Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas in Europe

My favorite part of Christmas in Europe is the ambiance of the Christmas markets.  Pick any city in Europe and you'll find their version of the Christmas market.  Some are cheesy, Chinese-made trinkets, like in Prague, Czech Republic.  Others are traditional crafts and ancient settings, like Dresden, Germany.  Budapest puts on several Christmas markets throughout the city.  You always know Christmas is here when you see men hanging lights down Andrassy Avenue and the little wooden houses, where vendors sell their crafts, being hammered together in every square.

Give me a cup of mulled wine, a walk through the market and friends to meander with... and it feels like Christmas.  It's a bit different than the advertisements, giant shopping bags and big jolly Santa Clauses you see in America.  But the Christmas spirit is definitely in the air.  Christmas is Budapest definitely puts you in the spirit of the season!

Budapest, Varosmarty Square

Dresden, Germany

Vienna, Austria

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Hungarian Cure-All

My mom has a book of my great grandmother's titled Home Remedies for All Ailments (or something like that).  As a teenager I enjoyed looking at the recipes for everything from home-made cleaning products to home-brewed medicines.  Most medicines often involved a bit of whiskey.  In Hungary it's not much different (even today).

Pálinka is the medicinal liquor of Hungary.  Many Central and Eastern European countries have their own versions.  In Hungary pálinka is distilled from fruit, mostly plums.  It tastes a lot better than American whiskey, but still burns on the way down.

I've been battling a head cold this week.  No surprise in December.  As I stupidly went to work each day, my Hungarian co-workers all had the same advice for me... You need some pálinka.  Being that a recent guest gave us a nice bottle of home-brewed pálinka from her mother, my sweet husband set about giving me my dose of Hungarian medicine each night this week.

Pálinka mixed with hot water and cloves does make a person feel better.  It may not be a cure, but it sure helps me sleep and alleviate some of that sinus pressure.  The cold hasn't gone away, but my Hungarian co-workers are right... a shot of Pálinka is good medicine.  Egészségedre!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Turkey on "Turkey Day"

Working at an American school overseas has its perks.  Having Thanksgiving weekend off when the rest of Europe is going about regular business is one of those advantages.  For international teachers, this four-day weekend means only one thing... travel time!  This year we headed off to Istanbul.  The humor of being in Turkey the day we should be devouring turkey was not lost on us.  We decided to spend our day consuming too much Turkish delight instead of turkey and dressing, and we enjoyed our sugar comma to the fullest.  Aside from consuming too many sweets, we saw the sights.  What a beautiful city to explore.

A fusion of East meets West.
Chaos and order.
Asian markets and European shopping malls.
Mosques and churches.
The call to prayer echoing throughout the day.
Chestnuts roasting on open fires on the street.
The sea.
Honking horns.
Byzantium, Roman Empire, Ottomans.
All in one GIANT city.