The Kid Goes Dark

Chain bridge between Buda and Pest, on Buda sideToday I bring you a story that almost didn’t make it to print. I am The Kid, the offspring of your normal columnist, and recently back from vacation in Budapest and Vienna.

As I set about planning my trip, as I chose points of interest, I slowly realized that I was creating a fairly creepy vacation. As you’ll see.

Entrance to Murder Exhibit

The entrance to the Murder Exhibit

On my first full day in Budapest, I visited their recently opened Murder exhibit. The point of the exhibit was to understand what makes a murderer, but in my experience, it was less successful in that, and more successful in giving guests the willies. Tableaus were set up with bedrooms of John Wayne Gacy and Elizabeth Bathory, the inside of Jeffery Dahmer’s fridge, Ed Gein’s kitchen, and more that I won’t spoil. One walks through with a headset, so they were able to take advantage of surround sound. Not for the faint of heart, but very much worth the hour or so spent for true crime fans.

Next, we’ll head to Vienna for a couple of stops.

Narrenturm

The Narrenturm.

Vienna is only a 2-hour train ride away, so I decided to spend one of my days checking out the city. My first destination was the Narrenturm, or “Fool’s Tower”. This is one of the world’s oldest asylums and has since been turned in to Federal Pathologic-Anatomical Museum Vienna. It is similar to the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, but all the signs are in German. I, dear reader, do not speak German. It was a heck of a time going from room to room, attempting to puzzle what each exhibit was. Some are obvious, but after a while, you start to forget what a normal lung really looks like.

Maria Theresa's Crypt

The crypt of Empress Maria Thersa.

I next headed over to the Hapsburg Imperial Crypt. This is a Capuchin monastery, and current resting place of all the Hapsburg line. One member was laid to rest here as recently as 2011. I learned more about Austrian history in the hour and a half tour as I have in all the history classes I have ever taken. It was fascinating to hear all the steps taken by the members of the Hapsburg imperial family that all ended with them in the same crypt and just seeing how design choices had evolved over the hundreds of years, with the first burial taking place in 1619. I’ll say this, Maria Theresa wasn’t fooling around with her 9-ton metal sarcophagus.

The Labyrinth of Buda Castle

The labyrinth.

Back to Budapest now, with the story of how I almost didn’t make it back home. Budapest is split into three parts, Buda, Pest, and Obuda. Buda is more of the historical district. This is where The Royal Palace is located, as well as the Labyrinth of Buda Castle. Running under Buda are tunnels and caves created mostly through natural hot springs. People would use these tunnels for smuggling, parties, and in the case of Vlad Dracula, or Vlad Tepes, a 14-year imprisonment.These days, curious tourists are welcome to tour the labyrinth, with only occasional arrow signs on the walls as guides. Not long after entering, you are greeted with a fork in the road. One side leads towards more of the dimly lit labyrinth. The other heads towards the Maze of Darkness. This section is totally unlit, and your only guide is the rope attached to the wall. By the end, the rope was my best friend. I feel like the rope really understood me.

Thankfully, I did eventually escape. Though I did pass the same snake statue about 4 times. I wonder how Snake Friend is doing. I hope he’s well.Snake sculpture in labirynthThanks for your time.

The Kid, World Traveler

Greetings from sunny Budapest!

Or, rather, as I just got back, rainy North Carolina. Pardon the interruption, but your regular food column has been briefly supplanted by a guest column from The Kid.Regular readers will be familiar with The Kid, the offspring of your regular columnist. I just got back from vacation, and she asked if I would be willing to talk a little about the food of Budapest. I offered Toronto as well, but as I never left the airport, it would be “Yes, Starbucks here tastes like nearly every other Starbucks.”As every meal shared amongst friends in Budapest starts with a small glass of palinka, I’ll start there. Palinka is a clear fruit brandy that is traditionally served before a meal. The idea is that you drink the palinka, and it prepares your digestive system for food. Every restaurant and pub I went to had at least 5 and 20 flavors. I guess they were all just hoping to ready people for digestion? I’m sure that was it.

And now food.My first meal in Budapest was Chicken Paprikas. It was at a restaurant my Airbnb host pointed me to, and it was a perfect introduction to Hungarian food. Chicken Paprikas is slow-cooked chicken, in a creamy red gravy. It’s full of Hungarian paprika, and served with spaetzli, a homemade egg noodle. While it’s traditional and delicious, I learned later that most Hungarians save Paprikas for the cooler months at my next culinary outing.There is a dinner hosted by a local, called Meet and Eat in Budapest. While the host is from Budapest, she moved away to go to school for a hospitality degree. When she got back home, she found that there just weren’t enough jobs, so she made one. Four nights a week, she opens her home to tourists of all different nationalities. With the help of her parents, she cooks family recipes and pairs each of the three courses with a different wine.All the courses were amazing, and so was the company. Who would have thought that I would spend my Hungarian vacation sharing a meal with people from Scotland, France, and England? The stand-out dish, though, was the dessert. It was a Dobras Torte, a chocolate and vanilla mouse sandwiched between chocolate sponge cake. It was fluffy and lightly sweet. I don’t really have a sweet tooth (a stark difference between myself and your regular columnist, who would list birthday cake as her favorite food), so the cake was a perfect end to a wonderful meal.If my prattling on about Budapest has got you excited for the food, try this one on for size:

Chicken Paprikas:chicken paprikas¼ cup butter + 1 tablespoon

2lb chicken legs

1 medium onion, chopped

1 ½ cups chicken broth

3 tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika

½ teaspoon Kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup sour cream

Prepare the Chicken Paprikas:

  1. Dry chicken and dust lightly with flour, salt and pepper.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat until it is hot. Melt 1tbs butter. Add chicken and brown. Remove chicken from pan and tent loosely with foil.
  3. Add remaining ¼ cup butter to pan and sauté onions until they are translucent add paprika. Return chicken to the pan.
  4. Add chicken broth and gently simmer over low heat until chicken is falling apart. Remove chicken from the pan and tent loosely with foil.
  5. Add sour cream and return chicken to the pan and coat with the sauce.
  6. Serve with spaetlze or egg noodles.
    Torte and coffee at Sacher Cafe

    At the Sacher Hotel and Cafe in Vienna, with its world famous Sacher Torte.  The Kid said it’s kind of dry.  And the whipped cream looks badly over whipped.

    Thanks for your time.