Top three things to do while in Budapest… my hidden treasure chest
#1 – HISTORY Tobacco Street Synagogue
Elizabeth City is located in the 7th district on the Pest side of Budapest and is a 10 minutes walk from the Danube River. This area is known for great restaurants, trendy nightclubs and beautiful cafes like the world renowned New York Café. It is also home to the Dohány Street Synagogue and my first choice to share with your readers.
The Great Synagogue is the largest Synagogue in Europe built by Ludwig Förster in 1854-59.
On first impression the inside of the building looks like the Basilica with its cathedral shaped dome, open airspace, three rows of seating, and two side balconies. The front of the worship hall has a beautiful decorated archway home to the Torah-scrolls saved from other synagogues destroyed during the war. The balcony spaces have seats way in the back for the women. So far back that the people below can not see them. This is done so the women do not distract the men on the floor during their time of worship.
There is also a museum, where the Jewish Historical and Religious collections are kept, and it was constructed in the spot where Theodore Herzi, the founder of Zionism, was born.
A cemetery is located between Hero’s Temple (a smaller synagogue for winter worship) and the Museum, although it is not tradition to have their deceased so close to their place of worship, but they had no choice. The Synagogue backed on to the Jewish ghettos, and provided shelter for their community during WWII. Over 2000 Jews died and were buried in the courtyard during the winter between 1944-1945.
630,000 Jewish Hungarians lived in Budapest before the war. 12,000 per day were sent to Auschwitz Birkenau German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp. Only 10’s of thousands where saved by phenomenal and heroic acts of courage. The Raoul Wallenberg memorial park, made in honor of the Swedish humanitarian that saved 10 thousand Jews during the holocaust by forging passports and stowing the people in 24 Swedish protected buildings in Budapest.
Memorial of the Hungarian Jewish Martyrs is near the rear of the property before you exit. It is a huge weeping willow tree made of steel with the names of victims killed by the Nazi’s inscribed on each leaf. It looks like a Menorah that is bending from pain, weeping from the tragedy that occurred on the grounds. It is a moving monument, and shows the heartbreak the Nazi’s inflicted in Budapest.
Article #2 ACTIVITIES Széchenyi Thermal Baths
Hungary is known as the land of thermal springs. If you poke a hole in Hungary, they say you will find healing hot waters. Hungary is home to the largest thermal lake, called Lake Héviz, which is next to Lake Balaton, and many famous Turkish/Roman style baths scattered throughout Hungary.
Budapest, the capital of Hungary has 50 spas, baths and public pools in the city. Lucky for us, Szechény is conveniently located near the city centre, in Central Park just behind Hero’s Square.
Constructed in 1913, Széchenyi Thermal Bath is the largest in Europe at 6,220 metres squared and is supplied by two thermal springs ranging from 74-77 degrees Celsius. It has 15 indoor and 3 outdoor pools.
The medicinal components of the water include sulphate, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate and a noteworthy amount of fluoride acid, and metaboric acid.
Hungary’s natural healing spa smell a little like eggs from the high sulfur levels, but offer visitors 40 degrees of heaven. Shifting from hot tubs to dry saunas to cool pools to cold ponds and wet saunas. Some have jets and others have bubbles. These types of Turkish baths are very well known tourist attraction throughout the world, (just like the one at Harrison Hot Springs in British Columbia) and Széchenyi is visited by over a millions bathers every year.
Located mostly outside in the open air, during the summer nights, Szechényi turns into a nightclub under the stars.
The whole structure is Neo-baroque design, pillars and cathedral domes and was referred to as the Artesian spa. It cost 3.9 million Austro-Hungarian Korona to build.
I highly recommend taking a dip, and to stay for the entire day. They even have a restaurant, massage services, pedicures, and manicures; all conveniently located on the grounds.
The 17.50€ Price includes a cabin to lock your things in, and you can stay for as long as you would like. You will find people who come here everyday, and some even play chess while they soak in the mineral rich waters.
Medical indications are on degenerative joint illnesses, chronic and sub-acute joint inflammation, as well as orthopedic and traumatology post- treatments.
Article #3 FOOD The Great Market Hall
Yay, it’s market Day!
Each morning we go out and buy our daily fresh foods, but usually we don’t make it as far as the Great Market Hall, with ABC, Tesco Express and Spar markets, all on our city block. On special days, when I might crave a fresh Langos, (fried bread) or a Retes (thin pastry with fruit fillings) we walk towards the Pest end of Liberty Bridge to the Great Market Hall, where you can find anything and everything Hungarian.
The Great Hall was created at the same time when the three cities, Buda, Pest and Obuda, united to create Budapest at the turn of the 19th-20th century. Once the city was unified the hectic outdoor markets couldn’t sufficiently supply its people, and the city leaders decided to build massive covered market halls similar to other European cities, to fix the problem. 1894 the build started but had a set back when a fire burned down the roof and was finished in 1897.
It was completely renovated in 1991, when they covered the big roof with Zsolnay tiles. It is stunning from the outside and on sunny days, it looks like a fairytale castle.
Entering the bustling market, a waft of different smells hit your nose. Bakery goods, sweet peppers, and food cooking for lunch intertwine. The glorious colors of the stalls invite you. Dried salamis hang from above. Bakery items displayed through glass windows. Butchers cry out their specials and try to entice a purchase. Veggie and fruit stands have beautiful Hungarian yellow peppers displayed and are a staple in the Magyar diet.
Up stairs you can find souvenirs; handmade embroidered blouses, traditional leather crafts, Budapest Hungary T-shirts and knick-knacks. Personally I give Hungarian Paprika to my friends as gifts or Hungarian Palinka the traditional moonshine of Hungary.
We put paprika in all our stews, on our meats, and even sprinkled on top of fresh salads. The better the quality, the richer the flavor. I like ‘Csipos’ or hot, but ‘Csemeges’ or sweet is what we use in most of our dishes.
Also, upstairs are the restaurants and food stands. You can find all the traditional foods; paprikash chicken, goulash soup, handmade cabbage rolls, fried meat and fish in buns, with all of the fixings. Gluttony is my favourite sin and this market is a culinary dream.
The market has 3 floors. I have been coming here my whole life and this was the first time I went to the basement. The pickled items and fishmongers lurk below, as well as all wild meat vendors. My brother has always loved wild stews, and the last time we travelled to Hungary together he never missed an opportunity to eat it. I couldn’t help but think he would love to discover the ‘Hunter’s Haven’ and to hear the story of times past.
Back in the day, people brought their products via the underground channels. Not in use anymore, but interesting to know that there are secret tunnels below. Very KGB. You have to say it in a Russian accent!
Today we ate Langos for breakfast. This is deep-fried bread dough, traditionally eaten with salt. I like mine covered in garlic. Alfonz likes his with garlic, sour cream and cheese. The kids prefer just cheese but you can have it with a variety of pizza like toppings. Like you need to make this tasty dish anymore calorie rich. Where once I could eat two without blinking, I now sadly can’t finish one. For people with a sweet tooth, they also offer it topped with jam, fruit, whipping cream and chocolate toppings.
I don’t feel bad about the calorie rich foods we eat during our visit in Hungary. We walk everywhere. I feed my soul, and like the Hungarians before us, we were raised on this stuff.
If you are in Budapest, the Great Market Hall is not to be missed.