Saturday, Late Afternoon, Budapest Christmas Market — We’re off to a good start. Although it was rainy and chilly (just above the freezing point) in Budapest yesterday, a group of us ventured off Viking Odin for what was billed as a “Jet Lag Buster.”
With the majority of guests coming from the United States, many, of course, were tired from traveling across six or more time zones. Even so, a couple dozen of us or so followed our Viking River Cruises’ tour leader to the nearby Budapest Christmas Market.
I’m glad I joined the group.
A Stroll Through The Budapest Christmas Market
From my experience, Budapest has one of the better Christmas Markets along the Danube. The market is close to the river — a five-minute walk; compact — occupying a beautiful city square; yet festive and varied, with vendors selling a wide selection of products appropriate for the holidays.
I did not, for example, see chintzy souvenir-type items, such as t-shirts or decorative ceramics. All of the products seemed to be of high-quality and true to the season.
I enjoyed that many vendors wore period costumes and sold goods produced in a traditional fashion, some right in front of us, such as the Chimney Cake. The cake consists of a thin yeast pastry ribbon wound around a wooden cylinder, sprinkled with sugar, and baked by rolling slowly above an open fire.
For me, strolling through the market was a step back into time, and certainly the spirit of Christmas was alive and well, and even contagious, in this wonderful square.
I wrote earlier about the History of European Christmas Markets. As I rediscovered last night, equally as interesting are the smells, the mulled wine with its many aromas, the roasting chestnuts, the varied baked goods; and the smell of cloves, cinnamon and other spices wafting in the market air.
The mood was festive (not drunken), with quite a crowd out gathering in the late afternoon on Saturday. Even though it was only 5 o’clock, the sky was already dark, and it felt like early evening.
The crowds were such that I found myself shuffling along slowly behind groups of people, listening to the strange and distinctive Uralic language spoken by the Hungarians. The crowd was so dense at times that I had to turn my body sideways to slice through standing groups. It felt good to “hugged by humanity” and to immerse my soul, spirt and body into such a happy — and hopeful — season.