BUDAPEST, HUNGARY. This was my first time to spend the New Year's Eve outside of the Philippines. Coincidentally, we were in Budapest when the New Year arrived. I had no idea how the Hungarians celebrate the New Year but we had been promised by our tour director of a wonderful night full of fun, lively conversations and good food.
We travelled 16 kilometres north of Courtyard Budapest Center by Marriott, which we had been staying, before we arrived in a winery/restaurant called Schieszl Vendéglő és Borház. The travel took us about 30 minutes but I tell you now that it had been the longest half hour of our lives since a lot of us were already excited on what lies ahead.
Donning colorful cone-shaped hats which were bought and distributed by our tour director during the travel, we alighted from the coach and welcomed the cold, quiet and breezy atmosphere of Budakalász, a town in Pest county where the restaurant resides. Since a huge group had just came in ahead of us, we filed in first outside the restaurant to give them time to settle. Despite the freezing cold weather that night, the courtyard had been filled up with chatters and laughter. Everybody was just happy and in a wonderful mood and we have not even started yet.
After sometime, the server then opened the entrance of the restaurant to welcome us all in and led us to a cellar where the first part of our New Year's Eve dinner commenced. I am not a drinker but I do drink when the occasion calls for it and I mostly choose wines rather than beer or hard drinks, so when I found out that we will have a wine tasting activity and we will be gulping wines, I became ecstatic!
Amidst the unending chatter while we wait for the activity to start, two unknown men came in the cellar and appeared before us. We immediately grew quiet. With a warm inviting smile, one of the two men broke the silence and spoke an undecipherable sentence: the man was speaking in his native tongue. Though my limited foreign language ability failed me, it was evident that he was genuinely happy to welcome us in the restaurant. We soon found out, through the translator standing beside him, that he was Konrad Schieszl, the 3rd generation owner of the restaurant.
...The names of the wine did already escape me but I will never forget how each type of wine punched my taste buds and my senses deeper as we went along...
I appreciate that Konrad was very hands-on. He gave a brief history of their family business and then proceeded with giving us the wine line-up for the night. The names of the wine did already escape me but I will never forget how each type of wine punched my taste buds and my senses deeper as we went along. They were all amazing. Before distributing, Konrad made sure to give an overview about the wine first: its name, where it came from, the taste that we might expect and the year it had been produced. He then proceeded to approaching all of us and pouring our glasses with a sizeable amount of wine that we could enjoy. They also served different variant of biscuits and
cookies which we consequently paired with the different wines we had been served with. Even before we were able to finish the wine tasting activity, I was already able to sense a significant change in our group's behaviour. The atmosphere in the cellar escalated from a fun to a livelier and a rowdier one! In other words, people were already getting too tipsy for their own good.
The happy and lively atmosphere extended even when we were already having our dinner. We were served with a lovely three-course Hungarian meal that I was not able to take a decent photograph of either because it has been too dark in the dining area or we were too busy munching our food and getting to know one another.
Before the dessert has been served, our tour director suggested that we all take turns in introducing ourselves to our travel mates and tell them more about who we are travelling with, what do we do and what our hobbies are so that we would be able to make the getting-to-know deeper and more inclusive. Even though we were already full of energy, I just loved how all of us were able to keep quiet and really listen to the people who were talking. I appreciated the session because it allowed me to know more about those individuals that I was not able to talk with often but has been travelling with for the past few days already. Moreover, I also think that it had been an effective ice-breaker because it was evident for the next few days that walls had been lowered which gave people more flexibility to approach just about anyone because they already felt more at ease with their co-travellers. To put it simply, after it we felt more like a family.
The time passed by without us noticing and the dinner ended more abruptly than we wanted to. Actually, the tour director has to repeat a number of times that it was already time to go.
We left the restaurant and thanked Konrad for the wonderful wine and food that he prepared for us. We again boarded our bus but this time back to our hotel. The fun did not stop though as Justine, our tour director, played old songs that we all sang along with all throughout the ride back.
We came back in the Pest city center at around 10 pm; it was barely New Year's Eve yet, so the young adults, my brothers included, decided to extend the happenings to a local bar. Though I still want to go with them or maybe go to the main square and wait, together with the Hungarians, for the New Year's Eve to arrive, I know I was already tired and ready to call it night. As I went up to the room I share with my brothers, I could not help but think that this had been the happiest New Year I had just yet. Not only had I been lucky to spend it in a city that I had been dying to see since I have know about Europe but I was also able to enjoy it with my family. What a great way it had been to start the new year!
SCHIESZL VENDÉGLŐ ÉS BORHÁZ
ADDRESS: Budakalász, Budai út 83
PHONE: +36 26 340 465