Peter has invited me to join him, the Englishman and the Australian family for a day in Budafolk, the suburb where he and the Englishman live. I am tardy, spending the morning washing my clothes in a washing machine for the first time since I left Australia a month ago. But I arrive on time to enjoy the potato and sausage stew that Peter has cooked up. It’s absolutely delicious.
After lunch we walk down the road to one of the many wine cellars in Budafok. Few people know these cellars exist because there is no obvious vineyard on the surface. You need to organise a group if you want to tour the cellars but it is well worth it. During Budapest’s golden era in the late 19th century, the hill on the Buda side of the Danube was quarried for rock. After the quarrying was completed, there were all these mine tunnels under the mountain. These were then converted to wine cellars because the area was then full of vineyards. The vineyards might be long gone but the cellars still remain.
On entering the cellar that Peter had selected for our trip, we each had to put on these cute capes. They would keep us warm in the 14’C cellar.
There are about 100km (65 miles) of cellars under the mountain. The were once all lined with huge oak barrels but also include some huge concrete barrels that could contain thousands of litres of wine. Many of the wood barrels are beautifully carved. They tell the story of the local wine industry. Unfortunately, improvements in wine technology mean that this wood carving skill is being lost as steel vats become more common than oak barrels.
The tour itself is fantastic. The guide tells us about the history of the cellars and wine production. She tells us about the wine making process. We also learn about the hazards of wine cellaring because wine can give off undetectable fumes that suffocate people in the cellars. They used to use candles on top of barrels to monitor the air quality. If the candles started to go out then it was time to evacuate the cellars. Fortunately, this was not a risk for our visit.
After our adventure in the cellars, we catch a bus over to the Tropicarium. Both the Englishman and the Australians have children so it is an obvious place to entertain them. I enjoy the walk through the huge indoor tropical animal zoo and aquarium. There are all sorts of animals here including some small monkeys, reptiles and an alligator. There are also sharks, colourful fish and strange sea creatures that I’ve never seen before.
It’s all a bit of fun.
But the day isn’t over with the Tropicarium. Budafok has plenty to offer so we take a walk through this quiet suburb. It’s a place of cobblestone streets and cute old buildings.
Peter organises an impromptu visit to another cellar. This one is used to host dinner parties and celebrations, rather than storing wine. It is also home to this old concrete wine barrel. What is remarkable is the coat of arms on the outside of the barrel. It represents Hungary as it was a long time ago. The National Museum wanted to relocate the coat of arms to the museum but removing it would cause irreparable damage so it remains in this private cellar.
After walking up to Peter’s home we all return to the Englishman’s home with its incredibly huge front door. We eat pizza and Chinese takeaway for dinner. Pizza is popular in Hungary and is readily available everywhere either by the slice or by the whole pizza. It is cheap, tasty and filling.
And then my final day in Hungary is over. I catch a tram back to the city, walk across the Danube and catch the last train back to BikerCamp. The city is beautiful all lit up and I decide to come back to see this country some more.