Introvert Solo Travel Ratings –
Sensory Peace – (5 / 5) – Quite peaceful with idle chatter from restaurant patrons sipping wine in the sun. This is on the banks of a quiet tributary of the Danube.
Solo-Friendliness – (4 / 5) – While most places seem like family sit-down restaurants, they are very accommodating towards everyone.
Commute Friendly – (5 / 5) – Take the H5 northwards from Budapest.
Predictability – (5 / 5)
Safety – (5 / 5)
Nerdy stuff – (4 / 5) – A couple of small museums.
What and Where
Szentendre (Hungarian name for St. Andrews) is a quaint little picturesque town with cobbled streets winding by colorful medieval buildings. A distinguishing feature is colorful paper lampshades hung on strings above squares. Overlooking a creek, the streets go up and down often intersecting the same buildings at different floors on different sides.
I honestly ended up here accidentally. From the Buda side of Budapest in the Batthyány tér Stop, I took the HEV train northwards (H5 line), and went past my intended stop.
However, I did not worry, because European countries are very safe and well-connected by trains every few minutes – even the farthest village in the countryside.
Hence, in a moment of serendipity, I decided to explore the points on this line further ahead, instead of going back to my intended stop. While I missed the Roma Acquincium (a Roman ruin of wells and aqueducts), I chanced upon this village Szentendre which showed up prominently on google maps.
It was in the daytime and as soon as I landed here, I verified that there were trains every 20 minutes back to Budapest.
Szamos Marzipan Museum –
This shop makes marzipan models of famous celebrities, iconic buildings and scenes from Disney movies. You can also taste smaller portions of marzipan in the cafe area.
Blagovestenska Church –
This is an Eastern Orthodox Church dedicated to St Constantine. A nice break from Catholic and Protestant churches in Western Europe.
National Wine Museum (Labirintus Étterem) –
This restaurant-and-wine-cellar gives us the history of Hungarian wine – one of the most underrated wine regions in Europe. The general favorite tends to be Bull’s Blood – a melange of different reds. My personal one was Tokaji wine – a dessert wine made from rotten-sweet grapes in the Tokaj region.
Tokaj sweet wine is manufactured by a process called Noble Rot. It is said that a long time ago, wine farmers awaited instructions from an estate owner before harvesting the grapes, but the messenger was robbed on the way, creating a delay which enabled the fungus Botrytis cinerea to grow on it. The wasted grapes were given to local peasants who developed a surprisingly high quality sweet wine from it.
Aside from seeing sights, the best thing to do is stroll around the narrow alleyways of this medieval town and relax by the creek on which this place sprang up.
At the main square, there are several outdoor restaurants like Koronoa and Elizabeth which serve traditional Magyar cuisine such as Goulash, Paprikash, sausages and cheese. I personally had the goose-liver which was amazing.
In many of these restaurants, I found musicians playing violins and cellos often entertaining the diners with music of personal choices – European Classical like Mozart or Beethoven, Hungarian Folk, Gypsie (Roma) music or even adaptations of movie and TV scores like Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
My music ended and there followed an awkward pause with the musicians around me. When I tried to tip them, they took offense, and instead asked me to purchase their CDs if I liked the music, and if not, simply applaud them and praise the music and culture.
Some of the dishes I enjoyed in this town are –
(i) Goulash – Hungarian goulash is a medley of meats and vegetables in a spicy paprika-based stew – eaten with bread dumplings.
(ii) Goose legs and liver – served with a side of pink saur-kraut, potatoes and apple-sauce.
(iii) Chicken Paprikash – Spicy chicken stew with red-pepper, served with cheese-topped pasta.
(iv) Langos – a street food which is fried bread topped with cheese and herbs.
(v) Various Poppy-seed filled puff-pastries and pancakes.
You can travel farther from Szentendre into smaller villages away from the town and look into pristine Hungarian rural life, which is a glimpse into what most of Europe was during medieval times – people living in large families in thatched cottages, gathering straw by the fields, and making fruit-liqueurs, cheese and sausages in their house to sell in the markets. An old-fashioned idyllic European life unaffected by the industrial advances which changed the face of Western Europe.
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