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Similarity: In the USA, Christmastime begins right after Thanksgiving. In Hungary, Christmastime begins with Advent…which is also in late November.
So while those in the US spent this weekend shopping and decorating for Christmas, we in Hungary also…decorated for Christmas. The lights are up around town, the Christmas spirit is alive, and there is a full calendar of choir recitals, instrumental performances, childrens’ plays, nativity scenes, and the like. Kaposvár’s main street also has its winter market open. Truthfully, I can’t say that it is like the large markets of Europe, with hundreds of vendors selling even past December 25th. I really have no idea how long Kaposvár’s sellers will be there, but I enjoyed my stroll through earlier today and I imagine the atmosphere will grow as Christmas approaches closer. Today, a bookstore was setting up its display, a candy stand was open for business, and the food stands were open with holiday desserts and drinks.
We were fortunate to be invited to two Thanksgiving dinners this week, and enjoyed the company and familiar feeling of Thanksgiving dinner, as well as the food, itself. Yay for stuffing, for real turkey, for pies and breads, for potatoes and gravy, and for the candied butternut squash dish that was a perfect substitute for sweet potatoes. [it is impossible to find sweet potatoes and cranberries here…black beans, too].
On Sunday, we went to Budapest for the largest of its Christmas Markets, and some other much-needed shopping. I must say I wasn’t as impressed with the market as I know I am supposed to be, so I truly feel bad that my review isn’t glowing. But let me clarify that statement. I suppose by the way it is talked up that I was expecting it to be much bigger…a substitute for Vienna, perhaps. I did enjoy it—I loved the atmosphere and the selection of items. Lots of [I’m assuming] homemade decorative products, pottery, winter hats, and food…and a lovely children’s choir that was performing for hours in the freezing cold. I think my mediocre opinion of the market boils down to a few factors: 1) it was below freezing and breezy (read: I didn’t want to be outside) 2) We weren’t there to make purchases, just to check it out. 3) It seemed repetitive…I’d bet 50% of the booths sold pottery or hats. I suppose I was expecting a bigger selection for gift shopping rather than for personal use. 4) It was significantly smaller than I was expecting (I have been to the Nurnburg, Germany market). I say all of this not to be a complainer, but simply to give my observations, assuming you have not seen it. It was a really pretty site, full of holiday cheer, and all of the food looked and smelled great! I would like to go back and allow some time to wander again with my camera. And if it were just a smidgen warmer, I might be in more of a purchasing mood.
The main intent of our visit to Budapest was to do some shopping. We popped into a bookstore on Váci Utca, one of the expensive shopping streets, and they had an enormous English-language selection. I was able to pick up three more books at 852 forints each. This is the same price as in our local bookstore, so obviously it is fixed. I picked up Crime and Punishment, Silas Marner, and Turn of the Screw, all classics. Which to read once I finish Treasure Island?
Then we went to one of the two IKEAs in Budapest. Kaposvár is very lacking in places to purchase housewares so we have been looking forward to this for several weeks. We picked up some stainless-steel cookware which seems so much nicer than the junk for sale in Tesco, and I used to think IKEA sold junk…I guess it’s all relative. We picked up a steamer, another pillow/pillowcases, comfy new towels (at a fraction of what Tesco charges), and some other odds-and-ends. We got back to town last night around 11, and I confess that (once again) we fell asleep on the train and conveniently woke up about 10 minutes before we needed to get off a train and connect…whew!
Coming up soon: pictures of the Christmas decorations in Kaposvár. I am also planning on creating some posts that are less of the “here’s what I did today” type and more creative.