Hungarian Adventure – Part One: To Palinka Or Not To Palinka?

If you’re a regular visitor or follower of this blog you might be aware that I visited the Hungarian capital of Budapest about a month ago (if you’re not a regular or are new, hi there I visited Budapest a month ago. As you can imagine I can’t go anywhere without having at least one photographic capturing device on me at all times and a short break is not only no different, it’s an excuse to specifically create a project based on the trip itself. So with that in mind, welcome to Part One of my Hungarian Adventure photo series. This was my attempt to document the, roughly, 5 days in the city on film in a similar fashion to my “Nine Days In Italia” project from last year. I aimed to shoot a roll of film a day and then document the results along with the various activities that took place on each of those days. Unfortunately a roll a day didn’t quite work out, mainly because I was not technically there for 5 whole days due to travelling times but also because it’s pretty hard to shoot 36 images a day that you think are going to be worthwhile. However over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing with you what I did take and what me and my girlfriend got up to, I hope you enjoy.

What do you think is the most important things to make sure you’ve done the day you fly out for a short break in another country? Check you’ve packed enough clothes? Make sure you’ve got your passport? Look inside your wallet to ensure you have the right currency in it? Pah these are all much less important than taking your car for an MOT on the morning of the flight. Yes, that’s what my girlfriend decided she had to do the morning of the day we had to drive to the airport and board a flight to Budapest. Thankfully her car passed fine otherwise I’m pretty sure the trip would’ve been a whole lot more expensive than we’d planned it on being. With the garage successfully negotiated we were on our way to the airport, surprisingly making it with plenty of time to spare (always a concern as although I don’t particularly like to fly, I like being late or rushing for things even less) and then with a few tablets to calm my nerves and the seats buckled we were on our way.

The flight was the smoothest I’d had in such a long time that I was actually in a pretty good mood the whole way there, even snapping away images of the safety precautions on the back of the headrests. I don’t remember what I found so funny about it but the crude cartoon drawings of a child being put into what looked like the kind of rubber ring they’d have in a holiday swimming pool seemed hilarious to me. After a little over two hours we touched down in the airport and set foot on Hungarian soil for the first time, I’ve never experienced having someone hold up your name on a piece of card waiting for you, and still haven’t as my girlfriend had booked the transfer to our hotel so her name was the one being held aloft. The taxi driver, the first of several incredibly friendly Hungarians that we would meet over the next few days, was just that, really friendly. Granted he made a sale to us of  some kind of hop on hop off bus tour ticket which included a boat cruise and all sorts of discounts, but as we were to find out later it turned out to be the best value thing we bought the whole trip.

We’d arrived in Budapest just as the sun was setting and decided to take a walk around the city in the early evening to investigate the local area before our first full day tomorrow. This was to be our first and thankfully not last experience of the city at night, as it’s a city that looks beautiful at night. Our hotel was barely a ten minute walk from the Danube River and one of the main bridges that crosses it between the Pest side of the city across to the Buda side. The sights of the opposite bank of the river lit up was pretty breathtaking and a sight I didn’t get sick of at all over the next few days. After this we walked for a short time down a street that was, to my horror, full of tourist trap restaurants and souvenir shops, thankfully this was about the only place in the whole city that was like this and after spending the best part of an hour scouting out a place to have dinner we ended up full circle and in a restaurant opposite the hotel.

This wasn’t planned, although it turned out to be a place that my girlfriend had found to be rated very highly on Trip Adviser that she’d wanted to try anyway. The food was exactly what I’d been looking for, Hungarian and hearty, with enough paprika to numb your taste-buds for a week and a large enough portion to set up a bear for a winter hibernation. Cheap it was not (despite what people I’d spoken to who’d been before had told me) but expensive it wasn’t either, if anything I’d have described it as very good value. One thing I wouldn’t recommend though is the digestif of Palinka we tried. I’m all for trying the national drink of every country I’ve ever visited (I can still remember the paint stripper I tried in Latvia many years ago) but this is one I can’t suggest you try unless you like your alcohol exceedingly pungent. If you do, well then you’re in luck because this stuff would knock out a rhino.

After dinner we had another evening walk, again we ended up in a place that happened to be right next to the hotel (nothing to do with not wanting to go far it just happened to be the most inviting looking one). We ended up experiencing my favourite custom of bars outside of the UK, table service. I’ve never understood why back home nowhere seems to provide this to bar customers, it makes everything much nicer when you want to have a drink and not need to get up every time you want a refresh and break off conversation, plus it means I’m happy to leave a tip as there’s an actual service being provided. This particular bar was, for some reason, decked out like an English pub from around 50 years ago, it was strange to say the least to sit in someone else’s stereotypical view of the country you’d come from, even down to the fact that they had English football playing on the screens. The beer however was not the British rubbish variety, Hungarian and Czech lager was the main stock, which is always a good sign for a good time. After a few drinks we left and retired to our room, looking forward to seeing the city and it’s sights in daylight for our first full day of exploring.

Onto the first days images, these are all taken on Lomography Color 400 ISO film with my Olympus OM-1 using either my 50mm F.Zuiko or 28mm Vivitar lenses.

1.jpg My girlfriend Jo has no problems with flying at all, hence why she looks so pleased. On the other side of the camera, I did not.

2.jpg For some reason these cartoons were really funny to me, maybe it’s because they look like an eight year old was asked to draw them? Or maybe its because the man helping the child into the life-raft/jacket thing is either lying at a very odd angle, has no lower torso or the kid is floating in mid air..?

3.jpg Yeah I was so comfortable on this flight I was fine with staring out of the window at the scenery below and taking photos of myself in the bathroom mirror.


5.jpg This is the beautiful sky that greeted us after we got off the plane, who can’t be happy to be visiting somewhere that produces sunsets like this?



8.jpg A few images of the Danube and sights of the city we’d explore the next day. The lights o the buildings and bridges made the whole place glow beautifully at night.



11.jpg After wandering around for the best part of an hour we ended up in this street, and then realised that’s our hotel at the end on the left. Somehow we always find our way around in every place we visit without trying very hard.

12.jpg Dinner in the fantastic Cafe Intenzo which was the one and only time i drank Palinka. Never again.



15.jpg This is what makes a good bar for me, huge glasses and Pilsner Urquell on tap.

16.jpg As I said before the decor was, strange, I mean I’m pretty sure that’s Francis Drake on the wall.


18.jpg Jo showing how big those glasses were, glasses of beer roughly half the size of someone’s head is a good way to gauge the excellence of any bar.



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