Spring is just around the corner. Oh please, let that be true! This has felt like, at least to a Texas girl, a very long, gloomy winter – my first winter in Hungary. We had a day or two of sunny days that were slightly warmer, which got me very excited that spring was finally on its way…and then, bam! We were hit with a surprise snow storm that brought wind gusts of up to 60 mph and plummeting temperatures. In the city of Budapest it wasn’t so bad, especially since I was warm and bundled up in my flat. But people out on the highways weren’t so lucky. Those taking a weekend road trip along the route from Budapest to Vienna were stranded out on the highway for up to 24 hours due to huge traffic jams that extended for miles – jams caused by road closures from snow drifts and jackknifed trucks. Tanks were deployed – yes, you heard that right, tanks – to help get stranded motorists to a safe, warm place. Imagine being trapped in your car, not able to drive anywhere, with no food or water while the wind gusts continue to pile snow up against your car? Well, at least you are warm with the car heater on – that is, until you run out of gas. Yikes.
The snow has disappeared but the chilly temperatures are still hanging on…and on and on. Can you tell I’m just a tad bit ready for warmer days? Enough of winter already! But today was a good day because the annual Spring Festival is here. It may not feel like spring outside, but from March 22 – April 7, the city is alive with musical concerts, food and arts and crafts.
Today I headed over to Vörösmarty tér in the heart of Budapest to check out the Hungarian handmade crafts and food. One conclusion I have made: the best Hungarian food is found at festivals! So whenever a festival pops up, I am sure to make my way over there for lunch. Today I had a lepények, which translates as pie. But it really wasn’t a pie at all, it was a piece of flat bread covered in sour cream with cheese, ham, grilled onion, bacon and cucumbers – folded over like a pita and grilled on an old-fashioned wood-burning stove. Yummy!
There were plenty of other great things to eat – and some other things that I’m not quite sure I have the guts to try, such as “rooster testicles stew”. No joke – at least that’s what the sign said. Not sure which of the pots in the picture below held the little rooster balls, but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to find out!
I also enjoyed all the booths selling handmade goods, such as jewelry, handbags, pottery, clothing and cute little knickknacks. I also found the booth selling the Zip Bag, a Hungarian invention of a purse made entirely out of colorful zippers. You can unzip the entire bag so that it looks like a worthless pile of zippers, then just zip it back up and watch it miraculously transform back into a handbag! Ingenious.
Roosters seem to be a theme around here…
Right next to the square was another event that takes place once a month, called WAMP. It is a design fair, a place for emerging Hungarian designers to showcase their work. This event was held in a contemporary, 3-story building and was also a lot of fun. There were numerous artists there, selling their handmade jewelry, clothing and creative paper goods. This was also a good place for foodies – there were many yummy treats such as artisan chocolates, ice cream, macaroons, dried fruits, meats, spices and beer.
It was nice to see all the creativity that can be found in this city. Now if someone can just creatively make the winter go away, I’d be really happy!