Taking place on The Island of Freedom in the heart of Budapest from 11-18 August, Sziget is known for diverse and colorful programs with the newly confirmed acts representing all genres, perfect for music lovers of all styles. Performers include: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Skrillex, Jake Bugg and London Grammar, Queens of the Stone Age, Placebo, Klaxons, Stromae, Calvin Harris, Imagine Dragons and Bastille.
Proud winner of the ‘Best European Major Festival’ award in 2011, Sziget Festival is one of the biggest multicultural events of Europe, starting in 1993 and now celebrating its 22nd edition. The festival attracts almost 400 000 fans from over 70 countries to a beautiful island in the heart of Budapest, providing a complete festival-holiday experience with non-stop party, great live concerts, a widely international community and all the touristic features the city has to offer.
So, as you may have guessed from some of my previous posts, I’m rather prone to wandering down the wine aisle in a bid to spot new bargains, particularly from Central and Eastern Europe. Last week, while I was in M&S I happened to notice a rather pretty label in a light aqua teal shade. It turned out to be a new Hungarian wine, a Furmint Tokaji, very reasonably priced at £9.99.
I normally associated Tokaj with sweet, dessert wines, so I was rather intrigued to try this one. It was pale in colour and as it turned out, refreshingly crisp to drink. There were notes of pears, apples with just a hint of honey flavour to give it balance.
The drinking suggestions proposed enjoying it with paprika chicken or roast pork which I could see working well. It’s delicate in style so simple grilled fish would also be a good match.
I’ve noticed that when M&S tends to get new wines in they tend to be priced slightly lower, in an attempt to get you hooked, so I’d suggest you make the most of it while you can. Plus if you order six online you’ll get a discount. For more information go to M&S Furmint Tokaji here.
Those looking to enjoy a luxurious break without the price tag should look no further than Hungary, a destination which offers visitors the chance to holiday in the lap of luxury at a fraction of the cost of other European capitals. With several deluxe properties in and around the vibrant capital Budapest, visitors can choose from trendy design-led hotels, to historic city dwellings as a luxurious base from which to explore the city and its surroundings.
Whether it’s enjoying a deluxe spa break in spring or experiencing the city’s gastronomic highlights in summer, Budapest offers an abundance of unique cultural experiences as well as outstanding value for the luxury market.
Here’s a few of our favourites to consider…
Lánchíd 19 Hotel 4* Design By The Danube
Named after Budapest’s famed “Chain Bridge” which spans the Danube, the Lánchíd 19 is a contemporary highlight in a neighbourhood of predominantly 19th century architecture, highlighting the modern and traditional contrasts which characterise much of Budapest. Situated at the feet of the Buda Royal Castle, the hotel is ideally located for exploring the city on foot. The hotel itself offers stunning vistas from all its rooms, though little can match the majestic views across Margaret Island and the Danube from Panorama Suite, which comes at a fraction of the price of similar suites in other European capitals. Even the standard rooms offer stunning river views from one side of the hotel, or look out on to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Buda Royal Castle on the other.
Rooms at the Lánchíd 19 cost from €89 per night, based on two people sharing and including breakfast. The Panorama Suite costs from €316 per night, including breakfast. For more information visit www.lanchid19hotel.hu.
Danubius Grand Hotel, Margitsziget 4* Traditional Spa Luxury on Margaret Island
The Danubius Grand Hotel lies literally in the heart of the Danube, on Margaret Island, and is the island’s original spa hotel. Retaining its turn-of-the-century ambience, style and elegance, the Danubius Grand is the perfect location from which to explore the nearby historical sights and city-centre shops, or just to relax and enjoy the luxurious spa facilities.
Two nights’ bed and breakfast at the Danubius Grand Hotel is available from €182, with three nights from €264. Prices are based on two people sharing. For more information visit www.danubiushotels.com.
Continental Hotel Zara 4* City Centre Luxury in Budapest
This new hotel is located in Budapest’s downtown, with 272 rooms from standard to suites, offering guests a luxurious and relaxed environment away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Built on the site of the legendary Hungária Spa, the hotel is near to the city’s Jewish quarter, which will enthrall and excite visitors with its atmospheric streets, and unique blend of fantastic restaurants and retro bars.
A superior room with breakfast at the Continental Hotel Zara costs from €75 per night, based on two people sharing. For more information visit www.continentalhotelzara.com
This Christmas, on 27 December, head to the spectacular Palace of Arts and listen to the phenomenal National Festival Orchestra play Stravinsky’s Scherzo a la Russe, Tango, Firebird Suite and Rite of Spring. Tango was the first work that Stravinsky wrote in its entirety in the USA, in 1940. Originally for piano, the first orchestral version was by Felix Guenther. Although Stravinsky endorsed it, in 1953 he decided to arrange it himself. Its première in 1953 was conducted by Robert Craft.
In his autobiography, My Life, Stravinsky wrote that he had the idea for The Rite of Spring while composing Firebird: in his imagination he saw a huge pagan folk ritual with two elders who sit kneeling as a young girl does a dance of death. She is then sacrificed to the God of Spring. It was premièred with choreography by Nijinsky in Paris in 1913, and it resulted in one of the most celebrated scandals in music and theatre history. The work calls for a vast array of instruments (five wood wind, eight horns, five trumpets etc.) and is in two sections: Adoration of the Earth and The Sacrifice.
Ticket Prices: 3950, 5100, 7300, 12000 Ft
27 December 2010, 7.45 pm – 10.00 pm
Bartók Béla National Concert Hall
Conductor: Ivan Fischer
Christmas Markets are a true highlight of the advent period and are sure to get everyone into the festive spirit. Head to one of the many markets in Eastern Europe to enjoy some real festive fare including local wine, beers, sausages and artisan crafts. Here’s our top ten…
During Advent Vienna is a city of nostalgia and romance with many concerts, nativity displays and traditional Christmas markets taking place throughout the city. The most renowned markets include the Viennese Christmas Markets on Freyung, at Spittelberg, at Am Hof and in front of the church of St. Charles Borromeo (Karlskirche).
Prague, Czech Republic
Christmas is a special time of year in Prague and the Christmas markets (Vanocni trh) are a key ingredient in the Czech festive magic. The Prague Christmas markets bring visitors and locals together to share the holiday spirit in a true ‘winter wonderland’ setting. The main markets can be found at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square with smaller ones at Namesti Republiky and Havelske Trziste. Open 9am to 7pm daily.
The Festive Fair, held in the Town Centre (Breg and Cankarjevo nabrežje embankments, Prešernov trg square) is well known for its vibrancy and cheerful atmosphere. Festively decorated green stalls, designed specially for the fair, sell a fine choice of products suitable for giving as gifts including food and drink, clothes and fashion accessories. Open from 10am to 10 pm daily.
Each festive season Nuremberg’s Old Town is decorated in its Christmas regalia and the tempting aromas of mulled wine, sweet roasted almonds, sausages and gingerbread create a truly unforgettable atmosphere. The Christkindlesmarkt is situated in the heart of the city which is steeped in more than 400 years of tradition providing an international showcase for all Franconian and German Christmas Markets. While younger visitors can enjoy the Kinderweihnacht (Children’s Christmas Market) where historic steam-powered merry-go-rounds and other activities are waiting for them. Open from 9.30am to 8pm Monday to Thursdays, 9.30am to 10pm Fridays and Saturdays, 10.30am to 8pm on Sunday.
Cologne holds an impressive seven Christmas Markets. The four largest Christmas markets are located at Cologne Cathedral, on the Alter Markt (Home of the Heinzel Christmas Market), on the Neumarkt and on the Rudolfplatz (Fairytale Christmas Market). Every year these four markets attract almost 2 million visitors. Open every day from 11am to 9pm.
With well over 50 Christmas Markets and advent bazaars every year, Berlin features prominently on Germany’s calendar of Yuletide events. A popular market is situated next to Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church amidst the bustle of shoppers on the high street between the Kurfüstendamm and Tauenzien. The Berlin Christmas Market shown on the map on the left is WeihnachtsZauber situated on the Gendarmenmarkt. This is probably one of the most popular markets in Berlin and is well sited in terms of nearby hotel accommodation. Open 9am to 9pm daily.
One of the most popular Christmas fairs in Europe awaits the lovers of winter programmes this year again in the heart of Budapest, in Vörösmarty Square. There are more than 100 wooden pavilions, which sell unique high quality folklore and applied arts products. Christmas decorations, small presents, candles, gloves, woollen hats, wrought iron and woven products are also sold here, as well as other special articles that cannot be found anywhere else. You can experience the real wonders of winter while enjoying traditional products that have been evaluated by a jury, and satisfying your appetite at typical Hungarian buffets, which offer mulled wine, kürtoskalács (sweet Hungarian pastry), roast chestnuts and other market snacks. Open 10am to 8pm daily.
Sibiu Christmas Market is one of the most popular events of the year in the city. Being the first traditional Christmas Market opened in Romania, it was first held in 2007, in the Little Square located in the downtown area, with a total number of 38 wooden cabins. In 2008 and 2009, Sibiu Christmas Market took place in the Large Square, one of the best places to be visited in the historical center of the city. Open from 10am to 9pm daily.
Cologne in London, UK
Once again Londoners and visitors to the city can enjoy a taste of Cologne this Christmas at the London Southbank Christmas Market. While wandering about, look for and find unusual Christmas presents such as amber and silver jewellery, hand-crafted toys, fragile glass ornaments for your Christmas tree, hand tatted laces, tin toys, candles in all shapes and sizes, hand-made ceramics and creative metal design. Sip on a glass of glühwein or bottle of Kölsch” and nibble on some gingerbread hearts, roasted almonds and candies or even a delicious crepe. Open 11am to 8pm Mondays to Thursdays, and Sundays, 10am to 10pm Fridays and Saturdays.
Estonia’s medieval capital is inherently festive and though temperatures do dip quite drastically this time of year, the city’s celebratory atmosphere does well to dispel the cold. Tallinn’s Christmas Market may be one of the most recently established but it is now among the most well-loved in Europe. December’s darkness is dispelled with colourful lights, music and an abundance of activity. Head to Tallinn’s Town Hall Square, Raekoja Plats, and visit more than 50 merchant stalls featuring products by local artisans. These stalls surround a beautiful Christmas tree. Open daily from 10am to 6pm.
I was rather excited to hear about the Royal Academy’s latest art exhibition straight from Budapest and to coincide with this celebration of art from the former Eastern Bloc Fortnum & Masons has launched a Hungarian inspired Afternoon Tea. This fabulous afternoon tea, with a distinct Hungarian twist, is served on exquisite Herend porcelain, made by Hungary’s historic premier porcelain maker.
Immerse yourself in the Hungarian experience with delectable warm Hungarian strudels and traditional Hungarian cakes, as well as a selection of open afternoon sandwiches in the St James’s restaurant at £46 from 27 September to 29 October, Monday to Friday. Or for the duration of the exhibition, Monday to Saturday, with dinner in the Fountain Restaurant at £38. For reservations call 0845 602 5694.
After enjoying the Herend Afternoon Tea at Fortnum & Masons wander a few minutes down the road to see the Treasures of Budapest Exhibition, featuring glorious masterpieces from the Museum of Fine Arts and the Hungarian National Gallery, at London’s Royal Academy. The exhibition is open to the public until 12 December 2010.
Imagine my surprise when on my way to see friends at a dinner party when checking out the Waitrose wine shelves to find them now stocking Eva’s Vineyard Merlot / Kékfrankos (an indigenous grape) 2007 from the Szekzard region in Hungary. Now I knew Waitrose stocked Eva’s Vineyard Chenin Blanc / Pinot Grigio / Királyleányka 2009 from the Neszmély region but here was a hearty red perfect for those dark, cold, winter nights.
This is a warm, ripe, ruby red wine and a perfect accompaniment to porkolt or goulash. And it’s screw cap! But if you can believe it, that’s not the best bit? The best bit is that this fabulous bottle of wine costs just £3.79! What an absolute steal!
What you need to know:
Price per bottle: £3.79
Alcohol by volume: 12.5% vol
Bottle size: 75cl
Closure type: Screwcap
Exclusive to Waitrose: Yes
Grape varieties: Merlot / Kékfrankos
Region: Other Countries
Style: Medium Bodied
Wine colour: Red
The Palinka & Sausage Festival at Buda Castle taking place this October is an excellent opportunity to discover the world of Hungarian palinkas (fruit brandy) and sausages and the centuries’ old gastronomic traditions and exceptional recipes. Secret ingredients and special preparations make these products not only unique but also places them among the world’s premium brands. Beyond the exceptional culinary experience, this festival will also offer a spectacular yet relaxed cultural atmosphere. Check out the programme below…
7 October | 6 pm Jazzékiel | 8 pm Váradi Roma Café
8 October Roma Respekt Extra | 4 pm Colorstar | 6 pm Frenk | 8 pm Rutkai Bori és a Betonka
9 October | 4 pm Kishúg | 6 pm Jambalaya | 8 pm Madarak Házibulizenekar
10 October | 4 pm Hot Club of Hungary | 6 pm Riddim Colony | 8 pm Budapest Bár
On 25th September an exhibition entitled Treasures from Budapest: European Masterpieces from Leonardo to Schiele will open at The Royal Academy. Running until the 12th of December, the exhibition showcases the breadth and wealth of one of the finest collections in Central Europe. The exhibition comprises works from the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, with additional key loans from the Hungarian National Gallery.
The exhibition features over 200 works and includes paintings, drawings and sculpture from the early Renaissance to the twentieth century. Selected works by artists including Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, El Greco, Rubens, Goya, Manet, Monet, Schiele, Gauguin and Picasso are on display, many of which have not previously been shown in the UK.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest houses the state collection of international art works in Hungary and includes the Esterházy collection, acquired by the Hungarian state in 1871. The collection began in the seventeenth century but expanded during the rule of Prince Nikolaus II Esterházy (1765 – 1833) who was responsible for developing the fine collection of Old Master paintings and drawings which will be showcased in the exhibition. One of the highlights of the exhibition will be Raphael’s ‘Virgin and Child with St John the Baptist’, 1508 (known as The Esterházy Madonna).
Hungarians are as passionate about mushrooms as Italians. As the autumn draws in I think about all those hearty winter dishes that will see me through the cold months. There is nothing more warming or tasty than Hungarian mushroom soup. Here’s my quick and easy recipe.
50g butter or margarine
8 shallots cut into quarters
3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
500g assorted wild mushrooms
(I like to use a mixture depending on what is in season. Often I use chestnut, enoki and shitake with some dried wild mushrooms that I’ve soaked in warm water for 20 minutes and drained. I reserve some of the liquid to add flavour to the stock)
800ml chicken or vegetable stock (depending on whether you or your guests eat meat)
1 tbsp cornflour dissolved in 2 tbsp cold water
Handful of finely chopped chives
Melt the butter in a large pan and gently fry the shallots until soft (but not brown)
Add the garlic and stir
Add the mushrooms and cook out for five minutes
Add the stock (and a few tablespoons of the liquid from the dried mushrooms) and leave to simmer for five minutes
Then add the dissolved cornflour and allow to cook out for five minutes
Allow to cool, then blend
If you prefer a thin soup pass the liquid through a sieve but personally I like it thick
Reheat when required
Season with salt and pepper to taste
To serve sprinkle chives on the top and enjoy with plenty of crusty bread