I do not have nice things to say about Budapest. Budapest is a fantastic wine and food town. Shopping and sightseeing make exploration fun. But there are a few things concerning about the city and the country. The train station is busy, loud, lowly-lit, full of yelling pitchmen and con artists. The subway system is patrolled by a platoon of dunce ticket inspectors who do not speak English and have no reason to be nice to you. And Budapest is not a good beer town. Like agriculture, influence of communism and Soviet influence for a period of 40 years wiped out most small brewing operations. Family breweries were lost. Large factories survived.
The city is done up for the holidays, at least in a few places. More markets than other times of the year. Sprinkles of snow were falling mid-day, this being early December. It was a rather grand spectacle viewing Pest from the castle walls of Buda as the fog and snow began to creep up the Danube River Valley.
Budapest has a big homeless problem. Mental health care is a problem. Scams and cons are paramount. I’m 188 cm tall and I sometimes carry a large beard with me; people don’t hassle me and I can navigate seedy areas without trouble. Budapest felt uneasy.
Lowlight: Osterbrau Fekete
The worst experience of the entire 2 ½ weeks on travel was at Osterbrau Söröző drinking the Fekete:
Fekete tasted like butter, tire rubber, burnt olive oil, used motor oil and black tar gravy, and none of these descriptors are an exaggeration. Söröző was made up of torn booth and torn carpet and rubber mats and some sort of Dirty Rocker-Biker theme. The taste of rubber and oil in their dunkel / schwarz-like dark beer went well with the surly employee attitude and plastic truck bed liner ambiance.
Highlight: Keserű Méz
A highlight of Hungary and the only beer had multiple times while in Budapest. An unfiltered German-hopped strong lager (approx. 16°) at the semi-famous Szimpla Kert, a bar that could just as well serve as a haunted house or rave site or a television set dressed up like a “wild” bar.
I stopped at Piritós Pub which served only Slovakian beer from Pivovar Kaltenecker. Kaltenecker does some Americanized German styles, if you can characterize it as something familiar. I had the 23° Strong Porter which I found raw, sweet, nutty, toffee-ish and a little harsh.
The Great Market Hall
At the Great Market Hall you have dozens of cramped stands full of cheaply-made wooden trinkets, tins and bags and varieties of Paprika, t-shirts and magnets. Some woven items. A lot of the same booth-to-booth. But not everybody sells evil pig face masks.
At the Market Hall I did get a people-free shot of a spice booth that I thought had a lot of character.
And from above you get a sense of the interior height.
Bridges of Budapest
At the end of the day with a few bottles of Takai in my checked bag already, I ponder one more splurge on an €1800 (approx. $2400 USD) bottle from 1940. 72 years old.
Alas I go instead with a 18 year old bottle for €30 into a tea bottle to toast my leave of Hungary for now.