How I went to 11 marvellous countries, & taught the Germans about the Queen in 2015. If I can do it, so can you!

Original photo © Belén de Benito
Original photo © Belén de Benito

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!

My. What a year we’ve had.

2015 was fabulous for me and 2016 is going to be even more spectacular!

But first, let’s take a walk down memory lane of all the countries that I went to last year, and what I did. According to my WordPress annual report, over 69,000 people have read my blog in the last year from 171 countries. 69,000 people!! To think this little blog is but two (2) years old. Isn’t that brilliant?

The three (3) top countries were:

  1. USA – 13,000 readers.
  2. Germany – 10,000 readers.
  3. UK – 9,500 readers.

With the lovely Latvia right behind – 9,300 readers.

Amaaaazing!

Thank You!

Thank you so much for reading, making comment, and sticking with me. I love you all!

So let’s start with the country of my birth (England), and end with my new home-country (Germany). Here we go. Choose your poison….!

THE 11 COUNTRIES THAT I WENT TO LAST YEAR WERE:

  • England
  • Holland
  • The Czech Republic
  • Hungary
  • Lithuania
  • Latvia
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • Poland
  • Spain
  • Germany

ENGLAND:

Oysters and stout on a wooden table outside a pub, England UK - ©VisitBritain Daniel Bosworth
Oysters and stout on a wooden table outside a pub, England UK –
©VisitBritain Daniel Bosworth

Last year I went to Bristol and I was extremely honoured to be invited as a guest of Visit Bristol. While I was there, I decided to drop into the city of Bath too but I haven’t actually written it about it yet, but you’ll get that post soon enough lol!

Not bad at all!

HOLLAND:

In the Red Light District, Amsterdam.
In the Red Light District, Amsterdam.
  • I have a great husband and every now and then I get a free weekend. It was January and I hadn’t been to Holland in nine (9) years so I decided to go on a solo weekend to Amsterdam and this is what I did: I went to a sex-show!!!

THE CZECH REPUBLIC:

"The Tall Young Gentleman" surrounded by teenaged girls at Rokytnice nad Jizerou!
“The Tall Young Gentleman” surrounded by teenaged girls at Rokytnice nad Jizerou!

Not only did I visit one of my favourite countries ever. But in 2015, I actually went twice!

And then I went to Prague.

In Prague reading something and looking all serious, but not completely serious!
In Prague reading something and looking all serious, but not completely serious!

What?

You haven’t yet been?

Incredible!

HUNGARY:

Chess players in the Széchenyi Thermal Bath and Swimming Pool - Budapest.
Chess players in the Széchenyi Thermal Bath and Swimming Pool – Budapest.

Hungary was on the map this year but for all the wrong reasons. Sadly, rather than the lovely goulash and paprika soup, it became far more known for the dismal handling of refugees running for their lives. Lest we forget, as far as the common man in Europe is concerned, #refugeesarewelcome.

THE BALTIC STATES:

A map of the Baltic Sea.
A map of the Baltic Sea.

I travel a lot and as much as I love travelling to my favourite regions of the world over and over again (Hello Tuscany!), one of the most interesting things about the Baltic Region is that I had never been there before so I decided to make a family trip out of it.

My husband gulped when I told him that not only were we going to the “other” Eastern Europe otherwise known as The Baltics, but we were going by long-distance coach-bus from country to country! I’m a determined woman and so with the part-sponsorship of an Estonian company called Lux Express, we went by road and back again!

LITHUANIA:

Vilnius B&B in Lithuania.

LATVIA:

Riga Black Balsam.

Twenty six thousand (26,000) views, hits and shares!

Absolutely Outstanding!

Thank you Latvia!!

ESTONIA:

Estonian Young Folk.
Estonian Young Folk.

FINLAND:

Helsinki Monument, Finland. @VisitFinland
Helsinki Monument, Finland.
@VisitFinland

POLAND:

Jesus in Warsaw.
Jesus in Warsaw.

For many people, Poland is an unknown country somewhere in an obscure part of Eastern Europe. If you do want to venture there, not to worry as I’ve been going there for almost twenty (20) years, so I’ve got tips to help you plan your way!

SPAIN:

Paella for lunch at TBEX in Lloret de Mar - Spain. Yum!
Paella for lunch at TBEX in Lloret de Mar – Spain.
Yum!

I love Spain and for the first time, I decided to attend the TBEX conference which is the holy grail of the travel blogging world and stands for Travel Blog Exchange.

I decided to stay closer to home and attend TBEX EUROPE. In previous years, the bloggers conference had been in Dublin and Athens but in 2015, it was in Costa Brava, Catalunya. In Lloret de Mar to be specific. Near the beach. Olé!

But is it just me or does disaster follow me around like a bad smell? Firstly, my flight out from Berlin to Barcelona was delayed, and was so late coming in, that I had to stay at Barcelona Airport all night! And secondly, my return flight was also delayed, ten (10) hours behind schedule! Ten (10) hours!

I mean.

Come on!!

OTHER PARTS OF GERMANY:

Roman cohorts at the Varus Battle in Osnabrück. © Tourismusverband Osnabrücker Land e.V.
Roman cohorts at the Varus Battle in Osnabrück.
© Tourismusverband Osnabrücker Land e.V.
  • The most popular post about Germany is still actually the very first post, that I ever wrote on my blog. Isn’t that funny! The title was: Germany is Boring. Ooops! Yeah, I got insults and abuse for this post. Mainly from people who never read it.

Ah well, I’m famous now. Right. Right?!

MORE NEXT WEEK!

The Black Kilts and my British-German family! © Pascale Scerbo Sarro
The Black Kilts and my British-German family!
© Pascale Scerbo Sarro

Blogging is a lone game and a solo art and in 2015, many more experienced bloggers struggled to maintain momentum or to overcome exhaustion. I’m lucky. I have a family and I have a life. Most importantly, I’ve already found my home-base  – Berlin – and I’m extremely happy with where I am and who I am.

Thank you so much for your support everyone. 2015 was a lovely year. Here’s to the next. Bottoms up!

I'm a very happy British lifestyle, expat, travel blogger. Right here in the beautiful city of Berlin - © Pascale Scerbo Sarro
I’m a very happy British lifestyle, expat, travel blogger. Right here in the beautiful city of Berlin –
© Pascale Scerbo Sarro

This post is not sponsored and I can’t wait to hear from you!

If you have any questions about Berlin, Germany or anywhere in Europe, don’t be shy, I’m an expert! Go ahead and ask me!

I have so much to share with you so next week I will be writing about some of my travel destinations for 2016 with you.

It”s a New Year. Hip! Hip! Hurrah!

If you’re not in Berlin in January, then where the hell are you?

January is going to be splendid!

Watch this space!

We love my blog!

Where did you travel to last year? Any achievements that you would like to share?

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

Please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!

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If you’re looking to go to a new European city then Budapest is surprisingly nice. And the food is Hungarian but really Turkish. And Italian too!

Now this looks a lot like brain, but I'm thinking they're probably Hungarian sausages in a stew! Or are they?!!
Now this looks a lot like brain, but I’m thinking they’re probably Hungarian sausages in a stew!
Or are they?!!

So Budapest.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Budapest was a really nice destination to go to.

But before that, for those of you who are new readers to The British Berliner, yours truly had a genuinely first-rate experience with the German media.

Because.

Oh you know.

The Queen came to Berlin!

Schoolchildren wave Union flags as the Queen leaves a service of thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral to celebrate its 300th anniversary.
Schoolchildren wave Union flags as the Queen leaves a service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral to celebrate its 300th anniversary.

You can read all about how I was invited to be on the rbb (the Berlin-Brandenburg TV station) evening TV show as a sub-presenter on a panel of British experts and how I was a main feature on a documentary about established British people in Berlin.

I was featured as a British expat blogger about town on a show called Berlin. Very British! Not only that, but the documentary was picked up by other national German TV stations such as Phoenix, ARD and ZDF! And I was on a seven (7) minute radio interview broadcast about three (3) different types of British expats living in Berlin, of which I was one. The production was called Briten in Berlin or Brits in Berlin.

I mean, wow!

Sometimes, I still can’t believe it!

And just to add to that, at the end of July, I was contacted by the Editor-in-Chief of Europe’s largest online newspapers – The Local in Germany – in which I was interviewed about my life in Germany and how I came to make a documentary and headline on German TV. The piece was called How I explained the Queen to the Germans!

Me being thoughtful and looking as if I'm about to sing! © Pascale Scerbo Sarro
Me being thoughtful and looking as if I’m about to sing!
© Pascale Scerbo Sarro

Do read! It’s a rather entertaining piece, as are the trolls at the end of it LOL!

Most importantly, you get to see a more personal side to me..!

Back to Budapest!

"The Tall Young Gentleman having "a rose" ice-cream at Gelarto Rosa, in Budapest.
“The Tall Young Gentleman having “a rose” ice-cream at Gelarto Rosa, in Budapest, Hungary.

Budapest can be a real gem if you let yourself be in the moment and just go for all the remarkable food that you can find right there. In Budapest.

So let’s go back to basics and start at the very beginning.

A healthy start to the day. Breakfast.
A healthy start to the day.
Breakfast.

At the beginning of any day, one ought to have a healthy breakfast. It’s even better if your place of sleep includes breakfast as a matter of course.

As a British person, it’s pretty much a given that when you have a bed, you also have a breakfast. It isn’t often so in the United States and it wasn’t to be at some of the places that I originally looked at before thankfully, landing on the Buddha-Bar Hotel and the Aria Hotel Budapest.

Last week, I told you all about the exquisite musically inspired boutique that is the Aria Hotel Budapest but I haven’t yet told you about the Asian-inspired Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest Klotild Palace or simply the Buddha-Bar Hotel yet, and I should!

Look at the glamour of the Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest Klotild Palace or simply, the Buddha-Bar Hotel in Budapest!
Look at the glamour of the Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest Klotild Palace or simply, the Buddha-Bar Hotel in Budapest!

The Buddha-Bar Hotel is a 5-star urban chic luxury hotel based on the trendy corner of Váci utca, in the heart of Budapest.

The hotel was originally a delightful hundred-year-old (100) Klotild Palace which has now been dressed up as a mysterious Asian-colonial place influenced by Buddha. And indeed, every part of the hotel was coated with black, red and dark orange as well as Asian-influenced statutes throughout the hotel.

The location is absolutely divine!

The underground station nearest to the Buddha-Bar Hotel.
The underground station nearest to the Buddha-Bar Hotel.

There’s an underground station – Ferenciek Square – a few paces away, an exclusive pedestrian-only shopping zone, located on the corner of the famous Váci utca or Váci street, which is one of the main pedestrian thoroughfares and perhaps the most famous High Street in Budapest! Many of the major tourist attractions are nearby, as is the Danube river, the Chain Bridge, the Grand Market Hall, lots of historical buildings and the Buda Castle, which you can see right on the opposite side of the bridge!

In fact, from the Buddha-Bar Hotel, everywhere was pretty much walkable or if you’re so inclined, all the tour buses also stop near the outer side of the hotel!

Buddha can see yooooou!
Buddha can see yooooou!

Because the Buddha-Bar Hotel used to be a distinguished palace, the area is huge both inside and out. The hotel consists of one-hundred and two (102) rooms and we were upgraded to the Executive Room.

The tasty fruit and tangy colour tones of the Buddha-Bar Hotel.
The tasty fruit and tangy colour tones of the Buddha-Bar Hotel.

Our room was red and black with lots of Buddha heads and Chinese dragons. Unfortunately, because of the colour scheme, the room can seem a bit dark but there were hidden lights in obscure places.

If you’re a couple it would be brilliant, but as a mother with a growing lad and lots of technical equipment, it wasn’t bright enough.

I recommend that you use them all!

Our delightful tray of fruit. Thank you!
Our delightful tray of fruit.
Thank you!

We were welcomed by a gigantic tray of fruit and a rather nice bottle of Hungarian red wine!

Thank you so much!

Our Executive Room was roomy with a really nice seating area and two large twin beds.

Soft to the lightest touch at the Buddha-Bar Hotel!
Soft to the lightest touch at the Buddha-Bar Hotel!

I liked the way that the wardrobes and cupboards had the minimalist touch. Just push lightly and they would open.

There was a safe, fridge and a large-screen TV with all the international channels and Asian inspirational lounge music, as well as dressing gowns, fluffy towels and fluffy slippers.

The bathroom was amazing.

It was huge and had two (2) sinks.

Two sinks baby!
Two sinks baby!

Yeeeeeees!

It also had a gigantic bath tub and The White Company bathing products. If you’re a couple. You’re in for a wonderful time….! (Oh why. Oh why. Wasn’t my husband – The Music Producer with us?!)

There was also complimentary coffee with it’s own trendy coffee-maker but as you all know. I hate coffee and only drink tea.

Black tea.

Anyone for tea and scones?
Anyone for tea and scones?

Not fruit tea.

Not herbal tea.

Just black tea.

With milk and sugar.

Unfortunately, that was sometimes an issue. Either there was only a single tea-bag, no milk or even no tea bag at all. On our last evening I waited for 1.5 hours for my life-enhancing tea!

Our Executive Room also included complimentary WiFi which normally would have been quite OK, but as a blogger, I need fast reliable WiFi that won’t drop.

The connection dropped and I ended up having to re-connect again and again.

Sigh!

It’s a good thing that I had already written my post before I left Germany…

Shudder!

Bliss! Just complete & utter bliss!
Bliss! Just complete & utter bliss!

Having said that, as I told you last week, the sauna and spa were remarkable. I was worried about the sauna bathing situation as countries on the continent have no qualms about going au naturel.

But I cannot be so calm, and unconcerned.

I just can’t!

The sauna staff had assured me that by 20:00 the spa and sauna area would have very few people in and she was right.

Phew!

Not this!
Not this!

For the first twenty (20) minutes or so, we were all by ourselves. There was a Finnish sauna, an infra-red sauna, a steaming room, a pool that was a tank of ice-cold water à la Siberia, a Japanese bath (jacuzzi), warm stone beds and a fitness area.

We were later joined by an Irish man with his Spanish wife and his ten (10) year old daughter and we were all as nervous as each other.

So that’s alright then!

Blisssssss!

Good value.
Good value.

The spa and sauna were very, very good and highly recommended, the staff were obliging and friendly and the concierge knew everything that needed to be known!

The Buddha Hotel isn’t expensive but neither is it cheap.

Here it comes…

All this from €188.00 per night in the Executive Room which for two (2) people would be €94.00 a pop!

Enjoy the chic luxury hotel!
Enjoy the chic luxury hotel!

I think for the luxury of sleeping in a palace surrounded by a group of friends or an obliging lover, you would do rather well!

Speaking of recommended, I think it’s time to get back to talking about food.

Our going-on-the-train salami and green paprika sandwich arranged for us by the Aria Hotel Budapest.
Our going-on-the-train-salami-white-cheese-and-green-paprika sandwich arranged for us by the Aria Hotel Budapest.

Whenever we go on a family holiday, I like to mix things up a little in order to experience a wide variety of food possibilities, to meet the locals, and to stretch our budget in a more comfortable way.

Countries in this part of Europe are not known for having exquisite food. They’re not France you know! Even Germany has an image of cabbage and stodge and Hungary has been influenced by everyone and it’s mother, so I’m going to introduce you to some Hungarian delights!

Traditional Hungarian food tends to stretch from soups, stews, grilled and fried meat, the use of vegetables such as tomato, cabbage, beans and onions, garlic and stuffed cabbage, to a local type of pancake and of course, the Hungarian icon – the red paprika!

All hail the paprika! ©cnn
All hail the paprika!
©cnn

You can of course also observe and partake in fine dining places, trendy street food stands, organic farmers markets, soup bistros, fish restaurants, wine bars, coffee shops, cafés and of course, ruin bars.

I’ll be focusing on the more traditional, day-to-day stuff.

A HUNGARIAN BREAKFAST:

Breakfast at the Buddha-Bar Hotel, Budapest.
Breakfast at the Buddha-Bar Hotel, Budapest.

Both hotels that we went to had some delicious stuff.

As you recall, our trip to Budapest was at the Aria Hotel Budapest and the Buddha-Bar Hotel.

Eggs at the Aria Hotel, Budapest.
Eggs at the Aria Hotel, Budapest.

For breakfast at the Aria Hotel Budapest, an à la carte menu was supplied, and you could choose a selection of eggs to be cooked, and you helped yourself to a variety of breads, jams and honey, cereal, muesli, fruit and berries, home-made spreads and sauces, seafood, delicious cold cuts and Hungarian salami, a medium-sized range of cheeses, vegetables, pickles, nuts and cream, as well as cake, pastries, tea, coffee, water and juices.

A savoury breakfast at the Buddha-Bar Hotel, Budapest. Yum!
A savoury breakfast at the Buddha-Bar Hotel, Budapest.
Yum!

At the Buddha-Bar Hotel, they had an à la carte menu too in which you could choose eggs of any style, smoked salmon, pancakes with blueberries and syrup, or porridge! They also had a self-service buffet with cold cuts, vegetables, sauces, pickles and cream. As well as a wide variety of cereal, fruit, yoghurt, muesli, bread, cake, pastries, and juices.

An assortment of cheese and cold cuts at the Aria Hotel Budapest.
An assortment of cheese and cold cuts at the Aria Hotel Budapest.

Very nice!

Cost – €0.00.

HUNGARIAN SOUPS:

My Hungarian goulash soup. Absolutely free of charge!
My Hungarian goulash soup. Absolutely free of charge!

This soup and it is soup, is different from German goulash stew!

As you can see, there’s pieces of beef, potatoes, carrots and is a little bit spicy.

I don’t really like spice but I cope!

Anyway, we got this soup at the NIKA restaurant not far from the Buddha-Bar Hotel. And it was rather nice. We got this soup as a result of the Hungarian established Budapest Sightseeing Hop-on-Hop-off company. Their package came with a booklet of free stuff!

Cost – €0.00.

Hungarian soup!
Hungarian soup!

We had this soup at a Hungarian restaurant called Gastland Bisztró. We went to the establishment in Oktogon.

The soups above are meat soup and a traditional goulash soup and there’s a third (3rd) one but I forgot to note down which soup it was. On doing some research, I figure it could have been bean or chicken soup!

Cost – Included in the price of the buffet which ranges from 1,190 Hungarian Forint or €3.80 depending on the day. We went on Sunday so the price jumped to 1,590 Hungarian Forint or €5.15 per person. In order to have the two-hour (2) buffet price, you are expected to order drinks if not, 200 Hungarian Forint is added to your bill, per person. Also, if you take too much food and leave a lot of waste, you will also be charged for it.

Don’t say that I didn’t warn you!

Cost: 4,450 Hungarian Forint or €14.50 for both of us on the buffet option and also a couple of drinks.

HUNGARIAN MAIN COURSES:

The awesome chicken paprika with pasta or gulyas at Bali Caffe Étterem in Budapest. ©Kobako.
The awesome chicken paprika with pasta or gulyas at Bali Caffe Étterem in Budapest.
©Kobako.

The very famous chicken paprika with some sort of Hungarian pasta or gulyas.

The pasta – gulyas was a little chewy and I probably wouldn’t rush for seconds, but the chicken paprika itself was quite nice!

Cost – part of our first (1st) night three-course dinner at the Bali Caffe Étterem which at 2,690 Hungarian Forint or €9.00 was reasonable!

Budapest Spring Fair 2015
Budapest Spring Fair 2015

We saw pork on a spit in quite a few places as people in this region, do like their pork. And pancake filled with a meat filling. And beef. LOL!

Cost – I haven’t a clue!

Hungarian koftas.
Hungarian koftas.

Cost – Food from the Mediterranean could be found everywhere between 700 – 1,000 Hungarian Forint or €2.25 – €3.25.

OTHER HUNGARIAN STUFF:

Hungarian Flatbread!
Hungarian Flatbread!

Hungary, like Germany, has a large variety of bread which is influenced by it’s Turkish, Greek and Italian neighbours. As such, there’s a lot of street food that can be sampled…!

Kilfi - traditional Hungarian bread!
Kilfi – traditional Hungarian bread!

As you can see, the kilfi is a traditional Hungarian bread which is sort of moon-shaped and can be found all over the country at no more than a few Florints.

Cost – 20-100 Hungarian Forint or €0.06 –  €0.35.

A buffet breakfast at the Aria Hotel, Budapest.
Cold cuts and seafood at the Aria Hotel, Budapest.

You can’t go to Hungary without sampling some of the local Hungarian salami. And yes, some varieties are spicier than others.

And chewy!

But they are rich in flavour.

Cost – Varies.

Chicken Feet - Raw!
Chicken Feet – Raw!

I’m on a roll so I’m going to go straight ahead and show you the other side of rummaging and wandering through the market hall.

Chicken feet!

Yes, batches of chicken feet all wrapped up in plastic for soup, stew, pets, coffee..?!

Don't look!
Don’t look!

Don’t look if you’re squeamish.

Above are batches of plastic bags full of chicken heads!

I haven’t a clue what is to be done with them. Any ideas?

HUNGARIAN DESSERT:

Hungarian Crêpe or Palacsinta.
Hungarian Crêpe or Palacsinta.

We shared the Palacsinta or Hungarian Crêpe, with very warm honey and jam.

It was quite delicious!

Yummy!

Cost – part of our first (1st) night three-course dinner at the Bali Caffe Étterem which at 2,690 Hungarian Forint or €9.00 was acceptable!

Creamy dessert from the Great Market Hall, Budapest.
Creamy dessert from the Great Market Hall, Budapest.

 I think it’s called a Kréme which is a creamy dessert with a caramel topping, a puff pastry layer, whipped cream and a custard filling. We took the cake that didn’t have chocolate in it!

Cost – 200 Hungarian Forint or –  €0.65.

Savoury or fruit in Budapest. Who knows?
Savoury or fruit in Budapest. Who knows?

These buns are probably more akin to bread than cake but who’s counting?

Cost – 100 to 200 Hungarian Forint or –  € 0.35 to €0.65.

Cheese cream cornets.
Cheese cream cornets.

It is what it says on the tin – cheese cream cornets.

Cost – 180 Hungarian Forint or –  €0.58.

A set of Hungarian doughnuts and sugary balls!
A set of Hungarian doughnuts and sugary balls!

Cream split doughnuts and Fánk which is a sugary sweet traditional Hungarian dumpling ball!

Cost – 100 to 200 Hungarian Forint or –  € 0.35 to €0.65.

Kürtőskalács - the traditional Hungarian speciality in Budapest.
Kürtőskalács – the traditional Hungarian speciality in Budapest.

One of the most recognisable Hungarian desserts world-wide, is Kürtőskalács.

Kürtőskalács is a Szekely festival Hungarian cake and is made from sweet yeast dough in which a strip is spun and then wrapped around a cone–shaped baking spit, and rolled in granulated sugar and other items!

Cost – 265 Hungarian Forint or –  € 0.35 to €0.65.

Summer berry goodness in Budapest, Hungary.
Summer berry goodness in Budapest, Hungary.

 And lastly, some good ‘ole fruit and summer berries picked a-fresh!

That’s it for now.

Cheers!
Cheers!

For more information about the Buddha-Bar Hotel, please contact: The Buddha-Bar Hotel.

This article is part-sponsored by the Buddha-Bar Hotel in Budapest and part-sponsored by the Aria Hotel Budapest and I received a 50% discount on the Budapest Card, but all opinions and the very enticing Hungarian meals that I chomped on, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you.

Stay tuned!

Next week, I’ll be writing about Prague.

Amazing!

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & FB!

If you’re not in Berlin right now, you should be!

August is cooling down!

Watch this space!

I don't eat chocolate but I know that most of you do. This is for you - chocolate heaven!
I don’t eat chocolate but I know that most of you do.
This is for you – chocolate heaven!

Have you ever had Hungarian food or drink? Would you choose to eat chicken feet, chicken Paprika or goulash soup?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

Please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!

What no one tells you about Budapest, ‘cos the views are breathtaking and the water is magical!

A Hungarian bath in Budapest

We’re back home.

Yipee!

I had a wonderful time in both Budapest and Prague but of course, my beloved Berlin will still be my one and only. Have no fear.

After Manchester of course!

Happy Hungarian people - Budapest Spring Fair 2015
Happy Hungarian people – Budapest Spring Fair 2015

Last week, I told you how amazing Budapest was and that did not change. In fact, Budapest turned out to be so much better than I ever imagined…!

I mean, after 11 years, I was hoping for miracles. And I found them.

Before I go any further let me remind you that I travelled from Berlin to Budapest. From Budapest to Prague. And then from Prague back to Berlin again. By train!

I also spent six (6) days and five (5) nights in two separate hotels.

We stayed firstly at the chic but luxurious Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest Klotild Palace or simply the Buddha-Bar Hotel and secondly, at the beautiful boutique and musically inspired Aria Hotel Budapest.

The Teatro Aria - Aria Hotel - Budapest.
The Teatro Aria – Aria Hotel – Budapest.

I’ve spoken often about how I like to do things my way and also how if I like a place, I return again and again. Budapest might turn out to be one of those places and so we spent our time in the city.

We didn’t go to Slovakia.

We didn’t go to Austria.

We spent all our time in Hungary and all of that time in Budapest.

ALL of it!

In fact, quite frankly, there wasn’t even enough time at all.

WHAT SHOULD I DO WHEN I GET TO BUDAPEST?

Matthias Church and the Fisherman's Bastion terrace over the city - Budapest.
Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion terrace over the city – Budapest.

We only went for six (6) days so this was a sloooooow cultural family trip.

We did so many things and went to so many places that I don’t even know where to start so I’ll just list them. You’ll soon get the picture.

There is plenty to do in Budapest. You can:

A live escape game in Budapest.
A live escape game in Budapest.
  • Explore the Great Market Hall or Nagycsarnok which was built in 1897 and is the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest. We found the market interesting but you know, once you’ve seen a whole collection of pig’s snouts for sale, eaten a pig’s ear for lunch, seen a batch of fried chicken claws and boxes of crunchy spiders, cockroaches and worms, not to talk of pig heads in a temple, you soon learn not to get too excited!
  • Be guided through the largest Jewish community in Central Europe and take note of the historically important Hungarian Jewish Quarter and it’s synagogues and museums. It’s the second (2nd) largest in the world!
  • Explore quite a lot of the bridges which are all so nearby.
  • Get excited and get hopelessly lost and confused in a live escape game.
  • Hop-on-or-off on a bus tour.
  • Check out Elizabeth Square – Lots of young people use the square as a place to hang out and chill. Practically every day, people paddle in the fountain and take a quick “shower.” There is also free drinkable water from the water fountain and hot steam spouting out of the waters.
  • Bring your own beer and wine but remember it’s officially illegal to do so, but unofficially ignored!
Enjoy the moment on Elizabeth Square - Dangle your feet and bask in the sunshine!
Enjoy the moment on Elizabeth Square – Dangle your feet and bask in the sunshine!

Enjoy the moment!

  • Go on a free walking tour around the city. We went on the United Europe Free Walking tour which not only has a free orientation tour and a free Jewish District tour, it also has a free communism walk too!
  • Explore the history and architecture of Budapest.
  • Understand the difference between “Buda” and “Pest.”
  • Take photographs of the Buda Castle.
  • Walk by the riverside and imagine living in the historic seat of power – The Parliament.
  • Check out some of the lovely churches and places of worship which are just bursting to be visited.
  • Go to the lovely Budapest History Museum.
  • Take photos of the Liberty Statue and Citadel.
  • Glide into the Danube Symphony Concert.
  • Wander around the Fisherman’s Bastion.
  • Stroll freely through the side streets.
  • Visit the Memento Park or Statue Park.
Jewish memorial shoes at the Danube in Budapest. © Phil Watkins
Jewish memorial shoes at the Danube in Budapest. © Phil Watkins
  • Be thoughtful and remember the people who were shot into the Danube, by visiting the memorial Shoes by the Danube.
  • Go people-watching inside the beautiful Budapest Castle with its neo-classical buildings.
  • Merely ramble along the cobbled historical streets.
  • Check out the various cafes, ruinbars and restaurants for a quick bite and a few rounds of Hungarian beer and Hungarian shots!
  • Visit the Castle Hill.
  • Splash in the fountains, lakes, ponds and rivers.
  • Wander through a huge number of churches.
  • Marvel at the architecture of the railway stations.
  • Take a stroll on Margaret Island.
Hungarian pickles - but I haven't a clue what they are!
Hungarian pickles – but I haven’t a clue what they are!

I remembered that I had seen something about a Hungarian buffet restaurant somewhere on the internet, and so we went looking for the place. It was a real Hungarian place. So Hungarian was it that I didn’t even recognise the food. Especially the more exotic vegetables! The restaurant is called Gastland Bisztró. We went to the one in Oktogon.

  • Don’t forget to go shopping.
  • Take a river cruise along the Danube river.
  • Go to the wide variety of saunas, spas and baths covered by open-air thermal springs, wells, jacuzzi-like bubbly spots, neck showers, massage jets, whirlpools and massages.
I certaintly won't be going to the sauna European style. Don't forget, I'm British!
I certainly won’t be going to the sauna European style. Don’t forget, I’m British!

If you’re thinking I’m going to tell you that I went to the baths in all my glory, then you’ve got another thing coming!

In case, you haven’t noticed. I’m still British and you know perfectly well what I think about saunas….

Gulp!

I found Budapest to be a classical city of awe so let’s get down to some practicalities.

HOW TO GET TO BUDAPEST

Take the train!
Take the train!

We decided to travel to Budapest from Berlin and I explained about the experience in my previous post. The train ride was cheap and fairly easy to navigate and from Berlin took twelve (12) hours but you can break the journey by going to Bratislava (Slovakia), Vienna (Austria) or Prague (the Czech Republic). You could come in via the Keleti, Nyugati or Déli train station. We came into Keleti.

If you’re flying in then most international flights would come into Budapest Liszt Ferenc Airport or you could take the bus-coach and come into Népliget Bus Station.

I DON’T SPEAK HUNGARIAN.

Although Hungary is a young country most people seemed to speak pretty good English in either American accents or really weird working class English ones! And if you speak French, Spanish, Russian or German, you will be very catered for as lots of tours and pieces of information could be found in these languages. I also noticed Japanese and Korean tourists and they looked very happy LOL!

AM I GOING TO LIVE IN A HUT?

It doesn't look like a cave...in Hungary!
It doesn’t look like a cave…in Hungary!

I don’t think so. Budapest might be a city from Eastern Europe but it’s the capital so you’re definitely not going to be living in a cave!

I’M ON A BUDGET. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

I saw many hostels, other moderately priced accommodation and budget hotel possibilities.

I can’t give you any details but catering to the more budget conscious traveller is available just try to remember that it isn’t Poland. Hungary is cheap but it isn’t that cheap!

I’M LOOKING FOR A BIT MORE LUXURY, IS THERE SOMETHING FOR ME?

Luxury at the Aria Hotel in Budapest.
Luxury at the Aria Hotel in Budapest.

Oh good god yes!

Absolutely, yes.

There’s such a lot to say and such a lot of information to take in that in order for this post not to be a 5,000 word piece, I’m going to work backwards and write about the last hotel in Budapest first, and then the first hotel with all the delicious food that is to be had in Budapest, next week!

Our last stay was at the five-star beautiful boutique and musically inspired Aria Hotel Budapest.

Let me tell you.

That hotel was amazing!

The Library Hotel in New York!
The Library Hotel in New York!

I had come into contact with the establishment because I was originally doing some research for my husbands’ birthday in 2016. I wanted to do something really nice for him and was thinking of perhaps taking him on a long weekend to New York, when my eye caught on a venue called The Library Hotel.

A library collection and a hotel with books?

Yes, please!

On seeing it’s splendour I wondered whether they might have hotels in Europe.

Mmmm.

Budapest perhaps?

They did!

And so I contacted them.

Staff Greeting ME via Twitter from the Aria Hotel in Budapest. Very impressive and I met most of them too!
Staff Greeting ME via Twitter from the Aria Hotel in Budapest. Very impressive and I met most of them too!

From that moment, they stayed in contact with me even sending a “we can’t wait to meet you” picture on Twitter which I thought was pretty awesome!

The Aria Hotel Budapest was a very new hotel with a musically inspired concept of luxury, a Hungarian experience, world musical heritage, a warm atmosphere and an exquisite rooftop that isn’t just a rooftop, but a rooftop that is almost parallel to the St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest!

Next to the St. Stephen's Basilica - Aria Hotel Budapest.
Next to the St. Stephen’s Basilica – Aria Hotel Budapest.

Located in the historic city center on the Pest side of the Danube River, the Aria Hotel was a former 19th century bank that looked small on the outside but was distinctly large on the inside.  It had 49 guest rooms and suites that each celebrated a major musical genre such as classical, opera, contemporary and jazz.

A bit like the Tardis of Dr. Who…!

The living space. Not the music!

We were in the Grand Luxury Room with 2 Full-Sized Beds – City View!

Exxxxxxxxquisite!

The Air Music Garden Balcony: Room Contemporary Music Style - Aria Hotel, Budapest. Phew!
The Air Music Garden Balcony: Room Contemporary Music Style – Aria Hotel, Budapest.
Phew!

It was so nice to have a huge bed Queen-Sized Bed with lovely white cotton sheets and loads and loads of pillows, and cushions.

Our stay at the Aria Hotel was an extravagance.

When you book a room on-line, you can never be entirely sure what you’re going to get and can only hold your breath and cross your fingers.

I didn’t know what to expect in Hungary and was amazed at what we received.

"The Tall Young Gentleman" relaxing in the the Grand Luxury Room and with 2 Full-Size Beds - Aria Hotel.
“The Tall Young Gentleman” relaxing in the Grand Luxury Room and with 2 Full-Size Beds – Aria Hotel.

Our Grand Luxury Room consisted of two huge 2 Full-Sized Beds, two (2) lovely fancy armchairs, a writing desk and chair, a large  wardrobe, a mini-bar, a safe, a fridge with complimentary water, a coffee and tea-making service, a huge large-screen TV, an AC unit.

We had an en-suite bathroom that had a rainforest shower AND a large bath tub, and fitted out with “Molton Brown” beauty & bath hair and body wash items, body lotion, dressing gowns, fluffy slippers and plenty of fluffy towels!

We also had access to Aria Hotel’s spa and sauna unit that consisted of a heated pool, a Jacuzzi, hydro bicycles, a Finnish sauna, an infra-red sauna, a steaming room and a fitness room.

We were so lucky to have the sauna and spa to ourselves in the late evening.

Such a thrill!

Such bliss!

Because.

British!

"Viktoria" - This wine has got my name all over it....!
“Viktoria” – This wine has got my name all over it….!

We also had free WiFi, a room iPad, a docking station, access to a digital music library, a generous buffet breakfast and a complimentary Afternoon Wine & Cheese Reception. That is to say, free wine and cheese from 16:00-18:00 every day.

Every Day!

Yipee!

Because these are the important things in life LOL!

A buffet breakfast at the Aria Hotel, Budapest.

For breakfast, we had a menu and you could choose a selection of eggs, a variety of breads, jams and honey, a wide variety of cereal, muesli and fruit, home-made spreads and sauces, seafood, delicious cold cuts, and cheeses,  vegetables, pickles and cream, As well as  cake, pastries, tea, coffee, water and juices.

“The Tall Young Gentleman” was pretty euphoric!

Now brace yourself.

The Aria Hotel Budapest isn’t for the backpacker.

It isn’t for the stingy or the penny-pinching.

It’s for the grown-ups and those who want and like, the good things in life.

The Music Garden at the Aria Hotel in Budapest. See how clever the floors were made!
The Music Garden at the Aria Hotel in Budapest.
See how clever the floors were made!

Here it comes…

All this from €336.00 per night in the Grand Luxury Room which for two (2) people would be €168.00 a pop!

Sometimes you need to spoil yourself.

And others!

WHAT ABOUT TRANSPORT POSSIBILITIES?

Take the train or any other form of transport in Budapest!
Take the train or any other form of transport in Budapest!

Budapest is pretty small so that everywhere is walkable and pretty to look at. The public transport system is fairly easy to use as there are only four (4) underground or subway lines. There are 268 buses plying the city roads, 32 trams and 15 trolleybuses.

Be very careful with taxis.

Make sure the price is fixed.

…Before you get into the taxi!

Or better still, take a traditional river cruise.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Chess players in the Széchenyi Thermal Bath and Swimming Pool NOT at the Aria Hotel of course! - Budapest.
Chess players in the Széchenyi Thermal Bath and Swimming Pool NOT at the Aria Hotel of course! – Budapest.

The sauna and spa in both the Aria Hotel Budapest and the Buddha-Bar Hotel were brilliant. At the Aria Hotel, we indulged in the luxury of my son and I being perfectly and completely alone in the cool pool, using the hot bubbly jacuzzi, and spreading out on the Egyptian-style chaise!

It was a shame that my husband – The Music Producer – couldn’t make it.

He would have loved it.

AND?

The view was so brilliant. As were my sunglasses!
The view was so brilliant. As were my sunglasses!

And the highlight of the Aria Hotel Budapest was the Highnote SkyBar.

“The Tall Young Gentleman”and I were lucky enough to get the opportunity to lounge in the SkyBar with complimentary cheese, wine and mock-cocktails, and stay as long as we liked.

And the view was exquisite so we just drank in the St. Stephen’s Basilica right behind us (so close that I felt as if I could touch it!) and the Ferris Wheel in front of us.

It really was glorious.

An exclusive rose-shaped ice-cream from Gelarto Rosa. Right next door to the Aria Hotel in Budapest!
An exclusive rose-shaped ice-cream from Gelarto Rosa. Right next door to the Aria Hotel in Budapest!

MY VERDICT:

I really like Budapest.

It’s not as cheap as Prague, but is certainly reasonably priced.

It’s breathtaking.

It’s romantic.

It’s a chill-relaxing city with craft-beer and interesting wine.

It’s lovely.

Me - The British Berliner - Live a life of both style & travel.
Me – The British Berliner – Live a life of both style & travel.

WOULD I COME AGAIN?

Totally!

Try and stop me!

A dummy head and a hat. For light relief!
A dummy head and a hat. For light relief!

For more information about the Aria Hotel Budapest, please contact: Aria Hotel.

This article is part-sponsored by the Buddha-Bar Hotel in Budapest and part-sponsored by the Aria Hotel Budapest and I received a 50% discount on the Budapest Card, but all opinions and the wonderful Hungarian cuisine that I nibbled on, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you.

Stay tuned!

Next week, I’ll be writing about the first hotel that I stayed at in Budapest – The Buddha-Bar Hotel – and the wonders of Hungarian booze and cuisine.

Quite interesting!

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & FB!

If you’re not in Berlin right now, did you miss me in Budapest or Prague!

August is going to be baking!

Watch this space!

The Little Princess (Kiskirálylány) statue sitting on the railings of the Danube promenade in Budapest, Hungary.
The Little Princess (Kiskirálylány) statue sitting on the railings of the Danube promenade in Budapest.

Have you ever been to the baths in Budapest? Would you like to stay at the Aria Hotel and drink cocktails on the Highnote SkyBar?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

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