What is Budapest known for? Multiple answers to this question. But one of the things I like is to travel for about one hour outside Budapest. By HEV, train, car or bus. You can really find beautiful gems this way.
This is the tale of the most delicious plums in the world. I have to come clean immediately. I am constantly on the hunt for the best plums (szilva) and the best sausage (kolbasz). I have many fond memories of searching, discovering and eating these two goodies.
About a year ago I was in a car passing through the little village of Dunabogdány. A peaceful place about an hour by car from Budapest, a seemingly little sleepy village of about 3.000 souls. The village history is on all accounts remarkable! From roman times, the age of migration, Arpad, Middle Age and the Ottoman islamic occupation. In the 1725 there were 30% Hungarians and 70% German schwabs living here. The schwab heritage is still noticeable with “Rathaus”(town hall) and “Kulturaus” (culture house) used as official names. And the village has two names, the schwab “Bogdan” and Hungarian “Dunabogdány”. Estimates show that there are some 200,000 – 220,000 citizens of German background living in Hungary. Enough of history and back to the plums!
As I mentioned I was in a car in Dunabogdány. It was Saturday and outside the Rathaus a man was selling fruit and vegetables. Not a very uncommon practise in the villages across Hungary, so after parking it was time to buy some of his products. I got some of his plums and I almost fell into a trance. They were perfect in texture, ripeness, moistness and overall taste! (probably besztercei muskotalyos) The old man was very talkative about his garden, his family and about his whole life. He was a very nice old man, a little bit sad with silver hair and green boxes for his tasty plums, tomatoes, onions and cucumbers.
Last week was in the right season for a plum hunt! In the car from Budapest and enter Dunabogdány. It’s after noon. I keep looking at the Rathaus. No plum man there. I kept going a little bit further. No plum man. Turned back and stopped outside a little green grocers which was about to close. Bought some plums and onion to make him talk. He told that the plum man came some Saturday mornings. And he told that he lived nearby, but didn’t know where. I saw a sign to a cafe further on up the street and started walking. Found Herr Cukrazda with simply heavenly old style ice cream. And it must be one of the few cafes in the world that doesn’t serve coffee!!
I continued my search and made my way under the gazing sun upwards and towards the Saint John of Nepomuk Church. I always visit village churches. They are looked after, gives you interesting historical clues and if you visit at noon the church bells always tolls for you. In the well kept church yard there was a monument over the schwab families who were forcefully deported after the second world war. There was a big monument with names of the those who died in the first and second world war and in the upraising 1956 against the Soviet Union and the Hungarian communist dictatorship.
Behind me some shirtless workers digging a hole by a tree. Birds sung and a bumble bee passed by. I read the names on the war memorial when I suddenly heard one of the workers exclaim: “Nézd, itt jön a plébános a sörrel!”. Meaning “Here comes the priest with the beer!” I quickly turned around and there was a young priest approaching, not carrying any beer but a smile!
I walked towards the nearest gate. An older lady on a bench beneath a majestic walnut tree with her gold sandals on the ground, told me that the plum-man lived near the church. I should look for a big apricot tree. I thanked her and walked through the gate behind the church. I slowly dwelled on sun burned narrow streets, I saw pretty gardens and spotless lawns. Dogs barked in the distance and hens talked upset behind fences. Suddenly a big apricot tree caught my attention.
I rang the doorbell and a woman appeared on top of the stairs. Now with a curious face expression. It was the right place! This was the plum mans house! She called on him. He answered all questions very polite BUT…he had NO PLUMS…all of them they were in Budapest in the 17th district at a green grocers…
But I was happy anyway. One year ago he was a widower, now he seemed joyful with his new lady. I didn’t get the most delicious plums in the world, but I met a happy plum man. I had delicious ice cream. I got a good story about a priest. I was given the final clues by a bare footed lady. Shows that it always pays off to walk hidden paths to create memories and experiences! In one way or another!
Until next week!
PS. The Spotify stream with my piano music is here. My Musical Landscape The Inner Wastes of Gewsgiumue are going live on all major streaming platforms 6th of September.