On Sunday, I visited two towns outside of Budapest. It was nice to get out of the city for the afternoon and evening. The first town— Szentendre. Founded by the Romans in the 4th century (and like so many villages in this part of Europe) it’s right on the banks of the Danube. There are countless galleries, cafes and the streets are peppered with cobblestones. The style is almost entirely Baroque and the houses are colorful, quaint and edged with potted petunias. Szentendre has the largest Serbian population in Hungary (they fled the Turks in the late 14th century), though in the 1920s artists started to move in and is still quite popular among artists. The light is very soft, and even though seemingly popular among tourists, it was very quiet as if time really hadn’t changed much of anything at all. I saw one old woman actually peaking out of her little window and chatting with another woman in the street. It’s exactly what you would imagine for a small European village. Gentle and old fashioned.
We enjoyed people watching and a cold Dreher at a little café in Fő Square with a view of the cross that was raised in 1763 by the lucky few that survived the bubonic plague. At the bottom there is a little clip of a horse-drawn carriage ride. They would eventually make their way down to the Danube where we would hear the driver explaining the fascinating intricacies of the European Union’s economic policies to the frightened family aboard.
After the brief rest, we continued to walk around the town and, due to all of our hard work sightseeing, we believed we deserved an ice cream. These little ice cream shops absolutely kill me with their adorableness. I had a little scoop of Vanilla and After Eight.
We left Szentendre and continued on Route 11 toward Visegrád stopping along the way at a roadside stand for peaches, plums, and apricots.
Visegrád is set on the narrowest part of the Danube and if you make your way up to the ruins of the citadel (Fellegvár) (built by King Bela IV from his wife Mária Lascaris’ jewelry money) you can see the most stunning view of the river curving right toward Budapest and left toward Slovakia. And it was once the most spectacular castle in all of Hungary. It really was breathtaking. You could sit up there for hours. When we were there, the evening was slow forming over the water and a gentle mist was dusting the view. On the hills across the river, there were little house that almost looked like paintings.
The highlight of the night was dinner. On the way back, we stopped at a roadside trout restaurant that was called Friss Pisztráng, which means simply, fresh trout. In between shots of something, the guy manning the grill station on the bank of the river quietly prepared the dinner: whole, fresh trout, crisped up with the skin, teeth, eyeballs and all and served on a plate with a big salad. There were four different ways that you could order the trout. (It was the only thing on the menu, which is probably one of the most honest ways to have a restaurant—do one thing and do it extraordinarily well.) I had mine with pesto. It was amazingly delicious. As we sat there with our beer and trout I really had to pinch myself. The experience in these small European towns is so vastly different than American life (or maybe even just city life) in so many ways, but I really don’t know how to write it out, write about the pace of something. As we ate and drank it started to rain. We were under a tarp but a few cooling drops blew in. The waiter and griller were drinking and smoking and every so often a wet herding dog jogged over to get a little reprieve from the rain, or maybe a fried potato.
In all, it was truly the perfect summer Sunday evening.