Christmas Markets in Springtime, Budapest?

Sometimes the  best part of any holiday is the food…ok most times…always? It was a cold, rainy day in May. We had walked along the Danube river and crossed the famous Chain Bridge to get to the Castle Hill funicular. Our plan was to wander around the Buda Castle area.

We never made it inside Buda Castle as we never got past the grounds. And as you guessed it was because of food!

As we arrived at the top of Castle Hill, we were surrounded by a lively Sunday gourmet market. It instantly felt like Christmas in May. Christmas Markets in Summer? Summer Christmas Markets? How do we call these? The little wooden houses selling all sorts of goodies were identical to those of the Christmas Markets Europe is so famous for. This was the first time I was encountering them in Europe this time of year. I would later discover this type of market was common in Eastern Europe throughout the year but for now I was hopeful there would be a Spring version of hot mulled wine to go with the crappy weather in May. Hot mulled wine…yum!

Hungarian Christmas Markets in Spring?

What we found instead was a host of flowers, breads, butters, local delicacies, pastries, beers, coffees and most importantly marzipan. Yes, marzipan! There were so many new food discoveries at this little market, we tried almost everything…almost because the van selling Nescafe coffee was a NO in this settling!

These little flower stalls definitely made one forget the crappy weather. Spring was in the air, just not today!

Hungarian Christmas Markets in Springtime?

There was strudel. Who doesn’t love this flaky yumminess? I expected to find strudel in Hungary given it is a traditional pastry in the whole of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, but poppyseed strudel was new to me. Poppyseed desserts overall were not something I grew up with so surprise to me! Hungarian desserts I quickly learned was not as sweet to my palate as those I have had in many other countries…I’m Trini and Indian; loving all things sweet is in my blood! These being less sweet made me think I was eating “healthy” on this trip. Is there such a thing? I hope so, I really do.

Hungarian Christmas Markets in Spring?

Chimney cakes, or Kürtőskalács as they are locally called, I had never seen before, even when I lived in London and Paris. Maybe I wasn’t looking then but these were fun to watch being made. I was intriguged by the process. A strip of sweet, yeast dough is wrapped around a truncated cone to shape it, rolled in granulated sugar and then baked over charcoal fire. It gets a golden brown colour from melted butter. Ummm…butter makes everything taste good no? It is then coated in your choice of topping – cinnamon sugar, sesame seeds, more sugar, ground walnut and many others.

Hungarian Christmas Markets in Spring? Hungarian Christmas Markets in Spring?

As much as Hungarians have a love for fried dough, I was more fascinated by watching these ladies methodically use their hands to knead, roll and cook these thick flatbreads that would be served with various toppings, all with a dollop of sour cream. Paired with a local beer, this would definitely hit the spot…if I wasn’t on a sugar high from everything else.

Hungarian Christmas Markets in Spring? Hungarian Christmas Markets in Spring? Hungarian Christmas Markets in Spring?

And then there was marzipan, a very delicious sweetened almond dessert. Everyone knows marzipan in some form or fashion but did you know it was a Hungarian specialty? I didn’t. As much as the Hungarians and Italians both lay claim over marzipan, it is believed that it came to Hungary from Persia via the Turks. Here were fruits covered in all flavours of marzipan. Some “healthy” innovative versions with super nuts like pumpkin and sunflower seeds, dried fruits like fig, apricots and peaches;some sprinkled with cranberries, coconut and dark chocolate. This sounded just perfect for my diet.

Hungarian Christmas Markets in Spring? Hungarian Christmas Markets in Spring?

With a backdrop of traditional music in the background (believe it or not, he was the mascot for a local bread company) as we walked around from stall to stall on the grounds of the majestic Buda Castle, a tasting of local flavours of strudel, chimney cakes, marzipan, local breads and sheep cheeses seemed an afternoon well spent in Budapest.  We were on a sugar high, the weather too had cleared up and I had learned a bit more about Hungarian cuisine. It was time to walk home, more importantly walk it all off.

By the way, I never found any mulled wine here…guess I’ll have to return to Europe in time for the Christmas Markets for my fill and souvenir mugs!

Hungarian Christmas Markets in Spring?

 

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