Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Hungarian Parliament Building, bathed in sunshine. I took a walk along the Danube after class for this photo, enjoying the first week of spring in Budapest. Also the first week of locking myself up in the library to write papers and study for final exams. Cruel timing is not specific to Ithaca, sadly.


The nineteen-year construction of this palace inhaled about forty kilos of gold, a thousand workers, and forty million bricks. A hundredfold more beautiful than functional to good governance, as it now houses a unicameral legislature grotesquely twisted to the will of the ruling party.

“EU citizens can visit the Parliament Building free of charge upon proof of nationality.” Hah.


Spent the Saturday before last in beautiful, sunny, and cheerful Vienna, whose sidewalks are immaculate and statues aplenty. Very easy to see the high quality of living the city boasts across the news. Also convenient to reach from Budapest — just a 3-hour train ride from Keleti Station past fields, more fields, and some wind farms. Felix, Jaclyn, and I took an early train and snored the time away.

Travel buddies.

I’d already been through the major museums and sights with our study abroad group, so this day was for strolling, shopping, sipping Almdudler, and eating twice our weight in chocolate. There are two fantastic Konditorei in Stephansplatz, just east of St. Peter’s Church (which looks like three churches in one from the outside — have any of you seen all the nutty façades?) on the main shopping street. The first is L. Heiner Hofzuckerbäcker with amazing pastries, cakes, and marzipan. The second, whose name I’m trying to track down, has the best handmade chocolates and nougats that I have ever tasted. Their offerings were our dinner on the evening train, along with a loot of lokum and barazek cookies from the Naschmarkt. (Still working my way through those.)

Going from Budapest to Vienna is a bit of a strange experience — things get neater, brighter, cheerier, and grander too. A leap from the post-communist to the post-Habsburg. And with better beer.

After my first bites of authentic Hungarian food, I mentioned wanting to make Hungarian friends and plead for some homemade cooking. This mission is pretty outdone because of my friends Gréti and Kata, who are not just lovely people but also nutrition majors. Divine cooks, in other words.

They came over last weekend to cook dinner for what grew from a party of three to a daunting fifteen people. This translated to three kilos of chicken, five bags of turo,and lots and lots of paprika–all minced and mixed and mashed together into a delicious meal that fed not only our whole group but a few of my neighbors, too. And I still have leftovers somewhere in my fridge.

The classic paprika chicken–served in a sour cream sauce with Disney princess pasta from the Azsia store –was Gréti’s masterpiece. She somehow finds time between school and work and commuting from Pomaz to regularly make this for her family, and the practice has definitely paid off. I barely had time to sneak some for next day’s dinner before we scooped up every last delicious spoonful.

The most memorable part of the meal was definitely the túrógombóc, a cheesy-sweet dessert of cottage cheese rolled into balls, boiled, and covered in toasted breadcrumbs with sugar. Eaten–wait for it–with sour cream. I thought they would taste pretty good with honey or jam, but the looks on Kata’s and Gréti’s faces suggested that this was probably against a national law or two.

I left the cooking to the experts, but it actually looks like an uncomplicated dessert to make. Just lots of gooey mashing and rolling involved.

Gréti and the neverending cottage cheese.

We’d actually grossly overestimated the collective appetite of fifteen people, so the túrógombóc was neverending. After giving them away to all those willing and taking a bowlful to my neighbors, there are still about 30 waiting in my freezer. Default dinner for lazy nights.