Blood, Broken Bones and Budapest.

I’m a sucker for Eastern Europe. I’d move there in a heartbeat. The Texan real estate agent we met at a beer shop in Budapest didn’t help things when he gave us the numbers for a center-city Pest apartment.I’ll give you a hint: it’s as cheap to buy a 2,000 square foot apartment in the heart of Pest as it is to rent our [significantly smaller] Rittenhouse apartment for 12 months. Didn’t. Help. Things. Shaun and I have always been intrigued by the idea of living abroad, and Budapest ranks high on the list. There’s tons of coffee, vegan food, and running trails along the rivers [could it be… the Philadelphia of Europe?]. It doesn’t hurt that Hungary is actually the oldest wine producer in Europe, too. We do love wine.

It also doesn’t hurt that Budapest is a mecca for coffeehouse lovers. The Communist [and other] regimes’ stifling of expression made it such that coffee shops became central meeting points for revolutionaries and free-thinkers. Inside them, people felt safe sharing ideas and art free from government scrutiny. That’s not to say the regimes didn’t shut down many of the city’s shops, but the ones that remain are absolutely gorgeous. It’s kind of like walking onto the set of Moulin Rouge and ordering an espresso.

Budapest is technically two cities, Buda and Pest. The Danube river runs between them, and a few incredibly designed bridges connect Buda’s castle to Pest’s Parliament Building. You can’t go wrong with the view from either side of the river.

Crappy iPhone photo of the view.

We spent our mornings hiking from Pest to the sights in Buda, our afternoons exploring coffee shops, and our evenings testing Hungarian foods and wines. And then, I BROKE SOMETHING! I promised I’d tell you when the time came.

Buda is pretty hilly, so we split our hikes over two days. On the first, we climbed to the castle [no really, CLIMBED] and were rewarded with our first coffee shop, and the oldest: Ruszwurm Cafe [1827]. It took every ounce of remaining strength to not order the delicious pastries. I opted for tea and Shaun sampled a Hungarian sparkling wine. It was impressive – smooth, creamy, no bite. The interior was really pretty but stuffy – not the place you’d want to chill after a hike. On the second day, we hiked Gellert Hill, sweat all over ourselves, and nearly died at the top. But oh, the view.

Elvis again!

We made our way back down and had lunch at what quickly became one of my favorite places on the trip: Mannatural Cafe. Raw, vegan, Hungarian food. Right. Up. My. Alley. They had a selection of rotating main plates that you could choose from [my favorite was a raw version of Hungarian cabbage and cream – done with cashew cream rather than sour cream], raw crackers, and juices. I’m addicted to poppyseed milk now. It might be because I was otherwise subsisting purely on white breads and alcohols, but this cafe was the perfect lunch spot. We had lunch there every day but one, and left feeling better than when we came in. Our bodies were like, “Oh hey thanks!” and we were like, “No problem dude, but don’t get used to it.” Our other lunch spot was a cafe and gourmet grocery store we were led to by the New York Times: Culinaris. We sat outside and had lunch [gazpacho, salads, and Hungarian beers for Shaun*], and then went inside to check out the grocery. It was filled with foods I’ve never seen in the states [a lot of UK companies], and we stocked up on granola bars, breads and cheeses. And Diet Dr. Pepper.

Our other coffee shop stops included Central Kavehaz [1887] and Cafe Gerbeaud [1858]. Lots of espressos were had in insanely beautiful old buildings. It must have been the surroundings, but I didn’t even spill on myself! THIS IS A BIG DEAL. Wonderful dinners were had, too. The highlights included an adorable waiter who led me through his favorite Hungarian wines, and gomolya cheese appetizers. It’s a grilled cheese [Hungary’s answer to fried halloumi oh my god I just remembered Zahav exists?] served on a bed of veggies or olives. It’s on my list of “things to find in the US.”

But it’s been too long since I talked about beer, and believe it or not, Budapest killed the beer scene. Csak a jó sör, or “Only Good Beer” was like a tiny Beer Run or Good Beer Store on a tiny side street near our hostel. It’s part beer store, part tasting room, part bar, and boasts a pretty gnarly collection of Hungarian, Belgian, Czech, and American beers. 

The owner Armando, a Hungarian master brewer, is responsible for the #1 IPA in Hungary [the Grabanc, sign pictured above], and he loved talking beer with Shaun, particularly about hops and how foreign they are to Hungary [and Europe in general]. To come full circle, it was here that we met the Texan ex-pat real estate agent who planted the Budapest seed in our brains. We killed a few hours while Shaun tried Armando’s recommendations and I tried to read magazines in Hungarian [spoiler alert: I failed], and then some guy dropped a 750 on the floor and things got messy

It was on one of our random walks back from Csak or a coffee shop that I started to notice something was off with my foot, and it was by the end of our stay in Budapest that I realized I couldn’t really walk on it, at all. A weird pressure, like the feeling you get when you need to crack a joint, in a place where there’s no joint to be found. I think the straw that finally cracked the bone was our sprint from our final dinner to the train station, induced by a delay because the restaurant didn’t take credit cards and the nearest ATM was 5,000 miles away. Sprinting with all of your bags on a foot that is waving an “I’m really hurt” flags is the DUMBEST IDEA, EVER [I’m pretty sure that was the impact that did it].** Taking out more Forints for a cab when we’d never use Forints again seemed even dumber, so sprint we did. To jump ahead, limping limping, a little bit of crying, you can’t get ice anywhere in Europe, Czech pharmacy, Shaun has to slow his walking pace, return to USA, x-ray, currently on pain killers that are making me severely and constantly nauseated. Hooray! It wouldn’t be a proper honeymoon without an injury to return with. It’s like our honeymoon is with me every step I take.

So in conclusion, Budapest is Philly in Hungarian, don’t run on a stress fracture, and we’re going to move now. Peace love and Hungarian mushroom soup.***

* Shaun’s beer consumption [and metabolism] was impressive.

** Shaun and I set the goal of walking everywhere since we knew formal exercise routines would be nearly impossible [I was helped along with a digital jump-rope that got me through until the impact injury]. We actually never took a train or bus until Brussels, and that was only because of my foot. I’m confident we logged at least 4-5 miles a day, sometimes a lot more. It’s the little things. Until the walking breaks you.

*** Not actually a real Hungarian specialty.


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Categories: Travel, Wedding


Courtney grew up in Reading, PA, and has lived in New York City (where she earned a bachelor's degree at NYU), Prague, Philadelphia, and Charlottesville (where she received a J.D. from UVa Law). Courtney and her new husband will settle in Philadelphia following a six-week Euro-trip extravaganza in September of 2012. Courtney's interests include music, writing, criticism, fitness, travel, cooking, and sports. Please enjoy the blog. LinkedIn: Tumblr:


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7 Comments on “Blood, Broken Bones and Budapest.”

  1. Laura McDonald
    September 28, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    Great title!

    • September 28, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

      Haha I’m glad you got the reference 🙂


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