FOLK ART IN LACE
Women from Eastern Europe are getting a lot of press these days, thanks to our president-elect’s gorgeous wife, Melania Trump. My observation is that Eastern Europe is indeed the home of a bevy of beautiful women. In fact, one greeted us at the front door of the famous Great Market Hall near the Pest side of the Liberty Bridge. While Melania wears the latest fashions, this beauty wears the oldest fashions, lace and embroidery made by the women of Hungary for centuries. Her colorful, art-full greeting was our first “wow,” and we hadn’t even gotten in the building yet.
Inside, there was a plethora of stalls selling table linens crafted with this folk art needlework. Are they really made in Hungary? A discerning consumer needs to inspect the pieces closely because some of them are made in China, so look for the local ones which are clearly marked. Don’t just look for them at the Great Market Hall. Women all over the city–in shops, on the sidewalks, along the Danube’s promenade–are selling these works of tradition.
WORSHIPPING AT THE ALTAR OF CONSUMERISM
At the Great Market Hall, you will find three floors of shopping and restaurants to explore. The view from the top floor produces the second “wow” of the day as it showcases the beautiful art nouveau design of this building in the iron work on the second floor. The glowing gothic-arched windows on the opposite wall seem to whisper: “Welcome, Pilgrims, prepare to worship at the Altar of Consumerism. Leave a monetary sacrifice, and you will be blessed with riches beyond your imagination.”
THE “TRINITY”: PÁLINKA, PEPPER, AND PATÉ
Luckily for my budget, I am more of a “looker” than a shopper, so I did not supplicate myself to the shopping god. Temptation , however, was down every corridor and around every corner. The attractive displays look as if they were composed by the Dutch masters of still life paintings. The canvas before me presented sweet Tokaj wine, glistening gold and amber in glass bottles; the heady fruit brandy, Pálinka, with realistic renderings of berries, apricots, and plums printed on the labels; as well as the hearty red wine, Egri Bikaner, hiding its blood-red beauty in dark bottles. Tucked amid the alcohol were the red, white, and blue tins of Hungarian paprika and the black cans of decadent goose or duck paté and fois gras.
THE “WOW” OF THE WEENIES
While the spirits, paprika, and paté selections were impressive in their orderliness, they didn’t have the “wow” factor the next canvas did. Salami, weenies, hot dogs, sausages, whatever you want to call them, hung in neat rows, rested in symmetrical slices, and hovered together on the shelves. Not just tourists, but the locals also, find culinary salvation through the purchase of the perfect sausages.
In fact, as you walk the streets of Budapest, you see the how high the populace holds the lowly weenie in esteem. It is elevated gourmet street fare.
SLOVENIAN STILL LIFES
The canvases showcasing Natures’s bounty could have hung on the walls of any great art museum: golden butternut squash, purple eggplants, creamy parsnips, and variegated green vegetables. A big “wow” here is definitely well deserved.
Others could convincingly argue that artisanal chocolates earn the loudest “wow”! Chocoholics claim that these works of art painted with a jeweled palette of fruit and nuts are a sweet, sublime treat akin to a religious experience.
I say “amen” to that! You will also exclaim “amen” when you find your gods to worship during your own pilgrimage to the Great Market Hall in Budapest.