Sunday, December 18, 2011

Magyar Reggeli

Platán Restaurant, Danubius Health Spa Resort Margitsziget,
Budapest, Hungary (12/7-10/2011)

I really don’t know what a typical Hungarian breakfast actually consists of, as my only point of reference was having breakfast at Platán Restaurant while staying at the Danubius Health Spa Resort Margitsziget[1] in Budapest, Hungary with my annual Christmas hosts, Greg and Cindy Kipe (Jó napot, guys!), a week ago; and then we only ate at the extensive breakfast buffet provided. I can only assume it would be like most European countries and consist of some sort of egg dishes with meats, cheeses, and breads; which is basically what I had for the four mornings I was there (hús nélkül).

Now a little Hungarian history/language lesson is in order here before I continue. (Consider this stupid, useless cunning linguist pointer of the day, number egy.) I can pretend to get by in many European cities with the little bit I can remember of Russian, German, French, Spanish, Greek, and even Latin helps some; however, I have absolutely no point of reference for anything Hungarian. Heck, the Hungarian word for "Hungary" is actually "Magyarország" (pronounced "MYarorsag") or "Magyar Köztársaság" ("the Republic of Hungary", pronounced just like it looks), where we got "Hungary" from is besides me. Luckily, many people in Hungary speak either English, German, or Russian as a secondary language.

The Hungarian language is neither Slavic nor Romance language based; it is closer in origin to Finnish than any of its surrounding countries (Ukraine, Romania, Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia). Previously, the only two Hungarian words that I was even familiar with (and most 'mericans probably, too) were "goulash" (which is spelled "gulyás" in Hungarian and actually pronounced "GOOyash") and "paprika"(which is also spelled "paprika" in Hungarian and pronounced "PAPreeka", kinda like you'd expect). The river that we know as the "Danube" is called "Duna" in Hungarian (and it's called "Donau" in German, go figger).

The Budapest tour book that Cindy had brought along had a quick lesson in Hungarian pronunciation and several helpful phrases and words in it. For example, most words in Hungarian have the accent on the penultimate[2] syllable and a single "s" is normally pronounced as a "sh", as in the capital city, Budapest (which is pronounced "BUDApesht"). I was only able to master a few words and phrases during the four days that we were there: "igen (IGen)"= "yes"; "nem (NEM)" = "no"; "kérem (KAYrem)" = "please"; "jó napot (yow NOPot)" = "hello"; "szia (SEEyuh)" = "see you soon" (this is not a joke and was really the easiest phrase to master); "köszönöm (KURSSurnurm)" = "thank you" (this is an exception to the penultimate accented rule, but I particularly like the three umlauted "o"s in a row); "vegetáriánnus vagyok (VEGetari-anoosh VOJok)" = " I am a vegetarian"; "kávé (KAvay)" = "coffee"; and, most importantly, "sör (SHUR)" = "beer". (Just never try to ask for directions to the "Opera"[3].)

As with any "ferren" country, the monetary unit is always fun to try and discern. The official unit of currency in Hungary is called the "Gabor"; this is not named after the famous sisters that became famous in 'merica, but I think it has something to do with their family, as the name "Gabor" seemed to be a pretty common name in Hungary. There are currently about 200 Gabors to one U.S. Dollar; that made it pretty easy to convert prices, just halve the price and move the decimal point two places to make a Gabors to cents conversion.

Now to the breakfast part of the 'blog (this is a breakfast 'blog, remember?). The daily buffet usually included: scrambled eggs, spicy potatoes (with a tasty Hungarian pepper sauce on it), several types of fruits (my favourite was the black cherry compote), several varieties of cheeses, breads/rolls, pastries, yoghurts, three types of juice (usually orange, grapefruit, and peach), jams/jellies, coffees and teas, and even several salad dishes (as well as many dead decaying animal flesh products). Most days I just filled up on scrambled eggs, breads and cheeses, and made sure to get some of the spicy potatoes whenever they were available (one morning they only had hashbrown triangles and another morning I even tried some roasted/baked pumpkin slices, which weren't really that bad for breakfast). The spicy potatoes were sliced, not chunked, which made them extra crispy and really tasted great with the Hungarian pepper sauce on them.

(That green thing on the side of my plate in the bottom photo is a half-eaten Hungarian pepper. It tasted great, and only was about as hot as a jalapeño or less.)

As far as condimentary supplementation with the buffet, I was surprised to see bottles of Tabasco® (just the standard red); however, they did have bowls of the fresh spicy Hungarian pepper sauce/purée, too, which I used rather liberally (Yay, our tastes buds have been freed from Soviet oppression!) on my scrambled eggs and other things.

One last stupid, useless cunning linguist pointer of the day: "Jó reggelt!" (pronounced "Yow REGGelt") means "Good morning!"; the Hungarian word for "breakfast" is "reggeli"(pronounced "REGGeli") and comes from the same root word.

Glen Bacon Scale Rating: Daily breakfast buffet ~ 6.4 (mainly due to the pretty decent selection and the aforementioned spicy potatoes)

[1] The Danubius Health Spa Resort Margitsziget (Margaret Island) is right smack dab in the middle of the Danube/Duna/Donau and about a 15-minute walk across a major bridge in either direction to the cities of Buda or Pest. So if anyone is going to be a wise guy and ask me if I stayed in Buda or Pest, I can honestly say "Igen".

It was just easier to dine at the hotel buffet breakfast each morning while we were there. We did get off the island to sight-see and tour the city, and ate at several nice places for lunches and dinners.

[2] Stupid, useless cunning linguist pointer of the day, number két:

Yeah, I had to ask Cindy what the heck that meant, too.

[3] Stupid, useless cunning linguist pointer of the day, number három:

I was a little lost one afternoon when I went out sightseeing on my own while Greg and Cindy were at a local Photography museum/exhibit. I got turned around at an "octagon" street intersection (I was only a few blocks off course), and I asked a lady on the street in English where the "Opera" was (I knew the Hungarian word was very similar), as the museum was just around the corner from it and I knew I could find it from there. Seems simple enough, right? I had to say "opera" four to five times before she finally understood me and said "OHpera?" and pointed me in the correct direction.

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