium - Jumping shot

Brussels, Belgium: Took me and my friend Rasha more than 40 photos to take a perfect jump shot while on a visit at the Atomium in Brussels.

Paris, France - Jumping Shot

Paris, France: Wow, this was one of my big dreams! To jump next to Eiffel Tower – definitely one of my most iconic and my personal favourite.

Amsterdam, Netherlands - Jumping Shot

Amsterdam, the Netherlands; In front of the Iamsterdam sign – this photo won me that jumping photo contest. 🙂

Koln, Germany - Jumping Shot

Köln, Germany:We tried doing a Bruce Lee kung fu shot in front of the famous Köln cathedral, it wasn’t the best one though.

Prague, Czech Republic - Jumping shot

Prague, Czech Republic: We were a big group when we went there for New Year’s Eve back in 2008. And doing a jump shot with a huge group of people is an ordeal. We tried several times across different places to get a good one, and we got stuck on getting the good shot at our hostel the day we were leaving the city.

Vienna, Austria - Jumping Shot

Vienna, Austria: In front of Schonbrunn Castle, Vienna. I heard this place is beautiful during summer, but we went there in February so it wasn’t that good.
Madrid, Spain - Jumping shot

Madrid, Spain: While waiting for the bullfight to start, I decided to do some crazy leaps with my friend’s scarf as bullfighter flag – good thing it wasn’t red.
Stonehenge, UK - Jumping shot

Stonehenge, United Kingdom: Despite the crowds, we manage to steal a few jump shots in front of Stonehenge.

Luxembourg Jumping Shot

Luxembourg, Luxembourg: By this time, we were so used to taking these photos that we were taking some organised jump shot to kick in some novelty. Here we are at a park in Luxembourg city.

Krakow, Poland - Jumping shot

Krakow, Poland: This was taken at the square in Krakow, Poland – one of my favourite places in Europe.

Rome, Italy - Jumping shot

Rome, Italy: I had some of hostel mates take this photo, it’s not one of my best, but a jumping shot to say the least.

Vatican City - Jumping shot

Vatican City, Vatican: Hope the Pope wasn’t looking at me when I was jumping up and down St. Paul’s Cathedral just to get this photo up
Budapest, Hungary - jumping shot
Budapest, Hungary: This one is taken at Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest, Hungary.

 

What crazy photos have you taken on your trips? Have you taken some great jump shots? share the links below!

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