Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Budapest on the Last Day of Spring
[Gerbeaud Cafe in Budapest]
So I ended up skipping the Kleines Cafe last night as they didn't have any room and went around the corner to Gigerl instead. They have a nice outdoor cafe, with plenty of wine. I had a nice piece of schnitzel and some good Gruener Veltliner (a white austrian wine).
This morning I headed off to the Jewish museum after checking out. Got there a little before 10 when they opened, but got in anyway. I saw discounts for students and teachers, and so asked about professors of history. Got it! The main historical exhibit is on the second floor and is unusual in that it is entirely holographic: 21 separate displays on various aspects of Vienna Jewish history. With the audio guide, it took close to an hour to go through all the displays. By that point I had little time for the actual artifacts display on the 3rd floor (which are mostly about introducing aspects of Judaism and Jewish culture for a non-Jewish audience). Then I headed out for the guided tour of the only Vienna synagogue to survive Kristallnacht.
Of course, there is the complicated security check to get into the building. How I'm going to do with this with 15-20 students, I'll have to figure out in the future. The synagogue was constructed in 1825 when the law forbade all non-catholic houses of worship from being free-standing buildings; instead they had to be camouflaged from the street. Ironically, this saved the synagogue because the Nazis couldn't burn it without taking out the whole city block of apartments. Here's a view of what the inside looks like:
[Stadttempel, Vienna (designed by an architect who made theaters -- really)]
The tour (mostly a historical lecture in the sanctuary) took about half an hour. That left me a little less than an hour to eat lunch and take care of all monetary issues before I left Vienna.
I headed to the Buffet Trzesniewski for lunch. This is a tiny hole-in-the-wall that serves open-faced sandwiches. Each is about 1" wide and 2 and a half" long. You can get tiny 1/8 Liter beers, but I had a diet coke instead. Here's what the food looks like:
I had the "egg and egg" (hard boiled egg slice on top of egg salad), "smoked lachs" (lox on something similar to cream cheese), and "matjes and onion" (chopped herring with onion). Actually it was light and filling.
After that I decided to splurge a little with one last visit to Aida Cafe. There I had one last melange and a slice of kokostorte. This has a base of dry chocolate cake with a thick layer of coconut filling, topped with a thin icing of chocolate. It looks like this:
[Kokostorte at Aida Cafe]
After that it was back to the hotel to pick up my luggage and then to the Westbahnhoff to catch my train. Even if today is the last day of spring, it sure feels like summer already. Temperatures in both Vienna and Budapest are around 33 (low 90s F). The train was mostly empty so there was plenty of room to stretch out, but not much A/C.
Got to Budapest and checked in to the hotel. I turned up the A/C in the room so that it's nice and cool when I get back tonight. Then it was off for an early dinner. It didn't make much sense to buy a day-long metro pass until tomorrow, but I nearly made an expensive mistake. Because I was buying just single tickets, I didn't realize you needed them for each leg of the trip. I didn't find that out until I had transferred. Thankfully I wasn't stopped.
I got to Bagolyvar a little after 6pm, and the restaurant was mostly empty (people have dinner a little later). I was seated on the outside patio and ordered the daily menu special. This was a starter of a beef broth soup with carrots and thin noodles. That was followed by pork stew over a type of pasta made by grating the dough over boiling water. It was light and not at all fatty. The dessert was a sort of palaschinka: a crepe-like pancake filling with chopped walnuts and raisins soaked in rum, topped with chocolate sauce and powdered sugar. It was all very good (and I was sure to pick up plenty of restaurant cards for a friend of mine in Long Beach who requested them).
After that I went to the Opera to find out what is showing this week, but unfortunately, it's dark until Sunday night when I leave. The Operetta, however, is showing something called "Rudolf." I looked it up just now and it's an original piece getting its first production. As it's likely in Hungarian without subtitles, however, I think I may skip it.
I then walked all the way to Vorosmarty ter to walk off dinner. I had a diet coke and Eszterhazy torta in Gerbeaud. I wanted to see if they make it differently than I do. My mother always complains that the buttercream is too rich, and theirs is defintely lighter. I may have to tone down mine. Oddly enough, there was an open-air concert of Mexican folk music opposite the cafe.
Anyway, I haven't decided yet what I'm going to do tomorrow. At some point, I'm taking the "Children's Railway" through the hills of Buda, and I'm definitely going to do a side trip to Esztergom. I also have to find a way of visiting the spas every day.