The daily diary of a wandering restaurateur
May 28 - On the Road to Budapest

We were figuring that Budapest was only a few hours away. No problem. Easy day on the road. Well, it was fairly easy on the road, but once we got into Budapest, it all got complicated! Hungarian is a difficult language for us because none of the words are even remotely recognizable. So here we come into the downtown maze with traffic whizzing everywhere. We knew that we had to go north to Obuda (Old Buda . . . as distinguished from the towns of Buda and Pest.) -- the trick was figuring out where we were at the moment! Somehow we managed to dodge the trams and work our way north along the west bank of the Danube until we found the Panzio (pension) San Marco, our temporary home in Budapest. If you are trying to find it in a Frommer's or Lonely Planet book, it is also called the San Marco Guest House.

It certainly wasn't much from the outside, but once the door opened it was an entirely different story. We selected the San Marco because all the guidebooks we had said that it was the friendliest place in Budapest with hosts who spoke excellent English and were extremely helpful. Paul and Eva Stenczinger are all that and more! After we emptied the car -- it is not a great idea to leave anything in an unattended vehicle in Europe generally, and particularly not in Budapest -- we sat and talked with Paul for an hour or so about life in Hungary now and under the Communists. He has a wonderful, warm spirit and a real love for his country that is refreshing to see.

He gave us directions to his favorite local restaurant, about a seven-block walk through the neighborhood, warning us that it didn't look like much on the outside but the food was great. The rain started falling as we approached the place . . . and he did not understate the forbidding exterior look . . . but we bravely pushed open the metal grate door and found ourselves in a wonderfully comfortable little restaurant with a pleasant side deck. We took a table on the deck and watched the rain while trying to decide among the choices on an extensive menu . . . in English! Apparently, they e-mail their menus to Paul's daughter (who now lives in New Mexico with her new husband) and she does the translations.

I have always had a soft spot for Hungarian cooking anyway and theirs was off the chart! All we originally had in mind was a light, late lunch but ended up eating ourselves silly! We went back to the room for a nap and never made it out again that day. So our first day in Budapest was about finding the room and having lunch -- more than enough productive work for me!

Panzio San Marco

Our sole project for the day: lunch!

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