Princes’ Islands, Istanbul 3/13

Today, my friend Chris and I took the ferry from the Europe side of Istanbul (Karaköy) to the Asian Side (Kadikoy). I saw people on the upper deck with me feeding the seagulls simit (a Turkish sesame seed bagel type snack) and it was hilarious and happy-making (though I can’t vouch for the health of birds eating simits, they seemed thrilled).

Once landing at Kadikoy, we explored Moda – a very cute ‘hood on the Asian side and one I’d like to return to. Ate a (delicious) snack at the all vegan Yuzu and attempted, unsuccessfully, to find a statue of a cat.

From there, we took an unexpectedly long ferry ride stopping at each of the Princes’ Islands, disembarking at the final and largest island, Büyükada.

After a quick beer and a 5-cat sighting, we walked around town looking for Ottoman style houses. We didn’t have enough time before the last ferry departed at 6pm to see the house Trotsky lived in when he fled Russia before he settled in Mexico, but there’s always next time.

Long day of ferry travel and mask wearing, but every bit of Istanbul is a delight to discover and I had a great day. Not just laughing at the seagulls and eating simits, but visiting beautiful Ottoman architecture and exploring new-to-me areas of Istanbul.

Vegan Eats + Drinks on Hvar Island, Croatia

I’m not a picky travel eater. As a lifelong vegetarian and vegan for most of my 20’s and 30’s, I’m also a natural carbatarian. Give me pasta, pizza, french fries or a white wine spritzer and I’ll be just fine anywhere in the world.

just fine.

Croatia in general has been a pleasant and tasty surprise in the vegan food realm, and my quick island hop over to Stari Grad for the weekend embodies this delicious experience.

Quick note: many many shops, cafes, wine bars and restaurants that look darling and worth a visit are currently closed – due to a combination of late-in-season and Covid times. So I’m sure there are a ton more good eats and drinks here! This is just my quick non-scientific experience during an early weekend in October 2020.

My friend Abby and I took the ferry over from Split. It docked at 1030 in Stari Grad, and by 1130 we were checked in, unpacked, and wandering the cute + very old streets of Stari Grad.

Like I mentioned above, a lot of places were closed, so we stopped at one of the first spots we found. I don’t remember the name, but that’s not too important because this was a mediocre food experience. But! I took photos and in an effort to better share – and make the monthly Google storage fee I pay worth it – I will share them here.

Here we go:

Pizza – when in doubt at any restaurant in the world, order pizza without cheese. But here’s something I just learned – if it comes with olives, you probably don’t need to order an additional side of olives, because they will just plop a few adorable whole olives on your pizza. 😀

More olives:

Boiled potatoes – thought we’d branch out from bread for a different carb experience. These were good, though I think they may have boiled in butter, not oil (oops)?

Grilled vegetables – Chard is a very popular dish here, which makes my leafy green loving heart happy. Wasn’t sure what vegetables were on this dish (a fun part of ordering meals off menus in different languages), but I figured they’d either be:

a) delicious; or

b) vegetables I don’t like but will gamely try.

The answer is…. b.

I do not enjoy eggplant (texture! taste! ugh! – unless it’s smoked and in baba ghanoush, and then it’s a distant second to hummus but I will eat it) or zucchini (unless it’s in bread with chocolate chips, or as an ingredient in ribbons/shreds in other dishes) or tomatoes (unless it’s in a sauce, or again, in smaller pieces as part of a larger dish). I know, I’m annoying to eat with, especially as a lifelong vegetarian. And these vegetables are always such filler veggies – they’re like the international Basic Veggie Starter Pack.

So anyway, I tried the eggplant and zucchini. Pass.

The white peppers and mushrooms were quite tasty though

Total cost of this meal:

  • 1 pizza
  • side order olives
  • potatoes
  • grilled vegetables
  • 1 coffee
  • 1 glass of wine
  • 1 bottle of mineral water

198 kuna/$31 usd (+ tip)

After lunch some wandering definitely happened, followed by napping in the sun and a quick dip into the sea. Finding our way back into town, we tried a local beer: Karlovacko (a subsidiary of Heineken).

The perfect beer to drink after a warm afternoon of sun and a salty dip in the sea.

Next day!

Abby and I rented bikes to explore Stari Grad Plains (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). After very bumpy roads and very very very cool sightings of ancient agricultural land that has been farmed since the 4th century BC (!!!!) – mostly grapes (!) and olives (!), we biked back into town, hungry and tired.

And then! I ate the best food EVER. Seriously. I am prone to hyperbole, but this was in the top 3 meals I have ever eaten. Beyond the menu description and photos, the food was lovingly prepared in taste combinations not usually found. And the cocktails – oh my. So creative and amazing. And Dee, the co-owner and server, is a delight and made us feel welcome. And Ruby, the dog, is a dog (need I say more?).

Nook

Go here: Nook.

Non PG Tea: Hendricks Gin, Green Tea Syrup, Lime

“Non PG Tea” actual description: Hendricks gin, green tea syrup, lime, orange, cucumber, served cold in a tea pot – pour over spherical ice cube with (edible) bougainvillea blossom. Come ON.

This cocktail was so good I wanted to try something else from the menu – but I couldn’t decide – it all looked good! So I asked Dee to surprise me.

Surprise Me Cocktail!

Dee brought me the Bourbon Cooler: Jack Daniels and Apricot Brandy. Sounds simple. Tastes divine! I adore apricot anything, and bourbon is always a good friend to me.

On to the food!

Sample platter: Abby and I ordered the Veggie Sample Platter – vegetarian as is, but can be veganized. To veganize, leave off the samosa (contains feta), and ask for vegan sauces. Leaving off the samosa will also give you more falafel and some surprise spring rolls.

Menu description: carrot and cucumber sticks, (the best ever) hummus, spicy mayo, truffle mayo, mint mayo, spring rolls, falafel balls, tomato and garlic flatbread, truffle fries, close up of falafel ball. Fun fact: truffles (the mushroom) are indigenous to the area so you can find white or black truffle infused dishes around every corner.

After we ordered this huge sample platter, Abby turned the page in the menu and we found more options! So of course we ordered more!

fried tofu with marinated slaw

Fried Fake Chick: had to try this – the menu says tofu but it was actually soya chunks. The asian-style slaw was incredible!!

We ordered so much food and spent so much money contributed generously to the local community, we couldn’t finish it all. As Abby pointed out, the total cost for this one meal (which, with leftovers, ended up being dinner and breakfast the next day) was $78, which is the total cost of both nights of accommodation on the island ($77). Ha. So about $40 each for 3 meals. Shrug. Worth every penny.

Dee stored our leftovers for us (#islandlife), and Abby and I took off on our dusty and rusty bikes to another swimming hole. My bike got a flat tire, so we stopped and found a spot right by an old church, changed into our swimsuits, and went for yet another salty dip. Bliss.

not a terrible spot to swim

After our dip and sun bathing, we changed and biked back into town to pick up our leftovers – and of course one more drink! Dee told us they are starting Sunday High Tea next week and gave us a muffin sample to try: cranberry walnut. Still stuffed, I managed to fit one in my mouth.

Then we walked our very very full bellies, flat-tired bikes (well, mine) and leftovers back up the hill homeward.

view from Nook

Traveling to Croatia During Covid-19

Taking an international flight during a global pandemic might seem intimidating or unsafe, but it actually felt quite normalizing to travel again during these strange times, and felt perfectly safe. That first moment of lift-off from Portland felt magical. For my fellow travel-lovers, you know. Trying to describe the feeling: You know how when you’re sad, it feels so BIG and momentous? And when you feel happy it feels like little pockets of joy? Well, at the moment the wheels went up, I felt a BIG happy – it covered my whole body and soul. Everything just felt right.

See ya later, beautiful Portland!

As a digital nomad (I do not particularly enjoy this term, but I think it broadly captures the scope of my location independent life I am currently working to create.) without a permanent home base, I’ve been keeping a maniacal eye on the Covid-19 border situation around the world since spring. (That is only slightly less obsessive than it sounds.)

After returning suddenly to Portland in March of this year, I kept one eye on flights and which countries were allowing United States citizens with American passports. South America was high on my list, but their borders weren’t opening anytime soon. Greece was my first choice…. but when the EU came to gather all her children and enacted a comprehensive border policy – which makes total sense – Greece fell off the table. Then Mexico. Then family matters came into play and I took a step back from thinking about leaving for a couple months.

This is a long way of saying leaving the US again was pretty consistently on my mind for most of 2020. The further I researched, the clearer Croatia became my choice. For multiple reasons, including:

  • They split (no pun intended) from the EU’s guidelines and in July announced they were opening to all tourists who met their requirements, including tourism.
  • Using the last of my Alaska miles, I could get a flight from Portland to Dubrovnik for $32.
  • Tourism is a valid reason to enter the country; you just have to show proof of paid accommodation upon entry.
  • I’ve never been to Croatia and it is close to my favorite part of the world, central/eastern Europe.
  • But really, because it is one of half a dozen countries actually allowing Americans in.

Note: Most countries in the EU/Schengen Area operate from where your passport is from/or maybe where you legally reside. It doesn’t matter where you’re coming from; it matters what your passport or residency card says. Some countries are starting to stray from this; keep an eye on US Embassy websites in individual countries for up-to-date information.

Mask on, travel blazer on, ready for Wheels Up!

Entering Croatia from the United States During Covid Times

Here is what is needed to enter Croatia, as of this writing, as an American citizen from the United States:

  • a negative PCR swab test from within 48 hours of landing (OR if you arrive with an expired negative test, you can quarantine until you take a local test at your own expense OR if you haven’t received your results yet you can quarantine until you do and then email the local Epidemiological Clinic OR you can quarantine for 14 days without a test at all and then go on your merry way)
  • printed proof of accommodation

That’s it.

Now, here is my experience:

Trip report: US to Croatia with American passport, 30/Sept.

I flew from Portland to Chicago (Alaska Air) to Dublin (Aer Lingus) to Dubrovnik (Ryan Air). My original flight from Dublin to Dubrovnik on Aer Lingus was canceled, so I had to rebook on Ryan Air. One reason why I chose the date I did for flying out is because with everything unknown, I wanted to have a back-up plan. I saw that Ryan Air flew twice a week from Dublin to Dubrovnik – so I booked a flight purposely on one of those days so I could have a built-in back up plan if needed.

DOCUMENTS USED:
Ireland:
– Covid/transfer flight paperwork upon arrival in Dublin
Croatia:
– printed proof of negative Covid-19 rest results from within 48 hours of landing
– printed receipt of 7 day Dubrovnik Airbnb stay

I had ready the overland border crossing certificate (for people traveling by car) just in case, and receipt of month-long stay in Split in case I needed to show longer proof of accommodation, but neither were needed. I also didn’t need proof of outgoing travel.

My Covid test results were from a rapid test I got at Walgreens and the border agent approved my entry easily.

The flights themselves were mostly empty. Alaska and Aer Lingus blocked the middle seats, and both planes were less than 1/4 full anyway. Every passenger and flight attendant wore masks. Sanitizer was everywhere. Alaska did not serve food or alcohol, while Aer Lingus served 2 meals and no hard alcohol, but beer and wine were available for purchase. Ryan Air was a little different – still less than half full flight, and most people wore masks, though some did the tuck below the nose thing.

Now here I am in Croatia! I spent the first week in Dubrovnik. Because that’s where my miles took me, I booked seven days here in case my Covid test result wasn’t accepted and I had to retake a test. (luckily that didn’t happen!) Then I headed up to Split for one month. I am legally allowed to be here on a tourist visa for 90 days. I don’t know yet where I’ll go when my 90 days are up – I’ll of course be keeping an eye on any borders opening, and will hope that maybe one of my favorite cities in Romania or Bulgaria might let me in, if numbers stay down. If not though I have a few options I’m considering.

Looking toward the Walls of Dubrovnik

Here are a couple questions I got on Instagram:

Q: “How did you make sure that you would get your results in time/how did you time your test?”MiryaRose

A: A LOT of research. Croatia, like most countries, requires a PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) test, which detects the virus’ genetic material. These are widely seen as more accurate than rapid tests or antibody tests. Typically in the U.S. these tests take anywhere from 2-7 days to receive your results.

A few trip reports in my Covid-19 Info Croatia group on Facebook mentioned that if you arrived at the border and did not have your results yet, you’d be allowed in, but you’d have to quarantine until you received your results. After carefully considering the time zones on my Google calendar, I decided to make an appointment for Monday morning at 9AM. This would give me about 42 hours to receive results. And I figured I could just quarantine until I received my results if they weren’t emailed to me yet.

Fun twist – Walgreens updated their website to show that they ONLY offered rapid tests – not PCR. Shoot. I decided to go for it anyway. It was a free test (as opposed to the other Portland-area tests I researched), so I figured I’d show up at the border with these results and if the agent accepted them – great! If not, I’d quarantine until I made an appointment for a local PCR test (which costs, in Dubrovnik, $100-$200. It seems Dubrovnik is the most expensive city in Croatia for a test.)

Luckily, they accepted my rapid test results at the border entry. Your mileage may vary.

Q: “Very curious about mask usage and physical distancing during the non-plane portions of the trip”seanopia

A: Honestly? Everyone I saw was masked up in the airports and various transfer points. Airport employees, airline employees, travelers… everyone I noticed, both on the airplanes and off, followed procedure.

What questions do you have? Leave ’em in the comments below!

Resources:

  1. Croatia/US Embassy Covid Info
  2. Covid Testing Facilities in Croatia
  3. Recommendations and Instructions from the Croatian Institute of Health
  4. Safety Wing Insurance (covers Covid-19 – good if you’ll be traveling for several months or more)
  5.  Testing centers in Croatia
  6. Epidemiologists by County
  7. 7 Things to Know for Vegans Traveling to Croatia
  8. Online grocery delivery services in Croatia (in case you have to quarantine)
Sveti Jakov Beach, Dubrovnik, aka the best beach everrrr

What questions do you have? Leave ’em in the comments below!

A Beginner’s Guide to Slovenia

Slovenia: land of nature, wine, nice people, and beautiful architecture. Basically, the ideal country.  If you’re looking for things to do in Slovenia, here are seven tips from my brief but wonderful time in Ljubljana, Bled, and Maribor, Slovenia in winter 2019. There is so much more to discover in this small but mighty country (I can’t wait to go back for longer) but I hope this gives you a good start!

Geography: Located to the east of Italy, north of Croatia, west of Hungary, and south of Austria.

Does that help? Here, I’ve got a map for you too:

Language: Slovene

Currency: Euro

Size: Roughly the same size as Massachusetts State in the US  (20,273 sq km)

Population: 2.081 million

Top picks: Ljubljana and Bled

Other: member of the EU and the Schengen Area (Curious about the difference? Here’s an article I found that explains the difference and what it might mean to you as a visiting tourist or digital nomad.)

OK – in no particular order, here are 7 things to know when planning a trip to Slovenia!

1. Slovenia is ALL ABOUT recycling.

Really. Coming from Portland, Oregon, I didn’t think I would ever find a place more committed to sustainable waste handling, but then I landed in Slovenia. Even in Airbnbs, you will have to be very careful what to compost, recycle, and discard. All the waste bins on the streets are very clearly labeled as well. They make it as easy and convenient as it is necessary. One Airbnb I stayed at in Ljubljana gave me the code I’d need to dispose of recycling/compost on the street.  This is great + normal + very cool. Massive sustainability points for Slovenia!

Sunset in the Jože Plečnik-designed Ljubljana

2. Slovenia is such a small country and so easy to get around!

I was there in winter and it was still pretty easy to navigate. I mainly took local buses, FlixBus (which I definitely recomend for budget travel and is a super option throughout Europe) and the train. If you go in the busy season (summer) or shoulder seasons (spring and fall), you will be going at a much better time with more frequent transportation so I’m sure you’ll have some great hiking/exploring/mountain areas to access and explore.  If you’re going to Slovenia with others, a car rental is also a good idea for exploring those more remote places.

3. WINE in Slovenia

Slovenia has 4 or 5 major wine regions. When you think about the neighboring countries known for their wine (ahem. Italy!), you’ll start to get a taste for how diverse and amazing the region is. I wasn’t able to visit many of the regions, but here are a few interesting facts:

  • Slovenia’s vineyards do not produce enough wine to export at a consistent pace, so most of the country’s wine you won’t get to try anywhere else in the world. This makes it very exciting and kind of an exclusive feel to try all the varietals. 
  • Slovenia makes orange wine! I didn’t get to try it while there (edit: have since sampled a Greek orange wine which I found delightful), but it sounded intriguing. 
  • Maribor (on the way to Budapest) boasts The Oldest Wine Vine In The World. It’s not that impressive to look at, but the wine shop attached offers wine tastings from all around the country and all the different regions. Very friendly, knowledgeable staff, and very tasty wine. 
  • There are a couple of wine tasting events held on the regular in Ljubljana– one is in the castle! Both weren’t available to solo travelers when I was there in December, so I can’t vouch for them, but they both looked cool. 🙂 links:  Dvorni bar and Hiša pod gradom 
close up of tasting glass of white wine in front of 2 bottles of wine in  a wine shop
Wine tasting in Slovenia is a must

4. Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia

My favorite new city from an aesthetic and user-friendly perspective (ie – great urban planning!). Simply gorgeous. A few things:

  • Jože Plečnik is the city’s treasured architect. He designed the triple bridge, which is SO COOL. His house is also on display as a museum, and worth checking out. It’sa 15 minute walk from the center of town, so easily accessible and open year-round. I’m not someone that typically gets enamored of the history of architecture (though that changes the longer I spend in Europe. How can it not, once you’ve seen the marvel that is La Sagrada Familia?) If you can’t make it to the museum, just watch Rick Steves’ special. It is informative and cute- plus Rick Steves is a national treasure and is sure to delight no matter what the topic.
  • Ljubljana Castle is awesome! You can take the funicular up to the top, but there are also (at least) 2 paths you can walk. The one I stumbled upon winds through a neighborhood and ends up in the garden area. BEAUTIFUL view of the city once you’re to the top. And climbing small hills is just the sort of thing to do when you’re walking around cute European cities.
  • There are some really cool museums! A very weird one I went to was a post-modern one and it was SO WEIRD and I’d love for you to go there so I have someone to talk about it with. I was looking for the ethnographic museum and stumbled into this one instead. If you find the ethnographic museum let me know.  Here is a link to the weird one.
  • It’s just such a cool city. There’s a giant market with tons of produce just over the river that’s awesome and worth checking out. Basically any direction you end up walking you’ll stumble upon beautiful things, old churches, stunning sites, views of the Julian Alps… it’s just amazing. 
Ljubljana is legitimately a fairy tale city

OK–I don’t need to tell you about the dragon bridge (other than the dragons are much smaller than I anticipated!) or anything food-related (I basically lived off hot wine from the Christmas markets while here). 

OK fine I can’t help it. ONE picture of the famous Dragon Bridge


This cup of hot wine cost me less than $2 USD. HELLLLLO Slovenia 😍

MOVING ON– 

5. Lake Bled!! 

I mean. Come’on.

I am certain you will go here! The buses run VERY frequently (every 15 minutes, even in the winter when I was there) and are easy to catch at the central bus station. If you just go to the station you can purchase a ticket departing within the hour (easier than trying to buy online). By all accounts, the bus is better than train, which deposits you outside Bled proper and you then have to take a bus back, taking extra time. 

There are two main bus stops in Bled– the main one is the second stop, and the first–Unior— is very easy to miss. If you are staying near Unior and miss your stop, you will have to walk back. BUT–it’s only about 10 minutes and you will get a very nice view of the castle, so…. it’s worth it? (That’s what I’m telling myself anyway.)

Recommendations: 

  • Stay for at least 1-2 nights. 
  • Walk around the whole lake.
  • Climb to the top of the castle (of course) but there’s also a STUNNING viewpoint if you climb to the top of Mala Osojnica. Steep and worth it. Here are directions. I climbed early in the morning and I was the only one on the trail. Stunning! Some advice says to climb it before sunrise, which sounds like a great view, but the path seemed a bit treacherous for a solo low-visibility climb. 
  • Eat a cream cake (NOT vegan BTW). Bled’s known for them, and much like champagne can only be produced in the Champagne region of France, Bled Cream Cake can only be found in Bled. The castle has a coffee shop where you can order a Bled cream cake and an espresso and enjoy an amazing view. or just get an espresso and enjoy the view. or just enjoy the view.

6. Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

I didn’t get the chance to go to Lake Bohinj but I feel like I missed out! Lake Bohinj is close to Lake Bled – just a little further away from Ljubljana. I decided to spend two nights in Bled instead of venturing up to Bohinj – I wanted to be sure to have time to walk around the lake. Because I went in winter, daylight exploring hours are greatly reduced (but the benefit is – not as crowded! and more affordable lodging!). If you visit Slovenia in other seasons, you’ll have more daylight time to explore. Just something ot keep in mind! Buses leave regularly from Bled and if you go please take pics and send me some.

7. Maribor, Slovenia

Maribor was…. OK. I went for three nights because it was on the way to Budapest, which was my next destination. Cute town, like a mini Ljubljana. It’s the second largest city in Slovenia. I have a feeling it’s beautiful in spring, summer, and fall. My favorite things about Maribor are the Airbnb I stayed in (linked here – definitely a splurge for this budget traveler but worth it), the view of the old town from across the river, and the oldest wine vine in the world. If you’re in the area, it’s worth a stop-by.

Maribor. Best photo out of 100’s I took to show the cuteness of the town.

Hope you find this helpful. Let me know in the comments if you end up in any of these spots or cool other spots you discover! Have fun!

walking around a surprisingly empty Lake Bled

Vegan Travel: Budapest

From goulash to stew to stroganoff, traditional Hungarian fare is typically meat and dairy-centric, but vegan travelers visiting Budapest will find a surprising number of satisfying and affordable meals.

Budapest, often called the Paris of the East, is a city rich in culture, history and nightlife. The majestic Danube River splits the city into two parts: Buda to the west and Pest to the east. Green hills tree-lined with cobblestone streets are filled with old castles; hotels and grand homes fill the Buda side. Pest is the flat, commercial tourist-filled bustling heart of the city with nightlife, a grandiose McDonalds, and rows upon rows of street vendors and shopkeepers.

Budapest has a timeless genuine atmosphere bursting with awe-inspiring museums, grand bridges, baroque architecture ancient thermal baths, and a captivating old-world feel.

This charmingly beautiful historic city is dotted with vegan-friendly restaurants and cafes, and if you know where to look, vegan options can be found almost anywhere.

Eating Vegan in Budapest

Markets

Local stalls and markets have an abundance of fresh seasonal fruit, vegetables, herbs and bread. Baskets of bread are fresh-baked every morning and cost less than thirty cents. Any local market will have a quick snack for the peckish traveling vegan. If you’re looking for a more specialized vegan-friendly shopping experience, the Bio ABC market is a good option. While not all vegan–it carries items like local yogurt and dairy cheeses– you’ll find bulk grains, spices and herbs and beans, vegan cheese, European nut and dessert butters and spreads, local produce and more. You may have to ask the staff for help translating the ingredients of some of the products to ensure they’re vegan.

Most indoor markets like Spar and Tesco sell the splendor that is Mexicorn. These delightful packets of flavored crunchy corn will satiate the strongest hunger; the most addictive and wonderful flavor is the spicy Mexican variety.  These little nuggets are crunchy, salty and slightly spicy. I stock up whenever I can, and am considering a trip back just to buy a case (only partly joking). The ingredients aren’t in English, but I’m pretty these contain MSG and are not healthy or good for you in the slightest. They are my favorite snack when traveling in Eastern and Central Europe.

Restaurants and Cafes

The Hummus Bar is a chain of Lebanese-inspired food cafes. Each one offers a complimentary amuse-bouche of fresh lemonade when the temperature is soaring, and hot mint leaf tea when it’s chilly. The Hummus Bar is not exclusively vegan, but it is mostly vegetarian. Warm and fresh pita with hummus & falafel arrive at your table within minutes. With multiple locations, this is an affordable spot with great service, big portions and filling food.

Man Natural is an ideal spot for people who enjoy eating a raw diet. This all raw vegan cafe is a casual deli with bowls of various vegetal goo on display in a cooler. Point to what you’d like to try and your meal will be served to you minutes later. Served with raw crackers and fresh juice options are available. There are no signs or indication what items are and the staff when I visited spoke no English; to enjoy eating here, you must be a brave tourist.

Edeni Vegan Etterem (Etterem means restaurant) is a cafe on the Buda side of the Danube. With walk up counter service, the staff when I visited didn’t speak much English, so this is another point-and-order spot. While possible to end up paying more than necessary, the food here is more traditional Hungarian, and very filling: potatoes, vegan sausage and sauerkraut make up a filling plate. Yum! Edeni Vegan Etterem a little out of the way from the bustling Pest center, though if you purchase a Budapest travel card (a great idea for your first time in the city), the thermal baths location visit included with the card is a 15 minute walk away.

Napfenyes Etterem is an all-vegan full-service restaurant in a partly underground (you have to step downstairs to enter) dark narrow hall. It looks like it could have been an old wine cellar. The menu is extensive: it’s over six pages, including appetizers, salads, babgulyás (hearty bean soup), entrees, pizzas, salad bar, ice cream bar, rotating dessert showcase and daily & weekly specials.  

The prices are a little spendy for Budapest, though would be considered a steal in most other cities. And you’ll quickly forgive the price–the portions are enormous and easily split. Classic Hungarian fare is served here–potatoes, savory pancakes, cabbage and soup are all available. The baked desserts are perfectly sweet and balanced, when fresh. I’ve eaten at Napfenyes Etterem a few times and find it depends on when you get them–one time the vanilla custard was out of this world the-best-dessert-I’ve ever-eaten, and the following time it tasted a bit stale. I’ve heard that Hungarian desserts can sometimes taste stale even when fresh, so maybe that’s just the way it’s meant to be served. The ice cream varieties are fun and unusual–one that particularly stands out is a green apple flavor that tastes exactly like a creamy cold apple jolly rancher. One of my favorite aspects of Napfenyes Etterem is the small retail section available in the front of the restaurant: vegan meats, cheeses and milks sold retail-style to go.

Drinking in Budapest

The drinking scene in Budapest is one that is made for travelers like me: lovers of wine spritzers, mini drinks, and corn-syrup free bottled mixers.

Hungary is a region made for wine, and the plethora and price of wine bottles testify to that fact. White wines are perhaps more common, and especially refreshing on hot Hungarian days. Wine spritzers, known as fröccs (pronounced “fru-ch”) are a popular drink in Budapest and can be ordered to your preference in many bars–just specify the amount of wine to seltzer water. One trick I learned from a newly-made Hungarian friend: most bars can add homemade flavored syrups to your spritzers. When given this choice: take it. The elderflower syrup, of particular sweet and floral note, is my favorite.

If you like gin and tonic, the ones here are made with local tonic served in glass bottles and if possible, more crisp and clean tasting than anywhere else in the world.

Ruin Bars are specific to Budapest: after the regime change occurred in the 1990’s, locals slowly began taking over old decrepit spaces and making them into weird adorable bars, usually lit up with globe lights and having a particular atmosphere. Most I’ve visited don’t serve food, but the drinks are very special, and like most everything else, very affordable for tourists.  

In A Pinch

There’s no need for smashed backpack granola bars while traveling in Budapest: even in a pinch you can be served well. The myriad of stalls, markets and cafes that serve bread, vegan snacks, and pizza are on almost every block, especially in the Pest districts. The pizza joints I’ve visited have been very accommodating when veganizing pizza–one thing to remember about Hungarian–and other Central/Eastern European countries– pizza is that fresh corn is a common vegetable pizza topper. And it’s really good.

Budapest is filled with easy-to-find vegan options; from fresh fruit in street stalls to fresh-baked bread and Alpro banana soymilk in the city Tesco, from vegan sausage and cabbage rolls (the word for cabbage is káposzta) to a huge dish of vegetable pancake rolled with potatoes, vegan cream and tomato-paprika sauce, the vegan meals and snacks found here are simple, filling and memorable.

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Have you been to Budapest recently? Share in the comments any of your favorites!


Note: While information was current when this article was written, please note business operations and hours change frequently; I recommend calling ahead to ensure hours are up-to-date.