onsdag 23 april 2014

Poros - a (re)treat for your soul

Even if it has been 2-3 years between our visits to Poros, each time we come back it feels like ”yesterday”. Poros is a charming small island to return to – several times. The relaxed atmosphere and the close distance to Athens is two strong reasons why.

Only 1,5 hours boat trip  from Pireus, makes Poros the perfect spot for those who wants to combine the intensity of the city with the slow life of a small island. To enhance the feeling of beeing at home - away from home, we love to stay in one of the Storoloi houses, which we rent from Marie Louise. For more information: www.storoloi-poros.gr

The irresistable celebrations of the Greek Easter 
This time around we are here during the Greek Easter. If you have never experienced the Greek Easter traditions -you should! Embraced by all Greeks, Easter (Pascha) is the most celebrated feast in Greek culture. Rich in tradition and custom, it is the highlight of the religious calendar.

The easter week is called the Holy Week and the holiest day is Holy Friday. It is a day of strict mourning and fasting. Flags are hung at half-mast and church bells ring all day in a slow mournful tone. On Holy Friday even those who are not religious fast.

Special candles are made for Easter.These candles are used for the Easter midnight service, which is the climax of the Orthodox year. Nearly all Greeks, religious and non-religious, attend this service.
A few minutes before midnight all lights were switched off and the priest appeared at the altar, holding a lit candle. The light represents the glorifying of Christ, who has risen from the dead. The light was then passed on until all the candles were lit.

The midnight service in church ended with fireworks to celebrate that Christ has risen from the dead.
This is the end of the fasting and the beginning of a couple of days of serious feasting!

People eat and party the rest of the night and the eating continues on the Easter Sunday - the day of feasting. Lamb on the spit is rolling all over the town of Poros.... and you feel the smell of barbequed lamb coming from all  restaurants and back yards. The sound of the church bells has been transformed into Greek music, frequently interrupted by firecrackers.

Does the trends reach Poros?
As you probably already understood Poros is not the most happening place in Greece, so if you're looking for action, you should maby go to Mykonos instead. Life moves on in a slow pace and the biggest happening of the day is to watch the cruise ships that arrives with passengers for lunch and then moves o to Hydra and the other islands close by.

Our last visit to Poros was 2 1/2 years ago and we have spent the last couple of days entertaining ourselves with trying to find out if there is any changes at all since then....is there any new trends happening in Poros? Well, except for some establishments that has closed down, we have picked up on a few new "trends" on the Island since 2011:

Interior design has hit the town of Poros
The interior design trend has hit the island and it seems like IKEA has got a break through. There are not only ashtrays, but small pot- and lamp decorations on the tables in the restaurants and bars. The souvenir shops are selling Laura Ashley influenced stuff.
There is even a local shop that is offering everything that you can't find at IKEA (Athens)...

Even the traditional olive-oil-flower-buckets outside the houses and restaurants tend to have been replaced by colourful plastic pots from IKEA.... Hmmm – I’m not convinced. Somehow I prefer the olive-cans.
The traditional blue and white has got competition from pale pastel colours or bright greens and pinks- this might have to do with the interior design trend.

The lack of stray cats and dogs....
On our earlier visits to Poros we were surrounded by all kinds of homeless shabby animals. Where has all the stray cats and dogs disappeared? Most of them are gone and replaced by gentrified, well-kept ‘accessories-dogs’. It seems like Poros animal welfare society has done a good job!

Four wheeled bikes are taking over
The mopeds, repaired with all kinds of spare parts, will soon be a relic from a bygone era. Modern 4-wheel moped-monsters have started to take over the island.
On the other hand, We can understand why these vehicles are more convenient. A moped in Greece is used for all kinds of transportations: everything from carrying luggage, transporting huge cans of olive oil or simply taking the kids to school.

Home delivery
Pizza delivery has been possible for many years but it seems like the delivery service has expanded to all kinds of eatable stuff. Macaroni, burgers, icecream, drinks, a sack of lemons or some cash.

Warm but be prepared for the humidity
Ususally we prefer to come to Poror in early spring or in the autumn. This year it's warm and sunny during daytime but the wind is still a bit chilly at night. It takes time for the houses to get warm because of the limited heating and the humidity from the sea.
If you are planning a visit to Poros in spring time we recommend you to bring something warm to sleep in.

Text & photos by Lilian and Teija

lördag 12 april 2014

Eating your way through Budapest

If you have to name one Hungarian dish, I’m pretty sure the most people would say Goulash. The soup with a distinct taste of paprika is still frequently found on the menus in restaurants serving traditional food.

Now, you have probably already guessed that our aim was not to find the place with the best Goulash soup in Budapest, but to experience and share the diversity of this culinary city with plenty of restaurants of different nationalities and styles. There is so much to choose from, that the challenge is to actually choose! Four days filled with delightful breakfasts, luscious lunches and divine dinners. We are convinced, and the proof is there - our weight has increased dramatically….because we’re worth it!

Bistro Mak has the atmosphere and friendliness which are so important beside the quality of food. Mak offers an excellent 3-courses lunch including homemade bread and a glass of wine for the same price as a second-rated lunch i Stockholm. The interior is modern rustic bistro style, with tables in massive wood, various kinds of chairs, blackboard menu and wine bottles decorating the raw brick and stone walls. 'Mak' means poppy seed and I highly recommend you to try their special poppy-seed dessert - delish!
Address: Vigyázó Ferenc utca 4, 1051 Budapest
Opening hours: Tuesday–Saturday: 12.00–15.00, 18.00–0.00

At a small cozy square, in the heart of Pest, you find Gerlóczy Kávéház. Here you can eat updated traditional Hungarian cuisine and grilled dishes from outdoor barbeque. We had a delicious calf liver served on traditional langos (a kind of bread) and grilled mackerel. As always, the ambience and interior increase the culinary experience. I see myself in a movie dated 1940. Lace curtains, high ceilings, a harpist playing in the corner, sometimes interrupted by the singing of the canary living on the upper floor. In case you eat too much and need a rest you can rent one of the 19 rooms offered by the same owner which are located behind the restaurant. From early spring the terrace is open. One of the best spots for people watching while having a coffee or a glass a wine.
Address: Gerlóczy street 1, 1052 Budapest
Opening hours: Daily 07.00 – 23.00    

Zona is offering innovative, ambitious cooking. It is modern gastronomy in the upper class. The 5-course menu is fixed with your choice of fish or meet as main course. Trendy interior in an old building with high celings.
Address: Lánchíd Utca 7/9, 1013 Budapest
Opening hours:
Tuesday-Wednesday: 12.00–24.00, kitchen: 12.00–15.00 & 18.30–22.30
Thursday-Friday: 12.00–01.00, kitchen 12.00–15.00 & 18.30–22.30
Saturday: 13.00 – 01.00, kitchen 13.00-16.00 & 18.30-22.30

Halaszbastya means Fishermen’s bastion. It's the name of the restaurant and the location. Leave the tourist crowds outside, enter into the magnificent venue and enjoy the Hungarian-International cuisine when it is at its best. Admired the impressive chandeliers and get breathless by the marvelous view over the Parliament on the Pest-side.  
Address: Budai Vár 1014 Budapest
Opening hours: Daily 09.00 – 23.00

 Don’t let the location stop you from a visit at Bock Bisztro Buda. You will regret yourself if you miss the excellent culinary experience this restaurant is offering. I would describe the cuisine as upgraded Hungarian food with crosscooking and Asian influences. From April the terrace is open and you can enjoy the beautiful green surroundings. Have a good look at the childhood photos in the entrance and try to figure out who is your waiter? If you are on Pest-side it takes about 15 minutes by taxi to reach Bock Bisztro which is located on Buda-side.
Address: Szarvas Gabor ut 8, 1125 Budapest (XII distriktet och utanför kartan).
Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday 12.00-23.00. Closed Mondays and holidays.

The Gundel Restaurant has passed the age of 100 years but continues to be an elegant lady who keeps up the high standard on food and service. The interior reminds of a bygone era which is immune against modern trends and I really hope it will always stay like this. On a romantic weekend trip to Budapest the brunch that is served on Gundel every Sunday is a must! PS! Be sure to save room for the desserts....
Address: Állatkerti körút 4, 1146 Budapest
Opening hours: 12.00-24.00, Sunday brunch 11.30-15.00

If you are longing for meat – beef, pork, goose, chicken or lamb you simply must go to LaciPecsenye!  Most of the beef is from Argentina and wooden-grilled. The menu is balanced and not too large. For lunch you can have a fixed menu with 2- or 3-courses for a very decent price. LaciPecsenye is located in the city center of Pest, on the square outside the basilica. The interior is relaxed, bistro-like and cool. The service i excellent and we give extra points for the Riedel glasses. The same owner will soon open (or maybe it’s already up and running) a dim-sum place next door to LaciPecsenye. Something to check out on our next visit to Budapest.
Address: Sas utca 11, Budapest 1051 – please note that the entrance is from the square of St Stephens Basilica.
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday: 12.00-24.00

We also recommend you to check out the Zsidai-family restaurants. You find the reviews HERE.

Photos by Teija

onsdag 9 april 2014

No 7 - the hippest district in Budapest

District VII is one of the most interesting, upcoming areas in Budapest. It looks a bit shabby but we think that is the best part of the experience - a shabby surface with a really cool finish! This is the place where you can spend the whole night and zip in from one bar to another. 

Before World War II the district was the home for the Jewish community. You still find restaurants serving kosher food in the district and we recommend a visit to the beautiful, enormous Budapest synagogue. One of the biggest in the world. 

If you get up relatively early on a Sunday morning, you just have to visit the Farmers market at Szimpla Kert. This is one of the oldest "ruin pubs" in Budapest. When the last guests have left in the early hour, the place turns into a food market filled with homemade cheeses, sausages, organic vegetables, fruits and much more in super cool surroundings. 

The prices are really affordable but even if you don't buy anything to take with you, the market is worth a visit because of the atmosphere. It's a great place to enjoy a sunday breakfast.
Address: Kazinczy utca 14, 1075 Budapest
The buzzing nightlife is very much down to earth. "Hole-in-the-wall-bars", back yards and parking places which have been transformed into meeting spots. These are all great places to meet the locals, the students and the backpackers,while having a cheap beer. 

Don't miss out on the shopping opportunities in district VII. You might need a new instrument, a big size costume or something from a local fashion shop.....?
...or do you prefer a visit at the antique bazaars or the vintage shops?

If you are looking for a central located hotel with an easy reach to all the interesting spots in district VII, night and day, Zara Continental is an excellent choice. The location at Dohany utca is so central that you can crawl home from a long night out.
Don't miss our favorite spot in the hotel - the bar. It is like a tribune with beautiful stained glasses and a view of the impressive reception area. If you are lucky somebody will play a serenade for you on the grand piano. If the weather is nice you can have your drink at the terrace and admire the roofs of Budapest. The hotel has the only roof top pool in Budapest!
Address: Dohany utca 42-44, 1074 Budapest

See district VII before the gentrification has transformed the area into a uniformed, trendy, clean and polished neighbourhood.... Be quick, 'cause it has already started!

Photos by Teija 

tisdag 8 april 2014

Budapest – a Capital simply ooozing of culture!

No trip to Budapest is complete without a dose of culture. Whenever you visit the city, or whatever your preferences are, there is always something going on at any of the numerous venues. When in Budapest, go to the Opera, visit the concerthalls, enjoy a art exhibition, see a musical, a theatre or just simply check out the many museums Budapest has to offer. It's all a important part of the total Budapest experience!
From early spring and onwards there are outdoor concerts and festivals at diffrent spots in the city. Check what is going on at Erzsebet tér in the very city center on Pest side. The square is also a meeting point and a place where youngsters are hanging with friends or just having a drink! 

We were fortunate to be in the city during the Budapest Spring Festival. This is the biggest festival of the year, starting from the end of March until beginning of April. The focus is on classical music but year by year the festival programme has become broader in genres.

We had an unforgettable musical experiences in Vigado Concert Hall with the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra and trumpet player Alison Balsom. The building is an impressive masterpiece in romantic style and was recently opened after some 20 years of  renovation. A perfect ambience to Alison and her trumpet.
Address: Vigadó utca 5, 1051 Budapest
No web site yet.

A glass of wine and a bit to eat before you go to the concert and your cultural experience will be total! Just a minutes walk from Pesti Vigado you find Divin Porcello, a cozy place serving hams, cheeses and wines from Hungary, Italy and Spain. Perfect as a starter if you are planning to have a full dinner after the concert.
Address: Apáczai Csere János utca 7, 1052 Budapest
Opening hours: 12.00-00.00

The Liszt Academy, in art deco style, has been completely refurbished and reopened in autumn 2013 after four years closure. The venue has got a new gala costume and a new statue of Franz Liszt outside.
Address: Wesselényi utca 52, 1077 Budapest

Budapest is really oozing of culture and one of the most exciting venues is the Palace of Arts, also known as MUPA (Muveszetek Palotaja). The architecture is so impressive that it takes my breath away! It's worth a visit just for the arcitechtual experice!
Address: Komor Marcell u. 1, 1095 Budapest

Remember! No visit is complete without a dose of culture. Regardless you prefer jazz, classical music, opera, rock, circus, dance or arts. Or if you want to check out the huge variety of museums that Budapest has to offer.

Find more information to plan you cultural experience during your visit to Budapest:
Hungarian Tourist Board
Budapest Funzine
Event calendar of Budapest
Budapest info
Events and things to do

Photos: Teija

PS: Check out this short video presententation of the Opera House:

måndag 7 april 2014

Gastronomy in Budapest the Zsidai way

One family - seven restaurants. In 1982 the Zsidai-family opened their first restaurant called Pierrot. More than 30 years later the restaurant collection has grown and recently they opened Spiler Shanghai - their seventh restaurant. All the restaurants have different concepts. There is something for everyone, no matter what food or what kind of atmosphere you prefer.

"Gastronomy is not only our profession, it is our life and it's our mission to raise the bar, to lift the level of Hungarian cuisine and gastronomy back to the international frontline."

Well, after visiting six out of the seven restaurants we have to say: -Mission accomplished!

The unifying theme, throughout the seven restaurants, is the care and the high quality of the products. It is very important for the family that the food is made from locally sourced ingredients. This is a trend that has not been seen as much in Budapest until now.  

Four of the restaurants are located within walking distance from each other in the old town on the Buda-side. 

Baltazár Grill is the perfect spot for meat lovers, usually prepered on the charcoal grill. Don't miss the delicious gooseliver or the free range chicken. There are also many options for vegetarians.
Next to the restaurant you find Hotel Baltazár with 11 rooms. Excellent location for a stay in the historical old Buda.
Address: Országház utca 31, 1014 Budapest

When grandmother Ilona Zsiday opened Pierrot restaurant in 1982 it was a new kind of  restaurant concept - very trendy and modern compared to what was available in Budapest at the time. The relaxing atmosphere has remained even if Pierrot has changed into a more elegant, cosmopolitan costume and an excellent gastronomy. Don't miss the lovely inner yard if you are here during the warm season.
Address: Fortuna utca 14, 1014 Budapest

Restaurant 21 is serving Hungarian food in an updated version. The interior is in modern bistro-style and is a perfect spot for spontaneous meals. This is the place I would like to visit if I lived around the corner. 
Address: Fortuna utca 21, 1014 Budapest

Pest-Buda is one of the oldest restaurants in Hungary and this is something the owner family care for when it comes to food. Pest-Buda offers Hungarian food in a home style tradition. Cozy and family friendly atmospher.
Address: Fortuna utca 3, 1014 Budapest

Three restaurants are located on the Pest-sida. És is a winebar, pub, bistro and a terrace inside the Kempinski Hotel at Deák Ference utca 12-24. This is the only place we have not seen but És will be on our list during the next visit.

Gozsdu Udvar (Gojdu Courtyard) is six courtyards with seven attached buildings in the 7th district behind the synagogue. It connects Dob utca with Király utca. Just a few years ago the courtyards were almost empty. Today is different and if you want to be 'in', this is the place to go. Here is an intense activity and the area is filled with bars, restaurants and shops.

Spiler is one of the popular spots and it's a place where the atmosphere is as important as the food. It’s a perfect place for people spotting or meeting with friends for a burger and a beer from the own micro-brewery. Music is loud and will put you in the right mood before you go bar-hopping in the 7th district
Address: Gozsdu Udvar (Király utca 13), 1075 Budapest

The newest baby in the Zsidai restaurant-family is Spiler Shanghai, opposite to Spiler. The place opened in end of March 2014 and as the name indicates it is Asian food in a cool, funky environment.
Address: Gozsdu Udvar (Király utca 13), 1075 Budapest

Read more about the restaurants and the family at www.zsidai.com

Photos: Teija