I am starting a new blog post series based on our 19 day December honeymoon trip to Europe. The magic of Christmas is something I can endure when I shop at Hobby Lobby, yes…but genuinely feeling like I was in a Hallmark Christmas movie is a whole new enchanting sensation that everybody must experience in a lifetime.
Budapest was our first stop in Europe. Why Budapest, you ask? Well, you and 97 other people. 1. My middle school choir teacher lives there, and he suggested we visit if Christmas Markets were going to be a part of our December honeymoon experience. He claimed they had the best, so we were in. Simple. 2. Why not? We had not been there before; we heard it was lovely from various online resources, and it was a reasonable flight from Houston, TX.
So here we were. In Budapest, Hungary, 10 minutes after checking in our lovely hotel and already experiencing fresh snow along the Danube River, smelling chestnuts roasting (yes, on an open fire- see photo collage) and wishing we were staying longer already…
“It’s beautiful here. They said that of course, that Budapest is beautiful. But it is in fact almost ludicrously beautiful.”
If you have never visited a European Christmas market, well, add it to your list for one, but for two, WEAR ELASTIC! The food and drinks, omg, is where it is at. Remember when I said you want to keep your hotel within walking distance? You will need to walk & burn calories before, during, & after this experience. You may also want to walk back for a nap in between “tastings” as I called each treat we ordered- it made me feel better about eating so much. Despite the food coma we stayed in, I remember it all so well.
Must-try food & drinks:
Lángos – These round flatbread delights are fried and, per locals, topped with cheese, butter, garlic, and sour cream, only. New varieties might add chicken, bolognese sauce, Nutella, whipped cream, etc. I stick with what the locals eat.
Chimney cake (”kürtőskalács”) – This is a (delicious!!) sugar-topped hallow pastry, wrapped over a metal spit, basted in butter, and baked over an open charcoal flame. Then, the caramelized chimney cake gets generously rolled in cinnamon for absolute perfection in both smell and flavor. Oh. My. New varieties fill these pastries with Nutella, ice cream, etc. but again, please leave this chimney cake alone- Santa is watching.
Hungarian sausage (Kolbasz)- This grilled pork link sausage (seasoned with paprika, black pepper, allspice, white pepper, caraway, nutmeg, marjoram, cayenne pepper, sugar, salt, garlic, white wine or even cognac) is something you won’t be able to pass up. If you do, you are making a poor life choice. The use of paprika makes this sausage unique, and no matter how much you’ve already eaten, order it anyway.
Roasted pork knuckle (Csülök)- When we first saw the suckling pig roasting on a spit, we knew we were living the dream. Well, Valerie’s dream for sure. Pork. This roasted specialty served in large portions, is enjoyed with a side of potatoes, pearl onions, and mustard and horseradish for accompaniments. Plan to share a single serving.
Potato pancake (lapcsánka)– This shockingly flavorful fried potato pancake won’t ever make my Whole30 food list, but it sure made this one- and for a good reason. I enjoyed mine plain, but you can add garlic sour cream and/or cheese. You should be thanking me for wearing elastic just about now.
Roasted chestnuts (Sült Gesztenye) -If you aren’t singing Nat King Cole’s Christmas tune right now, I don’t know if we can be friends. I’ve never seen his song come to life more than when I ordered these sweet, nutty chestnuts. I had never eaten these before, and I was surprised how much their texture resembles a potato! I’m not sure if these are for everybody, but they were for this girl. Try them and let me know!
Mulled wine (Forralt bor) – When the cold hits you, you’ll gravitate towards his wine…a few times. Trust me. It’s a warm, red wine with spices such as cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg, sometimes cardamom, and citrus- typically orange. I also tried the blueberry mulled win- YUM! Try to make your own at home. Here is the recipe! Or, if that’s not your thing, buy it here, heat, & enjoy.
Beautiful hotel to stay in:
Our hotel, the lovely Callas House, is where we will stay again- and not just because you receive a welcoming glass of champagne. The hotel is stunning, in a great location, and you guessed it- had delicious food! (See a theme here?!) The rooms were spacious, clean, comfortable, decorated beautifully, and the service was impeccable. No matter how many chimney cakes you eat, the included European breakfast, buffet style, is something you can’t skip. From the cheese, meats, bread, pastries, jams, fruit, eggs, coffee, and teas- you won’t want to sleep in too long- so hold back, some, on the mulled wine if you need to. To wind down, we enjoyed a warm “Christmasy drink” in their cafe as we soaked in the Holiday feels and watched the cold passersby strolling in the snow on Andrássy street.