The Great Market Hall
During my student years I always had a dilemma among where to buy my daily food from. How much money should be spent on food, snacks in general, quality-meals, warm-foods? Should I eat healthier for more money, or try sparing and buy discounted and almost-expired products from supermarkets? Is it cheaper and better to cook for myself? Is it more comfortable and time-gaining if I buy semi-prepared or refrigerated food (full of conservants and preservatives)?
Starting university-life in a foreign city, 400 km far from home induced many questions about living. I started thinking about how to establish a healthy lifestyle in Budapest, how to calculate my money to be enough till the end of the month, what to spend it and what not to spend on, etc. It took some weeks, even months to find a harmonic and balanced modality of shopping and preparing food.
Back in Romania I was used with going at the market (only ten minutes away from my home), buying authentic fruits and vegetables from farmers, dairy- and meat products from villagers. Eating healthy and natural food was a priority. Budapest is a great city, but lies on a huge territory, thus doing the shopping, traveling through the city, carrying bags with food from one part of the city to the other is uncomfortable. Mission impossible. Buying always something from the closest supermarket was a faster and more comfortable option for me. But after a time, I started missing the taste of real succulent apples, delicious and juicy tomatoes; furthermore, Autumn’s star: quince couldn’t be found at SPAR. One day I decided to go at the market, and once I entered the Great Market Hall (Vásárcsarnok) my life changed.
The Great Market Hall is located in the middle way between Kálvin tér and Fővám tér, in the city centre. It’s the oldest market hall in the city and Europe’s best market (for real! CNN awarded Budapest Great Market Hall with this title some years ago). There is actually an indoor market in a huge building with a high ceiling, and boat-structure ceiling (neogothic characteristic). From the outside the market hall looks like an English brick-building. It’s beautifully ornamented and imposing.
In the inside there are stands with vegetables, fruits, meat and dairy-products, spices, egg, delicatesse, Hungarian traditional foods, warm-foods, bakery products, home-made noodles, handcrafted ice-cream, jams, pickles, wines, fish and other fresh goods. A canaan for those who love shopping, and Hungarian gastronomy. The market hall is often crowded by tourists and this can make walking and shopping a bit harder and slower procedure. There are also thematic walks around the building organized for visitors. On the other hand several times a year there are festivities of National Market Days. (Greek Days at the market hall, Vietnamese days, Transylvanian days, etc. ) National Market Days are interesting gastronomical journeys, visitors can gain inside different countries’ food culture by tasting traditional foods, but also experiencing other aspects of the respective culture: folk music, traditional clothes, etc.
Unfortunately the Great Market Hall is very far from my dorm, so I only visited it a couple of times, but there are other market halls at Budapest built on the same concept, offering the same goodnesses. There are market halls at Batthyány tér (1st district), Flórián tér (3rd district), Rákóczi tér (8th district), Liget tér (11th district) and others you can check out here. So everyone can find the closest market hall to his/her home. It’s worth sometimes visiting market halls, because a lot of ingredients can’t be find at supermarkets. My favourit products from the market hall are: chestnuts, marmalade, cottage cheese and lángos. Every countries' market hall reflects the society's characteristic, the landscape and agricultural treasures of the place. I think that walking in a market hall is like taking a sightseeing-tour in the city. The visual impulses, smells, lights, noises, the salesmen all build an authentic and unique atmosphere. This is true viceversa as well. I think visiting a foreign country and leaving without having seen its market hall is wasted time. Supermarkets are all the same, but market halls have personality.
Thanks for reading, Dora
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- Español: Mercado Central de Budapest