Monday, November 17, 2008

What kind of people don’t eat breakfast?

New York Palace Hotel Budapest

We found Budapest easily but our hotel was a little bit harder to locate. It was in a part of the city that had apparently just been extensively carpet bombed so we have to drive around some ruins and rubble. Cate was not happy with the area but warmed up when she found that large parts of Budapest are like this.

The Soho hotel is new – and nice. Cate thought the room was a bit on the small side but I always think it is an advantage if you can open the fridge with your big toe while you are lying in bed.

They have these weird beds (as they do in Austria) which are really two single beds pushed together - with two single doonas. The sewing kits in these hotels are useless and it took me hours to stitch the two doonas together.

Many parts of Budapest are beautiful and verging on prosperous. Large parts are a wasteland blighted by decaying buildings and really bad architecture.

You can always see where the Communists have been. They leave an indelible mark and I am not sure how long it takes to erase this – probably anywhere from 50 to 100 years. There is a long way to go in Budapest.

And the coffee? Collectively the worst coffee we have ever had anywhere (excluding the USA chains which are in a class of their own).

On Friday night we went to a lovely restaurant - the XO Bistro - where we had French Onion soup and a gallon of wine each. I rarely drink but tasted some really nice Hungarian Sauvignon Blanc so we sat there for hours and got plastered. When we realised how many Hungarian Woggles there are to one Euro we had some more. Everything is really very cheap in Budapest.

When we got back to the hotel the bar was still open so we had some more wine. This seemed like a good idea at the time but severely impeded our progress on Saturday morning.

It’s amazing how few Woggles it costs to get hammered in Budapest. (Although at one stage later in the evening we had a panic attack when we thought that perhaps we had gotten the Woggle-Euro exchange rate wrong by a factor of 10).

The guide book had said don’t expect anything useful for breakfast as the Hungarians don’t eat breakfast. The guide book was right. What kind of people don’t eat breakfast?

We missed breakfast in the hotel so when we found an open café – opposite the Great Synagogue – they had disgusting cheese sandwiches or disgusting cheese ‘croissants’ and disgusting coffee. I had the disgusting croissants and Cate had the disgusting sandwiches (but wisely didn’t eat them) - and we both had the disgusting coffee. The only thing worse than the food was the service.

Cate ordered many coffees over the weekend but drank only two.

On Saturday we walked for hours and saw many exciting things including the House of Terror where the Hungarian Nazis and then the Communists tortured and executed the locals. The torture chamber was not attractive but was bigger than our hotel room. There are lots of very scary displays in this museum and it is not recommended for the faint hearted.

On Saturday night we went to an Italian restaurant Il Terzo Cerchio where Cate had, in her words, ‘the best Italian meal she has ever had’. High praise indeed. My meal was also fabulous, the Tiramisu was divine and the coffee was excellent. It was very near our hotel and had fortunately survived the recent bombing.

On Sunday morning we skipped breakfast in the hotel and went instead to the café in the ostentatious, ornate and five star New York Palace hotel – 50 meters from our hotel. We thought that surely a place like this will do breakfast – Nope! Worse than Saturday unless you wanted eggs and bacon – which Cate ordered because they had no toast. No toast? What kind of place has no toast?

Apparently the locals have cigarettes and coffee for breakfast. This may explain the astonishingly high rates of alcoholism and suicide. I had very small, stale, dry, hard, cold croissants. Imagine dog droppings that have been baked in a Pizza Oven and then put in the freezer.

On Sunday we went to the big castle thingy on the hill in Buda. We did not really know what it was because Cate was too hung over to read the guide book and I had forgotten my glasses. Anyway – it was very big and very old and was in the old walled city. We walked across the Chain Bridge and through the city and there are many beautiful parts. There are also many, many empty shops and buildings but it is easy to imagine what Hungary was like in the early 20th century.

There is much to do and to see in Budapest. My advice would be to start early, drink only in moderation - and take your own toast.


  1. We've been to Budapest many times and found a great place for breakfast - on Ferenc Square - I will look it up and let you know for the next time. We've had several excellent meals in addition to great coffee.

    One unforgettable dining experience you can have is at a restaurant called Fatal - one of the A's has a "dunce hat" on it so it's in reality pronounced fah-tahl - although it's not an inappropriate name. Portions are humongous - the "Fatal Platter for Two" (2 linebackers, perhaps) was heaped around a foot high with a base layer or rice, french fries and roasted potatoes, topped with slabs of meat from every kind of ungulate imaginable. My husband ordered a salad which comprised pickled onions, several varieties of peppers and pickles. Eastern Europe simply does not "do" salads. We've had similar experiences in other restaurants although once we actually were thrilled to glean a few shreds of lettuce. Fatal is very inexpensive and you can order a bottle of very warm red wine for around 2 Euros. The service is delightfully rude. There were four of us and when we ordered the platter for two he testily replied that "it was too small for 4." Nonetheless, we couldn't finish it.

    Oh, and another good place for breakfast is the Gellert hotel - they have a huge breakfast buffet. Pricey but worth it.

  2. I don't really understand how come your comment is under Vienna for dummies section.

    But let me have a comment in here, I was born and raised up in Budapest,- and I lived years in Canada,Ireland and in the UK ,-I think I have a quite clear understanding about my nation.

    Obviously the communist regime has some visible effect on the buildings especially on the Pest side of Budapest.

    If you want to discover Budapest you have to strolling on the Buda side as well,-which is nicer ,- you may find big hills and really good atmosphere here.

    I tell you a little secret ,- generally I can say people in Budapest does not like the Pest side,- moreover some only goes to the Pest side if they have to do something there ,- I'm sure it was not in your tourist guide.

    It seems you had more interest what kind of food you got in the Hotel than what kind of the country you have arrived,- by saying things like "the worst coffee" clearly shows how superficial
    you are,- normally people don't remember and don't talk about the quality of a coffee they got in a foreign country.

    Unfortunately I can not give you brain from the local shop ,- therefore there is nothing i can do to change your mind,- and teach you,- on what it is worth to pay attention when you are abroad.

    About the attitude of Hungarians ,- they don't show faces ,- never,- it is on their face what they think you can be sure if a Hungarian is nice with you he/she really think that not just pretending.

    And yes we do eat breakfast.
    To prove this albeit it is not my intention to prove what I write ,- let me write a Hungarian proverb;

    In the morning eat like a king ,- for noon eat like a civil, and for the night eat like a beggar.

    And if the only thing you care about is your coffe ,- then next time go to a coffee shop ,- you might get better coffe.
    Andrew G.