I could have entitled this post “Központi Vásárcsarnok,” but I was afraid that might have been a little off-putting. To quote from my phrasebook, “Hungarian, or Magyar, is distantly related to Finnish and Estonian, but is utterly unlike the languages of the other main linguistic groups of Europe.” No kidding. What that means in real life is that if your main language experiences have been with, say, Romance or Germanic languages, none of the words in Hungarian will look even remotely familiar. Which made the long weekend Nick and I recently spent in Budapest something of an adventure.
Budapest was once two towns, Buda on the hilly West bank of the Danube River, and Pest on the flat East side. We stayed in Pest, in the Józsefváros neighborhood, which seemed to have a pretty good dining scene as well as plenty of cool bars for later on. There was a bit of trouble with the hotel we had originally booked, but since it resulted in a free upgrade to the Hotel Palazzo Zichy, we weren’t complaining. The first night we dined in a nearby restaurant, Alföldi Kisvendéglö, which served inexpensive, old-school Hungarian classics like paprikás csirke (chicken paprikash – chicken braised in a paprika-laced gravy) and töltött káposzta (stuffed cabbage). The food was hearty and flavorful, though less than photogenic. We washed it down with a bottle of Hungarian red wine, which was surprisingly good, especially considering the price – about $18 US.
The next morning, I was itching to check out the Central Market Hall, conveniently located only ten minutes’ walk from our hotel. (I swear I didn’t plan it that way, I just got lucky.) It’s an impressive building, with elaborate patterns in the bricks and a colorful tiled roof. Inside, the market spans three levels.