Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What I ate in Europe.

Currently, we are in Basel, Switzerland. We're staying with a friend from the Crescendo Institute (the violinist in our quartet) today and tomorrow Karl, me, and our friend will travel to Paris. It took us 21 hours and 9 trains to arrive in Basel and we are so happy to be here. 

Since I last blogged we have been in Padova, Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, (and Nice, France- although it was only for 25 minutes, so it doesn't really count). Today I want to share about some of the food we have been eating while we have been in Europe. We've tried some of the local foods and some familiar foods and have seen strange things that aren't usual at all for Americans. 

For instance, we stayed with a host in Padova, Italy and on the way to his flat he pointed out the butchers store. But this wasn't just any butcher. It was a butcher that only sold horse meat. Yup. Horse meat. It's quite common and tasty, he told us. (thanks, i'll take your word for it) 

(fresh salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, feta, dill and bacon)
This first picture if from our free-day at the festival. We went on a wine tasting tour that included a 3-course meal at a French restaurant in Hungary. I loved the idea of this place- it was opened by some French artists and chefs who have a beautiful restaurant filled with their artwork! 

 (couscous, herbed chicken, and a sweet squash loaf)

this was the second course at the restaurant. I felt so fancy eating in courses and trying new flavors!

 (different kinds of desserts- sweetmeats, etc.)

The final and 3rd course of our meal had some sweetmeats and different dessert bites. I'm not even sure what to call them. The little meatball-looking things were very sweet- I think they had some nuts and honey in them. They were served neither hot nor cold.  Interesting, but I think my taste buds would have preferred gelato ;)

this is a traditional Hungarian dish- chicken paprikish. It is VERY DELICIOUS (!!!!!!!!! I loved it) and is served with their traditional pasta, which is super dense and therefore, super filling.

speaking about paprika, this is one of the stands at a Hungarian market (in the Great Hall Market) that sells all different kind and forms of paprika. In restaurants you won't find salt and pepper on the table. You'll find paprika. I bought a beautiful tin of paprika and plan to make some chicken paprikish when we get back home. 

(just so you know, we're not choco-alco-addicts) We found these (and more!) flavors of chocolate in the Hungarian supermarket and thought it was slightly funny since there were so many alcoholic flavors.

one night during the festival, we had a grill party outside the castle gate. they served kebabs, pita wedges and salad. Yum!

our last night at the festival we went to our favorite hangout-food place in Sarospatak. They have the most adorable outside garden to eat in. Also they have a bajillion different kinds of pizzas with every topping imaginable- from hot dog pieces to corn.

here we are in Venice trying a Spritz. It's white wine, bitters, red flavoring, ice, seltzer water and lemon wedge. If you leave it on your tongue it tastes sweet, but the moment you swallow it, you could breathe out fire. Oh, also I wouldn't recommend drinking it in the morning on an empty stomach. just saying :)

beautiful marzipan in Venice.  

an outside street market in Venice- these hot peppers were so beautiful! they also had a notice saying don't touch them. Yeah, I'm going to listen to that.

 a night dinner in a beautiful garden in Venice. Al fresco eating is pretty much the only way to eat in Venice, Rome and Florence. As far as I can remember, I didn't see a restaurant that didn't have outdoor seating. This meal was very yummy- Karl had the gnocchi with meat sauce and I had penne arrabiata. They served it with bread and a healthy helping of parmesan. Also the wine was cheaper than my water. That's how you know you're in Italy.

 A bakery window with gigantic meringues and biscotti. Seriously, these meringues were bigger than my hand. And every bakery has bigger meringues than the last one. That's my kind of bakery.

This is the traditional pasta dish in the Vernazza of the Cinque Terre. It looks like worms, but it's actually pretty tasty and covered in a basil-pesto sauce that is wonderful!

Well, that's all for now. I can't believe we don't have a picture of gelato-we probably just gobbled it up to fast to think about taking a picture. But hey, we've got priorities.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Yesterday we traveled 17 hours and took 6 trains to get to the magical city of Venice. It's actually really hard to believe something like this exists...a floating city of color, flowers, gondolas, and gelato at every turn. Although Venice can be unbearable hot and humid, we were blessed with gorgeous weather and had an amazing time roaming the streets. Getting lost here is definitely something you'll do. Even if you try your hardest not to. There are many streets on the maps that have no names. Little streets that you must walk single file down. You meet a lot of dead ends, but at the end of the day you're rewarded with lots of little beautiful scenes you wouldn't have seen if you had found your way at once. We had gelato today and it was yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum. We had a spritz in San Marco Square which is a blend of white wine with some spirits, flavor, seltzer, lemon and ice. Not my favorite but very "venice." If you're wondering what Venice smells like its can sometimes smell like fish water, but when it doesn't you smell leather.  In the very last picture you can see us by St. Mark's Basilica where an American couple took our picture. The husband was from the Bronx and they have a son who is living in Connecticut! How bizarre!
Anyways, enjoy the pictures. I'm so in love with this beautiful, romantic water town. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

An Introduction On My Hungarian Life So Far

We've been here in Sarospatak for 6 days (with the festival officially starting 3 days ago) and things have been so much busier than I remember from the last time we were here.  Which is a good thing as long as we can get to bed before 1 A.M. (we haven't been successful at the for the past few days)

Our days begin with a rehearsal for the morning chapel at 8:15 am. (after a 7:30 breakfast) The rest of the day is packed with rehearsals and activities all the way until usually around 10 pm. Tonight we have a candlelit worship service that will begin at 10:15 pm so we'll probably be up much later than normal.

Hungarian culture is so much different than American culture that it's quite shocking if you don't know what to expect. The town of Sarospatak (pronounced sharosh-pa-tack) is a lovely tiny town known for their beautiful flowers lining there streets. They also have amazing trees on the sidewalks whose fruit are free for the picking and eating. The castle at the end of the town is quite famous and featured on the 500- forit bill. 

So far we have met so many amazing people. I always feel kind of ignorant that I can only communicate in 1 language in a place where many people are fluent in at least 2. Fluency in 3,4, and 5 languages is not uncommon at all. The hungarian language is most similar to Finnish (surprisingly) and has a very complicated alphabet including 26 vowels. Yesterday morning during chapel we sang a song in Chinese (led by some of Chinese at the festival) and that was really fun. 

Unfortunately the translator headsets have not been fixed so morning chapel has to be in 2 languages through a translator. There are "small groups" (think like community groups) every evening and we are the co-leaders of an English speaking group. The subject of this year's material is "Dare to Live!" and is about being courageous. There are still some members of our group that have not yet arrived (they'll be coming next week) but we have a nice mixture of people from South Africa, Belgium, and Texas. 

The food is also quite different than what we are perhaps used to in the states. A usual breakfast includes bread of some sort, honey, jam, butter, cheese slices, big slices of peppers and tomatoes, a kind of lunch meat, a traditional spread with cream cheese, paprika, onions and salt, museli, milk, cocoa, traditional sweet tea, and super strong coffee (think like 5 times stronger than your typical espresso). Lunch is the biggest meal of the day and usually includes a dessert of some sort (usually a multi-layer cake or roll), rice with vegetables and meat, soup or broth, bread and a salad with shredded cabbage, carrots, and tomatoes, and water. Dinner is much more light with only a dessert (usually some type of fruit- the fruit they serve has been sooooooo much more flavorful than anything in the U.S) and a starch of some kind with meat.

I've been working on taking more pictures of the festival and around the town so hopefully soon I'll have enough to give you a good visual idea of what life is like here. For now, here are some pictures from our few days in Budapest (buuda-pesht).

update: the pictures are taking really long to load because of the poor internet connection. here is one of my favorites. a simple bicycle against a house. In Sarospatak almost everybody travels by bike- from little kids to grandmothers. how wonderful is that!