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The Best Place to Be, Hungary September 4, 2012

Posted by asmedberg3 in Travel Log.
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Budapest, Hungary

The funny thing about working out in a foreign city is that it seems to make you so much hungrier than when you follow a monotonous routine at home. And the funny thing about being so much hungrier is that the food looks even better than it usually does.

And the food already looked pretty darn good.

After getting back from a typical day of educating, cultivating activities– our itinerary included a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts and a concert at the Bartok National Concert Hall– my roommate and I returned to our hotel room with a specific goal in mind: to take a run through the city of Budapest. So we pulled out our Nike brand shorts from the depths of our suitcases, glanced at a map of the city given to us by our Group Leaders the day prior, and headed out of our room without any particular destination in mind.

What took us about 3 blocks to figure out was that our hotel is in the city center of Pest, an area not exactly conducive to running with the meandering Europeans, cobblestone roads and limited sidewalks. So we weaved our way through the crowds to a side street, laughing to ourselves at the upwards of ten odd looks we received on the way (apparently eastern Europeans don’t see runners very often!). The streets quickly opened up to reveal the Liberty Bridge, a massive iron beauty connecting Buda and Pest over the Danube River. We hooked a left and followed the river to keep a simple route until we hit a massive 3-story building with a semi-circular roof and a constant flow of people entering its doorway.

As I entered the building with my head tilted back and mouth hanging open, I felt my hands drop from my hips down to my sides: the entire space was one massive food market. Eager vendors filled every nook and cranny of the building to sell their beautiful fruit, vegetables, pastries and scarves that filled the market with color. Clusters of dried chili peppers decorated the stands like Christmas lights, fruits tumbled over each other in their baskets, and rustic silver jewelry glinted in the warm light. Price signs with foreign markings and loud Hungarian conversations crashed over me like the continuous waves of the ocean, giving me a constant awareness that I was no longer home.

I shot Savannah a smile and pulled out the 2000 Forints I had tucked into my sports bra. Naturally my first movement was towards the ornate cookies and sponge cakes seducing me from behind a large glass display. But after about 3 minutes of hand motions trying to indicate to the vender that I wanted one of every different type of her chocolate-miracle-cookie-creations, it was clear that the language barrier was defeating me soundly. We moved on in search of snacks for our drive to Prague the next morning, learning how to use the foreign scales to weigh cherries and explaining to the vendors exactly how many bananas we needed. After passing our fifth stand of fresh fruit, I couldn’t resist anymore. I bought a fuzzy, perfectly ripe peach for 20 Forints and held it in front of me. I smiled and I let my teeth sink into the peach as juice dripped down my chin onto my thigh.

And man the food looked good, but it tasted even better.

We went on from there, sampling berries, nuts, dried fruit and sweets. I was even able to get my hands on a chocolate-covered cookie as we left. We walked back with snacks for our trip the next day having consumed twice the number of calories we had set out to burn on our run.

My time in Budapest was so much like my time in the food market: just a little, savory taste of everything: a bit of the ornate architecture that lined the Andrassy Ut; a quick dip in world-renowned baths; a glimpse of the Chain Bridge lit up at night; a single opportunity to explore the nightlife of the city. And unfortunately, while I was taking in as much as I could, so much of me was still trying to adjust to Europe itself. They just do things differently. People don’t walk fast, put ice in their water or split checks. They don’t refrigerate their milk or grab food on the go. Which was truly unfortunate for us… because in the blink of an eye, without any McDonalds snack wraps to eat on the bus, we were already on our way to Prague.

 

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