In Hungary, August 20 is a national holiday: St. Stephen’s Day. Similar to the USA’s Independence Day, St. Stephen’s Day celebrates the founding of the Hungarian state. There are festivities throughout the day and fireworks over the Danube at night.
I skipped the parade with St. Stephen’s mummified right hand. Instead, I focused on the food.
Every year, there’s a competition for the official birthday cake of Hungary. This year’s winner was Milotai Honey Brittle Torte—honey and praline cream between thin, crunchy layers of walnut brittle. Milota is a village in the northeastern corner of Hungary. Sometimes you’ll see different villages mentioned on menu items to indicate the dish is in a certain style. I don’t ever know the villages, so it doesn’t give me a clue as to what the style is, but I understand the approach. To me, it’s similar to the source labeling happening more and more on menus in the States.
The birthday cake was sold as part of the Street of Hungarian Flavours, one of my favorite things about the day. In addition to trying the official birthday cake (okay, but not my favorite—give me something with chocolate!), there were all kinds of robust options and delicacies offered. To say most of the things were foreign to me sounds like a bad pun. And my dinky Hungarian language book wasn’t helping with many translations, so I stopped trying. I tend to have a cautious approach to food (although that is changing now that I’m here), so I decided to have some grilled vegetables. Even so, I loved the sights, sounds, and smells of the street.
In the evening, I met a colleague, Ilona, for a glass of wine at one of my favorite wine bars, Kadarka. Kadarka is also a Hungarian grape. Afterwards, we strolled around the city and found a viewing place for the fireworks.
After 9:00 pm, we were treated to a fireworks display over the Danube with the castle, Fishermen’s Bastion, Matthias Church, and other beautiful buildings dramatically lit in the background.