I recently did a trip from Budapest – Lake Balaton – Belgrade – Budva (Montenegro) and finished in Berlin. It was a great trip where I discovered new places, met locals and did a bit of partying. Here is a summary of my experiences in Budapest and Lake Balaton, my nights out and recommendations of the local drinks (I will follow up with Belgrade, Budva and Berlin in my next post).
The Place – Budapest
I’d been to Budapest several times over the years, all for different reasons – once backpacking, another time on a party/festival trip with a bunch of friends and once with my parents on a more touristy trip.
This time was different again – I stayed with a local, a Hungarian friend who used to live in Amsterdam. As a result I got a bunch of local tips, met some more locals and saw a side to Budapest I hadn’t seen before.
The Party – A38
Straight off the plane on a Wednesday night, I headed to where my friend was with a bunch of her friends – A38. A38 Budapest is an old Ukrainian stone-carrier boat that has started a new life on the Danube as a bar/club, now considered one of Europe’s best. The night I was there it was a jam session – some very talented musicians, singers and rappers combining to create some pretty impressive music. It was a hot night so it nice to be on a boat, that had some outdoor areas, on the Danube river. I had a great night with some very nice and friendly locals.
The Drink – Fröccs
Everyone in Budapest in Summer seems to drink fröccs (pronounced ‘fruche’) which is white or rosé wine mixed with soda water (aka a wine spritzer). It was definitely more popular than beer at A38 when I was there, even with the guys. On the hot Summer’s night that it was, it was the perfect choice – refreshing but with enough alcohol to give you a nice buzz. The proportion of wine to soda water each fröccs can be different. For example my friend was drinking a fröccs-sport, which had a higher proportion of soda water (because she had to work the next day). All in all, fröccs is the perfect Summer’s night drink!
The Place – Lake Balaton
Lake Balaton, or ‘The Balaton’, is the largest freshwater lake in Central Europe and virtually Hungary’s sea. As a result it is packed with resorts and holiday makers in Summer. The reason I was headed there, to a town called Zamárdi specifically, was for a music festival – Balaton Sound.
The Party – Balaton Sound
Balaton Sound is one of Europe’s largest open air electronic music festivals. Winner of the best European medium sized festival, it is located right on the banks of Lake Balaton, with some stages and bars even floating on the water. I met some local friends of my friend and drank and danced to the likes of Justice, the Bloody Beetroots, AVICCI and Wu Tang until the sun came up over Lake Balaton.
The following day was spent recovering by swimming in the lake and… Pálinka tasting!? (see below)
The Drink – Pálinka
Pálinka has a bad reputation as being a firewater that gives you a nasty hangover. If you buy a cheap bottle from the supermarket, that is indeed the likely outcome. I instead headed to a Pálinka distillery, with my new local friends, for a tour and tasting session. We saw the entire process from fruit being pulped to bottling and tasted about 8 different types of Pálinka made from various fruit. This Pálinka was made purely with fruit and it was delicious (and didn’t give a hangover).
Dan Fennessy writes about nightlife culture on the Spotted by Locals blog