Saturday, February 27, 2010


I came to Bremen for two different reasons - to write a story and to join a kohlfahrt. Today was Kohlfahrt Day.

This is a weird Bremen tradition where you get together with a group of friends and head out to the countryside loaded with booze. Then you start walking and at every turn or corner you take a drink from a little glass hanging around your neck. In between you fuel up with beer.
Surprisingly people tend to get a bit tipsy. After a couple of hours of walking & drinking you end up at a restaurant where you have unlimited food and, yes, drinks! The menu consists of different cabbage dishes, hence the name (kohl is cabbage in German). Top it up with sausages and you feel like a prince.  After dinner there was a live band that we all danced to, then a bunch of us continued to a nightclub in Bremen called Modernes.

I am surprised I made it to the train back to Amsterdam the morning after. But we had lots of fun!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mercedes, Beck's and more

My second day in Bremen I had a ride on a graded race track in a €120.000 Mercedes CL500. That was fun. Then I drove a mere €35.000 Mercedes GKL through an off-road track, which was even more fun.

From there I headed directly to Beck's beer brewery for a guided tour and some tasting. Let's put it this way – Bremen is not Brussels. But it was fun anyway. In the evening I had the pleasure of eating dinner with Jan's parents. Jan is our neighbour in Amsterdam but is originally from Bremen. Afterwards I joined Jan and his wife Hyshil for a drink at the Outer Roads bar, on top of the Beluga building. Nice view.

We continued to another bar to meet Sara & Kristian. Sara is a Swedish journalist I worked together with in Brussels. Her husband Kristian is also from Bremen so they lived here for a while. But now they moved back to Brussels and Sara's new job at the European Parliament. We had lots of fun, visiting several different bars in Das Viertel, a popular party-neighbourhood.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Browsing Bremen

Arrived to Bremen today via train (now isn't that the most pleasant and civilised way to travel?) for a weekend of work and meeting friends. The city is beautiful, despite the throngs of noisy Dutch footballs supporters that came for a match against Werder Bremen (WB won over Enschede with 4-1).

Tomorrow I will have dinner with friends, actually our neighbours in Amsterdam, at his Mother's place. And on Saturday it's time for Kohlfarht!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Last day in Budapest

My last day in Budapest for this time, I had an early start and headed for the Király thermal bath. This another bat built by the Ottomans in the 16th Century, but unlike Rudas it has not been renovated since the 50's. Small, run-down and simple, it was still an almost filmic experience to step in under the ancient dome and down in the hot water. The room was full of steam and through it rays of light from the cuppola shimmered.

Then I packed up, checked out from excellent Hotel Soho and went for the airport. Finally I will sleep in my own bed again!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Discovering the VII district

Today I had a guide booked all day to show me around in the VII district of Budapest. Formerly a shabby and dangerous area, part of the old Jewish neigbourhood, it has now transformed into a trendy and up-and-coming part of town. Sure, many houses haven't been renovated since World War II, but that is slowly changing and also part of the charm. Old family-run shops still abounds but new cool bars are popping up in between.

Funny enough, my Hungarian guide András spoke rather good Swedish after having studied the language and also spent some time in Sweden. Halfway through the day we discovered that he is also hooked onr paragliding! So the rest of the day and evening the topic of conversation was given.

We had an excellent lunch at Café Kör (I had a Hungarian cabbage dish, like lasagna without pasta, or maybe moussaka without aubergine).  Then dinner at Restaurant Menza where I devoured an excellent leg of goose.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Enjoying Art Deco and Art Nouveau

Femke had set off Monday morning for shopping and I was fine with that. But first we had to have a cake! So we combined watching beautiful Art Nouveau architecture at the Bedö House with a cake in Café Art Nouveau in the same building.
Then Femke took us to Falk Miksa Street which was full of antique stores with very nice art deco furniture. In the shop Montparnasse we found several beautiful Art Deco bars, but alas, the prices where to high for me.

Our last lunch together in Budapest was a quiet and traditional meal at Restaurant Fülemüle. I had a most delicious Hungarian Ratatouille while Femke went for a good piece of steak. Then Sadly I had to wave Femke off as she had to go back to Amsterdam to work. I was of course already working, and planned to stay another day.

In the afternoon I arranged a small improvised wine tasting at Restaurant Klassz, then met up with my local friend Masha and her boyfriend at the cool bar Szimpla Kert. It is all very Berliny (in a Budapesty way of course) with numerous rooms and bars in a dilapidated building.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Slow Sunday in Budapest

Today we took it slower. I ventured out in the snowfall to the Memento statue park but it was not very special. Femke stayed in the city, having a cake at the New York café. Later we met up for lunch at Restaurant Tabani Terasz where I had a delicious dish with deer and goose liver.
Next stop was the famous Gellert thermal bath which we found OK, but not as nice as Rudas.

After some skulking around looking at the beautiful bridges over Donau, we enjoyed a glass of sparkling wine and a cake at Café Müvesz before having dinner at the trendy Restaruant Menza.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Caking and eating our way through Budapest

With Femke around life is good. Our plan for this weekend is to visit as many good cafés, restaurants and thermal baths as possible for my stories. So we started with cakes at Gerbeaud, a fancy and famous traditional café in the city center. A short visit to the central market hall made us hungry so we sneaked out and into the wine restaurant Borbíróság where we enjoyed excellent lunch. Femke had duck (not for the last time this weekend) while I was more modest with a traditional and tasty cabbage and sausage soup.

Now it was past noon, so high time for another café! This time the venerable Café Central where we had Flódni cake with nuts and poppy seeds (me) and walnut&apple cake (Miss F) to the sound of a violinist.

This was all hard work so we just had to soak up a bit in a bath. Enter Rudas thermal bath, built by the Ottomans in the 16th Century. What a beautiful and atmospheric place!

Swimming makes you hungry but luckily we found a table at the excellent wine restaurant (another one...) Klassz. And then waited a night at the Hungarian State Opera watching ballet. I must admit that dance is not really my thing, I prefer Opera in these circumstances, but the building is beautiful and Femke loved it. And it does give you a bit of a James Bond-feeling to walk down the red carpet of the  magnificent staircase with a glass of champagne and a beautiful woman :-)

Friday, February 05, 2010

and now: in Budapest

This is crazy. After a very long trip from Sri Lanka to Amsterdam via Dubai, I was only home for half a day before I had to board another flight. This time to Budapest. Luckily, I first had lunch with Femke in Amsterdam, and she will also join me here in Budapest as a model.

Arriving to Budapest I was of course completely wasted and went to bed early. But waking up tosay I felt much better! It helped that I started the day with a visit to the Lukacs thermal bath, very relaxing. Then I had dinner at a simple restaurant opposite the bath, Nagyi Kifözdéje, and rounded it off with cake at the Daubner pastry shop.

Un the evening I enjoyed a glass of sparkling wine at the Alexandra Book Café on Andrássy utca (and another piece of cake :-)), then had a brilliant dinner with goulash and lamb at Restaurant Rosenstein. A good start on this working trip!