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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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

Please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!