When I moved to Budapest, almost 4 years ago, the language was a huge problem. Specially when I needed to go to the market.
If you are a tourist, it is different. You stay most probably in a downtown hotel, you go to touristic restaurants, maybe you have a guide and you will visit mostly places where the people will speak English. But you have only superficial experiences.
When you live here, the thing is different.
I don’t to go in details about the traffic fines I got on my first year here.Just a hint: I din’t know that “kiveve” means “except” in Hungarian. Believe me, this small word can cause a catastrophe to your budget!
I work in the country side and very often I stop over at the nearby market or small producers kiosks to by vegetables. The quality is fantastic, everything fresher than in Budapest, but the mimics are essential in this case!
One day I needed to buy calf’s liver. I knew how to say that but that day particularly the words didn’t reach my mouth and then I said “maj” (liver in Hungarian) and made horns with my hands on my forehead… the butcher maybe is still laughing on me!
At the beginning, I used to buy products and save the package in a binder just in case I needed to by again the same product then I would have the Hungarian package to cheat… also other times I started to read the packages in Romanian. Several products have the instructions in different languages here, rare to have English, but easy to find Romanian. I don’t speak a word in Romanian, but the language has a Latin origin that sounds similar to Italian, Spanish or Portuguese if you try to say out loud. I was fluent in Romanian and I didn’t know! – I am exaggerating of course, but it helped!
Only as a curiosity, the hardest thing to buy is flour. Always the package is made with paper, there are thousand of different kinds of grains out of them you can have flour and also you can choose the texture… why the people over complicate the World?
Check this package for example…
I am sure you are not reading this blog because you are interested in buying flour or cow’s liver in Hungary, thus what I would like to let here to help you out is a list of places where you can buy nice souvenirs and gifts to take with you.
1. If you like posters designed by Hungarians or international artists, clothes designed by locals, small modern and unique gifts or simply have a nice coffee: http://printa.hu/
2. If you want to buy Hungarian Dolls or any products with the Hungarian traditional flowers embroider, like Matyo, you can easily find them every where. But my tip is to buy at 1st floor of the main Market because the variety is huge, the prices are much better than the street shops and also you can bargain. I am sure you will enjoy the tour as well! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Market_Hall_(Budapest)
3. Hungarian decorative plates are also very nice gifts. Your mother will love it! but unfortunately the best place to buy them is not in Budapest, but in Szentendre. I always check them and I think they are not well done in Budapest. They make them in large scale and then the painting is not as good or unique as the ones you can buy at the country side. Recently I found this place where they sell the products “imported” from different regions of Hungary and using different motifs and techniques. The prices are fair – from EUR5 to EUR30/piece. It is worth to check Rozsa Folklor : http://www.handcraft.hu/matyomintas_disztanyer___x_cm_sotetkek_cifra_1_2313
4. in case you are not in a diet, another option is the national proud: Marzipan! In Hungary you can even visit the Marzipan Museum, but to take home, some very nice boxes of Szamos Desserts are enought. In case you need a last minute shopping, you can find a kiosk at the International Airport in Budapest to save you! 🙂 But if you have a chance to visit one of their stores in Hungary, you can also indulge yourself with their nice coffees and cakes!
5. Also the porcelain in Hungary is very traditional, but don’t be naive thinking they are cheap. If you are really interested in a nice porcelain, you will need to make an investment in Hungary. Check 2 interesting and traditional brands: Zsolnay (http://www.zsolnay.com/) and Herend (http://herend.com/en/). I like most Zsolnay than the Herend.
6. P’alinka, goose liver pate and paprika. Needless to say these 3 products are the National icons in gastronomy. You can find them everywhere, I don’t want to extend here 🙂
7. For the last, my favorite: Tisza shoes! This is a brand from the communism times recreated 10 years ago by some Hungarian entrepreneurs who wanted to bring the shoes in a vintage and fashion way back to the streets. And they made it! In 2013 they just launched a limited edition to celebrate the 10th anniversary, check it out: http://www.tiszacipo.hu/en/index/
I hope you enjoy the shopping list I made for you and also if you have any tip to give me, be my guest! 🙂
Pictures downloaded from: