How to visit the Balkans: Introducing Croatia – the dream of Game of Thrones!

How to visit the Balkans: Introducing Croatia – the dream of Game of Thrones!

We’ve just returned from Croatia.

And OMG!

Even though I’ve travelled to 61 other countries!

Croatia is the first time that I’ve ever been to the Balkan States, my 62nd country, and the first (1st) new country for 2017!

It was better than I ever hoped.

Me in Dubrovnik – Croatia!

My plans for 2017 (in alphabetical order) were:

  1. Austria
  2. Croatia
  3. Czech Republic
  4. England
  5. France
  6. Germany (of course. Ho! Ho!)
  7. Holland
  8. Ireland for TBEX (the Travel Bloggers Exchange Conference)
  9. Poland
  10. Romania
  11. Russia
  12. Slovenia
  13. Sweden

Let’s see how we’ve done so far.

Mozart & Vienna are adorable!

AUSTRIA:

CZECH REPUBLIC:

I went skiing!

I haven’t quite got around to writing about skiing in the Czech Republic this year yet, but this is what I previously wrote!

HOLLAND:

Dutch children in traditional costume.

CROATIA:

  • Yay!
Because Game of Thrones!
Because Game of Thrones!

Now, to be frank, most people have never heard of Croatia.

Game of Thrones?

Yep!

I love that show by the way…!

But Croatia?

Isn’t it somewhere in Eastern Europe?

Yes.

And No!

It can’t be both surely?

The Music Producer in Zagreb. Geographically, Croatia is one of the previous communist states!

Well, geographically, it’s one of the previous communist states.

Don’t worry.

Breath!

However, in recent years, Croatia has managed to re-invent itself, so that even though it is actually in Eastern Europe, it’s marketed as Central Europe too!

Croatia has such a Mediterranean vibe, that you could be in Italy or Austria!

In truth, it has the vibe of the Mediterranean, and you’d be hard pressed not to think that in certain parts of Croatia, you could actually be in Italy, or dare I say it. Austria!

I know!

Book your hotel here!

LET’S GET A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY!

Ceremonial Officers in Zagreb – Croatia

Croatia, otherwise known locally as Hrvatska, or officially – the Republic of Croatia – is a sovereign state between Central Europe, Southeast Europe, and the Mediterranean!

Croatia covers 56,594 square kilometres (21,851 square miles) and is on the Adriatic Sea coast, which contains more than a thousand islands!

Croatia’s population is just 4.28 million, and the capital city is Zagreb.

A traditional Busker in Zagreb – Croatia!

The Croats arrived in the area of present-day Croatia way back in the early part of the 7th century, before becoming two Duchies in the 9th century.

Croatia became a kingdom in 925 and remained so, for almost 200 years!

After World War I in 1918, Croatia was included in the unrecognized State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs which seceded from Austria-Hungary, and merged into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In 1991, Croatia declared it’s independence which sadly, between 1991-1995, became a bloody war with Serbia, then known as part of the ex – Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia!

However, Croatia won it’s independence and since 2013, has also been a fully fledged member of the European Union!

WHY GO TO CROATIA?

How to visit the Balkans: Introducing Croatia – the dream of Game of Thrones!

Why not?!

Well, Croatia is in Europe!

It’s on the map where East meets West.

It’s entwined with civilizations, history and culture, that goes back centuries!

It boasts numerous architectural jewels and a world heritage that make parts of Croatia enviable. And UNESCO locations filled with buildings, marked by world history of thousands of years, that made me practically salivate when I saw them!

It’s modern, but also traditional with folk customs, rural traditions that are still adhered to.

In fact, we were all given traditional Easter eggs and Easter cake, handed out as gifts. And I can’t even tell you how many random people (many of them old), waved and smiled at me, on passing by!

The Tall Young Gentleman at the sea in Split – Croatia!

Croatia is near the sea.

It’s pretty cheap by West European standards.

Fairly developed in services and infrastructure.

And I’ve never been to the Balkans before!

Because Game of Thrones!

Because Game of Thrones!
Because Game of Thrones!

Now when I pitched Croatia to my husband – The Music Producer – he wasn’t initially convinced.

He thought that Croatia would be too far into Eastern Europe, leading into the throngs of Albania, Romania, and Bulgaria.

He wasn’t excited at all!

The Tall Young Gentleman & The Music Producer were pretty excited once they got to Zagreb – Croatia!

However, one of the things that changed his mind, was the personal contact that I made with the Zagreb Tourist Board at the ITB travel trade fair in Berlin!

I was so excited to be visiting their country, and they were wonderfully helpful.

Thanks so much!

Is it any wonder that The Music Producer was caught up with my enthusiasm too!

I have a lot of things to write about, and you’ll see them all.

I promise!

No worries!

TAKE ME THERE?

Take me to Croatia by ship!

As you all pretty much know by now, I’m a great believer in train travel. However, Croatia is quite far from Germany, so we flew!

We had planned just ten (10) days in Croatia – three (3) days in Zagreb, three (3) days in Split, and four (4) days in Dubrovnik.

We wanted to spend at least 14 days (yes, please!) but school commitments meant that the German Easter School Holidays this year, only catered for ten (10) days! But as I always advocate, be smart, use all the weekends, and make it work!

It’s not possible to fly non-stop from Berlin, so we flew with Lufthansa, via Munich on the way in, and Austrian Airlines, via Vienna, on the return leg.

Our outward journey from Berlin Tegel (TXL) to Zagreb (ZAG) with a stop-over, took 6 hours and 20 minutes. Our return journey from Dubrovnik with a stop-over, took just 4 hours.

However, you don’t even need to fly, as you can either take a cruise ship in from the Mediterranean States, a ferry from Italy, take a bus-coach from anywhere you like, or simply rent a car and drive from Austria or Slovenia!

Note: There aren’t a lot of inter-city trains. In fact, there’s no train station in Dubrovnik at all!

There actually aren’t a lot of trains in Croatia at all!

If you’re on a tight budget then many bus-coach companies such as MeinFernbus / FlixBus also go to Croatia. But do be aware that the fastest routes are usually only sold in Croatia itself.

We decided to use the coach-bus between Zagreb – Split and Split-Dubrovnik.

Zagreb – Split was a straight-forward ride, and took 6 hours and 20 mins. Cost: €24.00 per person.

Split – Dubrovnik proved problematic, as the coach-bus actually went backwards in the direction of Zagreb, then dropped us in the backwater town of Benkovac, at the Benkovac Busbahnhof!

I didn’t like Benkovac in Croatia, at all!

Benkovac was yucky!

As soon as I saw the “bus station,” I wanted to get the hell out of there!

It was practically deserted and every “room” was boarded up.

We had a 1 hour stop-over at 10:30, and the next decent place was a bar. So we ran to it and ordered a few (non-alcoholic) drinks there!

It’s 10:30 in the morning remember.

An early morning shot of vodka in many East European countries, is believed to be quite healthy!

Not that it stopped any of the local punters. Ho! Ho!….!

Our journey took 8 hours and 30 minutes, but the bus was 45 minutes late, so make that 9 hours and 15 minutes instead!

We probably should have rented a car, and be done with it!

Cost: Split – Benkovac €12.00. Benkovac – Metkovic €7.35. Benkovac – Dubrovnik €5.65 per person.

IS IT GOING TO BE CROWDED?

Croatia isn’t crowded in the Spring – Locals in Zagreb – Croatia!

Not in the Spring it isn’t!

In fact, there were very few tourists around as it wasn’t yet “the season,” and many a restaurant were luring customers in with 10% discounts.

But in the summer, prepare to gird your loins, and fight your way through!

Plan well.

Book your hotel here!

Zagreb is the capital of Croatia, and it’s very small!

Zagreb is the capital city in Croatia, and it’s very small!

Split and Dubrovnik are even smaller, and receive up to 3,000 guests per cruise ship, in the summer!

I haven’t a clue how many cruise ships sail by, but it won’t be pretty.

Having said that, if that’s the only time that you can travel, don’t let anything get in your way, as most cruise visitors are only in town for half a day, so that evenings will all be yours!

Book your hotel here!

WHAT IS CROATIA LIKE?

Croatian food is most delicious!

We were only there for 10 days, but Croatia definitely made an impression on me.

It’s of historical and architectural interest, the food and wine is impressive, the waters are clean, green-blue, and crystal clear.

And it’s very, very pretty!

I DON’T SPEAK CROATIAN.

Our guide speaks at least four (4) languages. Possibly, even more!

Not. A. Problem.

It’s amazing how many languages a typical European speaks.

Most speak a minimum of three (3)!

If you speak English, German, Italian or Korean, you’re good to go.

Besides, everyone pretty much speaks English too!

AM I GOING TO LIVE IN A HUT?

A stone house in Croatia!

Ha! Ha! Not unless you want to!

I’M ON A BUDGET. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

This plate of Cevapcici was certainly pretty cheap. Ho! Ho!

Croatia isn’t cheap-cheap.

If you’re from the UK or the US, it’s as cheap as chips.

If you’re from Germany, prices are the same as in Berlin, and you can eat at gourmet restaurants, at far cheaper prices!

We pretty much spent a large amount of time drinking a few glasses of wine, whilst people watching. And a few more!

And on this trip, we decided to book apartments instead of hotels or hostels.

Book your apartment here!

Booking an apartment in Croatia is by far better, than booking a hotel!

We had great difficulty with personal space in Madrid last year, as The Tall Young Gentleman has recently turned 15 (OMG!), and is very tall. We decided to either book two (2) hotel rooms, or a large apartment instead.

Prices are low, and the quality and standards of apartments available, are exceedingly high. I’ll write more about it in the next few weeks!

Frankly, if you’re paying between €45.00 – €60.00 per night, for huge apartments with terraces, working kitchens, and a piano, you simply can’t go wrong!

Book ahead to get good prices.

Book your apartment or hotel here!

I’M LOOKING FOR SOMETHING A BIT DIFFERENT. ANY IDEAS?

The Adventure Begins – More next week!

Absolutely!

Too many to write at the moment.

More next week!

WHAT ABOUT TRANSPORT POSSIBILITIES?

A vintage car, ‘cos modern cars aren’t allowed in the Old Towns, in Croatia!

All of Croatia is pretty small, so every city we visited was quite walkable.

In most cases, cars are not allowed into the Old Towns!

However, you could take the bus, the tram, or simply walk!

ANYTHING ELSE?

A Bosnian waitress - Don't forget if you're travelling to Dubrovnik, you'll have to go through Bosnia!<br /> ©Photo Adam Jones - adamjones.freeservers
A Bosnian waitress – Don’t forget if you’re travelling to Dubrovnik, you’ll have to go through Bosnia!
©Photo Adam Jones – adamjones.freeservers

If you’re travelling to Dubrovnik, note that there’s a tiny strip of road that’s actually in Bosnia! It only takes about five (5) minutes, but make sure that you have your passport with you.

The motto in Croatia is to relaaaaaax & not rush things.

I think we did that rather well!

MY VERDICT:

You know nothing Jon Snow except that Croatia is pretty brilliant!
You know nothing Jon Snow except that Croatia is pretty brilliant!

We all loved it!

Croatia has got art and culture, and has a vibrant history.

Because, Game of Thrones!

Just kidding!

Or am I?!

You know nothing Jon Snow…..!!!!

But seriously.

For many international visitors, Croatia isn’t a destination that immediately comes to mind, but if you’re in the Balkan area, make it a point of duty to spend a few weeks days, in as many cities as you can manage.

If you’re looking for a new destination that isn’t really on the beaten path, say hello – CROATIA!

WOULD I COME AGAIN?

How to visit the Balkans: Introducing Croatia – the dream of Game of Thrones!

Totally!

Croatia is a sunny dream, and I can’t wait to visit again.

Let’s do it!

HOW TO VISIT THE BALKANS: INTRODUCING CROATIA – THE DREAM OF GAME OF THRONES!

How to visit the Balkans: Introducing Croatia – the dream of Game of Thrones!

This article is not sponsored, and all opinions and the delightful cobbled walks that we happily rambled through, are my very own!

In April & May, I’ll be writing more about Croatia, and visiting  Sweden & Finland!

I’ll be there. Will you?

If you’re not in Berlin in April, you’re quite mad!

April is going to be superb!

How to visit the Balkans: Introducing Croatia – the dream of Game of Thrones!
How to visit the Balkans: Introducing Croatia – the dream of Game of Thrones!

Watch this space!

Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.

I learnt my lesson in Spain. And obviously, in countries like Qatar, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t imagine going that far beyond, WITHOUT INSURANCE. No siree! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!

Please note that there are now affiliate links (for the very first time) connected to this post. Please consider using the links, because every time some sort of accommodation or travel insurance is booked via my links I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself!

A win-win for all!

Thanks a million!

How to visit the Balkans: Introducing Croatia – the dream of Game of Thrones!

Have you ever been to Croatia? Are you a fan of Game of Thrones? Let me know in the comments below!

See you in Berlin.

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

If you like this post, please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!

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9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!

9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!
9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!

Have you ever been to Slovakia?

You know the one.

Slovakiaaaaaaaaa. Not Sloveeeeenia!

Most people haven’t or if they have, they’ve sort of breezed through.

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

On a day trip from either Budapest or Vienna.

Or worse, as an after-thought from visiting Prague or Krakow, which is no-where near the capital that is Bratislava!

Ah well!

Let’s have a look at Slovakian or Slovak food shall we.

Communist vodka & Jaffa cakes in Warsaw!
Communist vodka & Jaffa cakes in Warsaw!

Traditional Slovak cuisine, like Polish cuisine or Estonian cuisine, as well as Czech cuisine, is rather rustic in nature and tends towards the stodgy side of things!  These include such delights as wheat, potatoes, milk, dairy, pork, cabbage, and onions!

To a lesser degree beef, poultry, lamb and goat, eggs, beans, corn on the cob, lentils, parsley, carrots, wild mushrooms, and other vegetables are often used to create soup, and other dishes. Fruit like apples, plums, apricots, peaches,  and cherries, are also traditionally eaten.

9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!
9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!

It wasn’t too long ago that families had to grow and produce food for themselves, or trade or barter with their neighbours, or in local markets.

As a result, wheat was milled into bread, dumplings and noodles. Potatoes were boiled or made into potato dumplings, and milk was made into products such as butter, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, and various types of local rustic cheese.

Pork is the big thing, and typically made into sausages.

Pork is typically made into sausages, but not always! 9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!
Pork is typically made into sausages, but not always! 9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!

The Slovakians or Slovaks also have their own traditional blood sausage, smoked bacon, and lard.

Beef and chicken, as well as rabbit and venison is widely used, and sometimes goose.

Black bread or rye bread is as a direct influence from Austria, and many Slovakians or Slovaks eat bread for breakfast or for lunch with soup. Very frequently for dinner too!

Traditional Slovakian or Slovak drinks tend to be milk or beer!
Traditional Slovakian or Slovak drinks tend to be milk or beer!

Traditional drinks tend to be milk or beer!

We went to Bratislava, and this is what we had!

9 TRADITIONAL EAST EUROPEAN THINGS TO EAT IN SLOVAKIA!

9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!
9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!

We went to this really neat place called the Slovak Pub.

At the Slovak Pub in Bratislava - 9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!
At the Slovak Pub in Bratislava – 9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!

From the outside it looks really touristy but loads of people inside were also Slovak or Czech, so feel free to go there. They also had heavily discounted prices for students and the local population!

  • We had the national dish of Slovakia called Bryndzové Halušky

Bryndzové Halušky is a type of local potato dumplings (similar to gnocchi), mixed with traditional bryndza sheep cheese, and grated smoked sheep cheese, sprinkled on top with bacon pieces.

The national dish of Slovakia is called Bryndzové Halušky.
The national dish of Slovakia is called Bryndzové Halušky.

It’s a bit gooey and looks like porridge. I looove porridge but I didn’t like this dish, although “The Tall Young Gentleman” did.

He even had my portion, so that’s alright!

Cost: €4.50

  • We also had the Vychodniarsky Rezen
The Vychodniarsky Rezen is an Eastern Slovak schnitzel!
The Vychodniarsky Rezen is an Eastern Slovak schnitzel!

The Vychodniarsky Rezen which is an Eastern Slovak schnitzel made from chicken breast, green beans, ham, and cheese served with potato wedges and a few leaves of rucola!

Cost: €5.80

  • A large glass of Frankovka Modra or red wine went down quite well. I had two!
A large glass of Frankovka Modra or red wine, went down quite well!
A large glass of Frankovka Modra or red wine, went down quite well!

Cost: €1.80

  • Son had a large glass of Kofola
A large glass of Kofola - a popular traditional Slovak cola drink! ©Martin Strachoň
A large glass of Kofola – a popular traditional Slovak cola drink!
©Martin Strachoň

Kofola is a traditional Slovak cola drink and is very popular among the local Slovak or Slovakian people.

Cost: €1.30

The next place we tried was in the Old Town.

We went to a restaurant called Venturska Kubovna.

Even though we're tourists, stop cheating us! Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!
Even though we’re tourists, stop cheating us!
Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!

The food was great, the outdoor location was lovely, the prices were fantastic, but the service was rubbish, and I was not impressed in the least!

They seemed to think that because they get a whole barrage of tourists, who don’t know any better, the staff can blatantly cheat them.

I hate people who cheat.

I consider it akin to stealing.

I hate stealing too.

Srop scamming us in Slovakia!
Stop scamming us in Slovakia!

I’ve experienced this numerous times in both Slovakia AND the Czech Republic where prices are so cheap that it’s easy for the staff to change the order around, add “extra” bits that the customer didn’t request, or just simply, serve the most expensive item on the menu, even though the customer ordered something completely different!

In this case, not only did the restaurant get our order wrong, they even had the cheek to charge the complete bill of their local Slovakian mates, from the next table!

My suspicions were raised when the bill started with the butter that I ordered, but never received…..!

I had promised “The Tall Young Gentleman” a feast, so this is what we had:

  • A “Klubovňa” hamburger
A huge “Klubovňa” hamburger in the Old Town in Bratislava, Slovakia
A huge “Klubovňa” hamburger in the Old Town in Bratislava, Slovakia

A huge “Klubovňa” hamburger is a beef burger with homemade BBQ sauce, bacon, cheddar, served with sour pickles, onions, french fries, and a small pot of baked garlic mayonnaise sauce!

Cost: A hefty €10.99

I’m not into burgers. Or beef for that matter!

I prefer lamb.

I know!

Right!

Anyway, I wasn’t very hungry so I had:

  • A Gril. bravcova klobasa
The bravcova klobasa - a Slovakian grilled pork sausage served with mustard, horseradish and a pepper!
The bravcova klobasa – a Slovakian grilled pork sausage served with mustard, horseradish and a pepper!

The Gril. bravcova klobasa is a Slovakian grilled pork sausage served with a small bowl of mustard, a small bowl of spicy horseradish sauce, a small basket of bread, with a spicy hot pepper stuck on top of the sausage!

I was so impressed with the sausage that here is a closer look!

The bravcova klobasa - a most delicious Slovakian spicy grilled pork sausage!
The bravcova klobasa – a most delicious Slovakian spicy grilled pork sausage!

Cost: €5.99

After that, we decided to have dessert.

  • We had a Smotanova torta jahodova
A smotanova torta jahodova sponge biscuit cake filled with cream, vanilla & a strawberry purée topping, covered in kiwi!
A smotanova torta jahodova sponge biscuit cake filled with cream, vanilla & a strawberry purée topping, covered in kiwi!

A smotanova torta jahodova is a sponge biscuit cake filled with cream, vanilla, a strawberry purée topping, vanilla, and served with kiwi fruit and castor sugar!

It was quite delicious!

Cost: €2.99

  • We washed it all down with a huge glass of Zlanty bazant tank beer and Kofola – the traditional Slovak cola drink!
All washed down with a huge glass of Slovak beer and Kofola!
All washed down with a huge glass of Slovak beer and Kofola!

Cost for the beer: €2.78

Cost for the Kofola: €1.69

On our last night we went to a local restaurant just one (1) minute away from our hostel.

The restaurant was called Reštaurácia Štefánka.

Reštaurácia Štefánka in Bratislava, Slovakia
Reštaurácia Štefánka in Bratislava, Slovakia

The only person who spoke English was a teenage boy, but the food and service was so top-notch that if I ever went back to Bratislava, I might actually stay there instead!

I liked what I saw.

It’s a bit old school reminding me of the Hotel Neptun Castle on the Polish Baltic Sea, but the restaurant also has a hotel that was opened in 1904, is authentic, local, historical, and a family business.

So why not?

They also had proper Slovak or Slovakian prices so we had the set menu, as the menu was in Slovak and we didn’t really know what we were going to get lol!

  • Our first course was a dish of Slovak or Slovakian pierogi dumplings and Bryndzové Halušky.
A dish of Slovak or Slovakian pierogi dumplings and Bryndzové Halušky.
A dish of Slovak or Slovakian pierogi dumplings and Bryndzové Halušky.

I love pierogi of course, so that was a no-brainer, but I only nibbled at the Bryndzové Halušky, as I didn’t like it!

I discreetly swopped my half-full dish with my son’s empty one, as the hotel owner was hovering, proud of her food.

  • The second course for “The Tall Young Gentleman” was Viennese veal cutlet or Wiener Schnitzel.
Viennese veal cutlet or Wiener Schnitzel
Viennese veal cutlet or Wiener Schnitzel

Oh yeah!

Yum!

Viennese veal cutlet or Wiener Schnitzel is very thin, breaded and pan-fried cutlet made from veal slices, butterfly cut, lightly pounded flat, and rolled in flour, whipped eggs, and bread crumbs.

Phew!

It’s the national dish of Austria and due to the regional and historical closeness, found it’s way to Slovakia.

It was served with slices of lemon, and a side salad of tomatoes, lettuce, and spring onions.

The schnitzel was so huge that even “The Tall Young Gentleman” couldn’t manage it!

  • My second course was grilled salmon with green beans served with slices of lemon, a side salad, and a small plate of potato wedges! 
Grilled salmon with green beans, lemon slices, and a side salad.
Grilled salmon with green beans, lemon slices, and a side salad.

Here’s another look at the whole picture. Including the wedges!

Grilled salmon with green beans, lemon slices, a side salad. Including the potato wedges!
Grilled salmon with green beans, lemon slices, a side salad. Including the potato wedges!
  • For dessert, we had a lovely scoop of ice-cream, melon chunks, and grapes.
A lovely scoop of ice-cream, melon chunks, and grapes.
A lovely scoop of ice-cream, melon chunks, and grapes.

What a delight!

Cost for all three (3) servings: A marvellous €8.99

Cost for a glass of wine: €1.50

Cost for a glass of Kofola: €1.50

I don’t think you could do any better. And on a Sunday night too!

That’s it for now.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing about art and films in Berlin, travels to the German Baltic Sea, as well as a comprehensive post on how to use the train in Europe!

In October, I’ll be travelling to the TBEX ASIA travel conference in the Philippines, and revealing the extra Chinese-speaking country. It’s a new one!

In November, I’ll be travelling to Austria.

Yippee!

9 TRADITIONAL EAST EUROPEAN THINGS TO EAT IN SLOVAKIA!

9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!
9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!

This article is not sponsored, and all opinions and the tasty sausage, cheese and ice-cream that we licked our chops for, are my very own!

I’ll be at the official photocall for THE ONE Grand Show before the World Premiere at the Friedrichstadt-Palast on October 6th. With more than 100 artists on the world’s biggest theatre stage, a budget of over €11 million, and extravagant costumes designed by Jean Paul Gaultier, you know it’s going to be epic!

I’ll be attending a special By Invitation Only Berlin – Alternative Fashion Week (BAFW) press evening on September 28th.

I’ll also be going to the fashion shows at Berlin Alternative Fashion Week from September 28th – October 1st.

Save the Date!

September is going to be Wow!

I’ll be there. Will you?

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

If you’re not in Berlin in September, I can’t image where else you would be!

Watch this space!

9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!
9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!

Have you ever had traditional East European food? Can you think of other Slovak or Slovakian food? Can you guess the Chinese-speaking country that I’ll be going to? Have your say!

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

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.

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