Sunday, 25 May 2008

Budapest v. három

WE finally arrived at the Hotel Aquarius at about 2pm the following day. Our flight to Vienna had gone smoothly but, perhaps predictably given our poor luck thus far, the connecting flight to Budapest was delayed. The plane was apparently experiencing technical errors. In the distance, something was aflame. Things did not bode well.

Our hotel, with its shoddy trees and spangly water, was 7km outside of the centre of Budapest. Poor planning on our part there then. Travel to the centre was easy enough, hopping on bus #3 from the Nagytétény stop, just outside the hotel, all the way in. After a quick nap we did just that, heading for a restaurant that had received good press in our guidebook. It really was quite spectacular.

The Giero restaurant was a small, family run business. By small, we mean it had the sum total of 3 tables. Situated in a bunker off a dingy backstreet, it's not quite tourist territory. However, the friendly lady, who is the waitress, head chef and granny-in-residence all rolled into one, ushered us to our table. We had the pick of the lot; apparently it was a slow night due to the football. Nestled in our corner, she offered us tonight's selection. Basically we had to have what she was cooking, but there were no complaints there as it all sounded delicious. While she made our dinner, we admired the rustic decoration of our cellar. It was very... Hungarian. As was the food, as reiterated by our chef every 2 seconds. "This Hungarian soup... this Hungarian meat... these Hungarian potatoes...." etc. The only things that weren't Hungarian were the cutlery and the tumblers, which were all from Ikea. The toilet was handily situated in a small cupboard opening off the main restaurant, concealed by an old curtain.

The highlight of our evening arrived halfway through Simon's (Hungarian) egg soup. Two rather large Roma men entered and tuned up their respective instruments. One sat behind what we suspect was a cimbalom, and the other brandished a violin. For the next 2 hours, they proceeded to serenade us, and only us, with their mix of Hungarian traditional music and well known classics such as "Dream a little dream of me". Unique and utterly charming.
Although we were enjoying ourselves greatly, we were also exhausted from our travelling, and the time came for bed. However, still being the only patrons, we were in the awkward situation of not only having to leave mid-song, but also having to leave the musicians with no audience to play to. We felt less bad about this after being coerced into buying their CD (but I managed to haggle with them a little bit- it was twice the price of our meal!) and buying them a round of Hungarian shots. After a nice chat with the violinist (in German) and an embarassing rendition of Happy Birthday, Hungarian style (naturally), we made our exit.

An hour, 2 trams and a bus later, we were finally back at the Hotel Aquarius. It had been a short day in Budapest but a very memorable way to celebrate a birthday.

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