The last time I had Hungarian Goulash, I was in Budapest, at a party organized by the Budapest party hostels, a network of hostels in Budapest which included Carpe Noctem, where I was staying. I would recommend this hostel chain to anyone, as they organize amazing, and often outrageous, nightly events, and provide a community feel for travelers from all over the world. Anyway, Budapest is well known for it’s “ruinpubs,” which are literally ruined and abandoned buildings turned bars. At this hostel party, the location felt like a ruinbar with a large outdoor recreation/patio area. The smell of goulash lingered in the air, as three large stone pots containing the traditional ingredients, of beef, carrots, celery, and potatoes, simmered over wooden fires. When it was finally ready, the goulash was scalding hot, but a new Canadian friend and I welcomed the heat as we sat outside in 15 degree Fahrenheit weather, a little buzzed from the “Jaeger train” (tables lined up with Jaeger bombs set up like dominoes” which proceeded.
On my last night in Budapest, I reminisced on the week that before while chowing down on the hot and hearty goulash. Budapest is one of my favorite cities in Europe. To me, the city felt like it had a lot of middle eastern influence found inside Alice in Wonderland-like tea houses to the bathhouse culture, combined with beautiful scenery in a post-communist city.
During my time in Budapest, I checked out two bath houses. Szechenyi Bath, a traditional bath house found inside a bright yellow building, provided me with my first communal bathing experience. This bathhouse is co-ed and features a variety of indoor baths at different temperatures and an outdoor bath allowing guests to venture outside year round. The second bath house, Aqua World, was more like an indoor water park. I went with the hostel to a once a month event, in which the indoor water park is open late night, with a bar, for adults. Picture a bar, plus water slides, plus a complex of pools, plus Hungarian dancers, and you get AquaWorld. This event was a little farther outside Budapest, but there were buses organized to take hundreds of people from Budapest to the facility.
Besides bathhouses, tea houses are very popular hangouts. I went to Sirius Teahaz with an American girl living in Israel, and we were pleasantly surprised to discover a complex of rooms, lofts, hammocks, mirrors, and crawl-throughs. We found a spot on the floor and eagerly sipped our tea as we dried off from the rain outside. People seemed to spend hours relaxing in the tea house, bringing books, and playing cards or dominoes, as they sipped tea with their friends and family. I would absolutely love it if we had such a place in Washington, D.C…
As I look back on this trip, Budapest is a place I would absolutely return to. As I was missing Hungarian cuisine lately, I decided to try a vegan* goulash, and it came out great. Here is the recipe: