Budapest Expats – Interview with Mary

Budapest Expats – Interview with Mary
Budapest has many expats, and luckily some of them are not only verbal, but maintain very good blogs. Mary Murphy from Ireland is definitely one of them. Her blog entitled Unpacking my ‘bottom drawer’ in Budapestis on our regular reading list. She is a delight to read due to her thoughtful and metaphorical language, and genuine twist on the everyday life in Budapest, Hungary.

Mary Murphy Budapest expat

Mary Murphy Budapest expat

What was your first reaction when you got into the city of Budapest?

I came first in December 2003 and thought I was back in Alaska – with a different sort of wild life. I thought the city was huge and now that I know my way around and know how manageable it is, I wonder how I ever thought I could get lost here.

Did you have any pre-conceptions about Budapest that proved to be wrong?

To be honest, I didn’t know much about Hungary, let alone Budapest. I was living in London at the time and taking advantage of cheap flights to anywhere. Budapest just happened to be on the list.

What are your favourite hidden gems in Budapest? (any attractions, museums, parks, cafes, playgrounds, baths, etc.?)

There are way too many to list – recent discoveries include Rétesbolt – a family run café in District XIII that makes the best rétes (strudel) in town; Halkakas – a great new family fish restaurant near the Grand Market; Bedő Ház, a lovely café museum in District V. Odd how I seem to have a preoccupation with food! Seriously though, there are so many hidden gems in this city that it’s a constant journey of discovery.

Have you tried any of the thermal baths or lidos? If so, which did you like / dislike?

I’ve been to most of them at this stage – except the Gellert Baths (which is odd, as it’s one of the most popular with tourists). The Kiraly baths would be my favourite as it’s the least crowded and most atmospheric.

Do you have a budget tip for budget travellers?

Stay away from Tourist Menus and look instead for the napi menu (the daily menu). You can have great affordable food at lunch time anywhere in the city. 

Is it worth splurging on something in Budapest?

Wine… definitely wine. Hungary has some great wines. And Sunday Brunch at one of the big hotels – the Kempinksi’s is good.

Let’s assume you need to take a friend to a good restaurant in Budapest for a casual dinner. Where would you take him / her?

There’s a great place up near Keleti train station that has the best Somlói in town. It’s called Huszár and it’s on Köztársaság tér No. 22. I go there for goose. Over on the other side, in Buda, I like Borpatika at Bertalan Lajos utca 19. It’s got some great local wines and really good simple food.

Is there any traditional Hungarian food you would really love to take home with you?

Lángos… definitely lángos.

If you can share some dos and don’ts with visitors to Budapest, what would be your top choice(s)?

Be open to new experiences – wander the back streets and discover places where you’re among locals. It’s the only way to really get a feel for the city.
When paying a bill, don’t say ‘thank you’ until you get your change – otherwise you’ll be leaving a huge tip – which is fine, if it’s warranted, but not fine if you’re rewarding bad service.
Be prepared to wait – customer service isn’t top of the best things about Budapest
Learn how to say please and thank you – these three words will take you far
Read up about the history before you visit – things will make a lot more sense if you understand a little of the background.

Is there anything you really hate(d) about Budapest?

The heat of summer. It’s extremely hot for about three weeks in July/August – so hot that most people are cranky and irritable.

Is there anything you absolutely love(d) about Budapest?

WB Yeats said that being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy that sustained him through temporary periods of joy. He could have been Hungarian :-)

Mary has been coming to Budapest on and off since 2007 – and now calls it home… :)


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