Day 1 in Budapest
August 18, 2012 § 5 Comments
After Skjalg spent some time showing me around the apartment, we decided to go out and explore a little bit of the neighborhood. Skjalg showed me around our neighborhood, pointing out the different shops and grocery stores. We took out money at an ATM (since most cash is the most common form of payment). It feels so weird to hold notes with such high numbers on them. It was difficult enough for me to get used to Norwegian money and this is a whole new level of change. (1 US dollar is equal to 6 Norwegian kroner, which is equal to about 230 Hungarian Forints.)
We started towards a neighborhood about 10 minutes away from our apartment, near the Jewish Quarter. One thing I can’t help but notice is how clean the streets are. I don’t think I have seen any trash on any of the sidewalks yet and there is very little chewing gum dissolved into the pavement. I could feel the age of the streets and buildings, but it didn’t feel dirty or old. Instead, it felt freshly-swept and well-preserved.
We settled in at a café close to the gym that Skjalg wants to join. Since he found an apartment so early in the week-long apartment hunting trip at the beginning of the month, he had plenty of time to try out the different gyms in the area. Our waitress was very friendly and spoke decent English. She helped us pick out a table that was close to an outlet so that I could charge my computer and offered to bring us two Americanos and some fresh squeezed orange juice. We don’t have internet at our apartment and won’t be able to get it until we get our residency cards. Monday is a national holiday and Tuesday is my birthday, so we won’t be able to start the application process for our cards until Wednesday. We’re expecting that we will be without internet for another month or so. In the meantime, I am writing my blog posts at home and posting them when we visit a café. The majority of cafés offer free wifi to guests.
After finishing breakfast at the café, we headed home to relax a bit before meeting the movers. The day before we left, Skjalg had asked me what I thought about hiring movers to help us move our stuff into our apartment. Moving out of our apartment in Oslo was no problem; we lived on the first floor and the truck was parked right in front of the apartment. Moving in, however, wasn’t going to be as easy. Skjalg got a quote from a company that offered 5 hours of moving help for 500,- ($85). I was a little conflicted at first – our move was already costing us a bit of money – but it ended up being the best decision of our whole trip. After all the packing, cleaning, driving, and horrible quality sleep we’ve had over the past couple of weeks, we were in no way fit to carry our stuff up 5 floors in 35°C (100°F). The movers were on time, friendly and effective. There were two of them: one older one who spoke a little english and a younger one who spoke almost no English at all. Skjalg stayed down with the truck, helping them move things into the courtyard, and I stayed in the apartment and started unpacking our things.
When I headed out to get cold waters for Skjalg and the movers, Skjalg informed me that the pink bottles were still water. I hadn’t even considered that I wouldn’t have been able to tell which was sparkling and which was flat – a good thing too, because the bottle label sure doesn’t help:
It felt so good to get everything into the apartment. It signified the end of a stressful and demanding process. The move was a success and it made me happy that all of our planning worked out in the end.
Once the movers had left, we delivered the truck and moseyed back home. Skjalg said that one of the best restaurants serving Hungarian dishes was right down the street from our apartment. We were looking at the menu when the owner popped his head out the door, pointed at his watch and said “30 minutes”. It was already 17:30, but Skjalg said that it seems that Hungarians tend to eat dinner later in the evening.
Since it was our first day in our new home, we decided to get a bottle of bubbles to celebrate the move and the beginning of this new chapter. Oh the joy of being able to buy alcohol on a Saturday – and at a supermarket no less! Norway is very strict about alcohol sales. Beer and cider are sold in grocery stores but cannot be purchased after 20:00 on a weekday and 18:00 on a Saturday. Any other alcohol must be purchased from a store called Vinmonopolet (translated: the wine monopoly). Vinmonopolet’s opening hours are pretty restricted, I think they close at 18:00 on weekdays and are open on Saturday from 09:00-15:00. They are also close on holidays and sometimes even the day before a holiday. The Norwegian government definitely wants you to plan ahead when it comes to alcohol. In all honestly, it wasn’t the biggest hassle…but I found it frustrating when we wanted a bottle of wine with dinner or to celebrate a special occasion.
I love the supermarkets here. Everything is so new and exciting and the selection is so much more varied than I am used to. I even got excited about the shopping baskets! There was a stack of traditional red shopping baskets at the entrance and next to it there was a line of these odd, grey, wheeled contraptions. They reminded me a lot of a small, shorter version of the trolleys you use at the airport to push your luggage around. I first placed the basket on the bottom “shelf” but then Skjalg saw an older woman who had it locked into the top somehow, so he changed it. It was so easy to move around and so compact… I probably looked like a crazy person testing it out.
Grocery shopping is not going to be easy, but it’s not going to be as challenging as I expected. There were a fair amount of imported products and many had pictures on the packaging. The price conversion is a little intimidating. I found myself standing in front of products for a lot longer than I should have:
“399. That seems like a lot. Is that a lot? That one is 579. Is that a big difference in price? 799. That is definitely too much…ahhhh! Just pick one!”
I had to stop looking at the prices and just grab what we needed. The greatest part was at the checkout station. It’s pretty well known that Norway is the most expensive country in the world for a lot of things – and food is definitely one of them. To help illustrate how expensive it is and why paying was so much fun, I’ll compare our grocery shopping experience with one in Norway. (We estimated the Norwegian prices – so they may vary a bit – and we’ve considered the cheapest bottle of sparking wine. The one we got here wasn’t.)
In US dollars, that’s $82 in Norway vs. $29 in Hungary. I would have included the Hungarian item prices if I could understand the receipt…that will just have to wait until I’ve been here a little longer. It’s almost the equivalent of buying the bottle of sparkling wine and getting everything else for free. It is going to feel SO good to go grocery shopping and not freak out about how much it cost. We’re not careless spenders when it comes to food, but it hasn’t stopped us from feeling guilty for spending money on the food we actually need.
Once back at home, we napped, nibbled on some hummus, and popped open the sparkling wine. At around 21:30, we headed back to the restaurant we had stopped by before. The restaurant wasn’t very busy; there were people sitting on the tables outside and it was about half full inside. We both decided to go for a full Hungarian experience and ordered roasted chicken paprika and beef stew, both served with homemade gnocchi. The food was amazing. The meat in both dishes was the most tender I have ever had. It is nice to have a nearby place to take people to when they come to visit. We weren’t so lucky with dessert… The first was a sort of fried square fruit pastry served with a cognac chocolate sauce. I’m not a big fan of liquor flavored desserts and this one was quite heavy on the liquor. The center fruit part and the chocolate sauce had very strong alcohol tastes. The second was an apple noodle dish with different spices and some mixed nut crumble. I wasn’t quite prepared for the varying textures and had never tasted anything like it before, so it was hard to appreciate the dish.
So ended our first day in Budapest. No complaints on this end!