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Budapest

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Advent at the Basilica

People say that the preparation and waiting leading up to it is just as important as the holiday itself. They don’t necessarily mean the acquisition of presents, which is many times a source of fever instead of mere feverish preparation, but easily a cause for some headache. What they mean, however, is a kind of mental preparation for Christmas no matter how difficult that is in the busy last days of the year.

The case is: the two coincides, still, we have to do our best. For example, we should walk the Christmas fairs instead of malls and have our usual hot drink at these places instead of our favorite cafés. It might be a little early but the fairs are already open, and this time we took a look at the one in front of the Basilica.Warming upOne advantage of going to the advent fair in front of Saint Stephen’s Basilica as early as after the first Sunday of advent, and before dusk at that, is certain: this is the time when visitors can witness as the merchants get prepared for business. The fire is lit, the ceramics find their places, the hot chocolate is melted, the dough of the milk-loaf is formed into braids. The chefs keep tasting their creations, the merchants keep decorating and offer tea to each other (as it’s still early for wine).

What’s even more prevalent is the smell of the smolder that will be completely replaced by that of clove later on. Besides the nosy locals there’s a curious group of Japanese tourists, too, who wake up the even the sleepiest of craftsmen. If not by the inquisitive questions, the flashes will do their job for sure.

What it all boils down toLots of delicacies! At the site: seasoned blueberry juice, apple juice with cinnamon, fruit wine, hot tea, hot chocolate and krampampuli. This latter one is an alcoholic beverage mixed with some sugar and spices briefly lit on fire. Apart from the usual trio of grilled sausages, kürtőskalács (chimney cake – sweet pastry in the shape of a pipe in different flavors) and kenyérlángos (breadlángos - fried savory dough with sour cream, onion, garlic, bacon and other toppings) there are various dishes, too, in the two bigger dining places.
For takeaway: home-made jam, home-made honey, fruit wine, salami, pálinka, smoked ham, colored lollies and borsa. Borsa is a kind of home-made sweets, that is devoid of any artificial ingredients but full of special ones such as rose petal jam. Its packaging is not less peculiar: you can ask for it in Hollóházi porcelain or in paper with your name on it.

Sweets for the eyeJust as you pass the gate to the fair there’s a small hut whose walls are decorated with children’s letters of Christmas requests. There’s football, MP3 player and all sorts of other things on the lists of wishes. To procure these the one in charge will need to go a little further because the fair doesn’t offer things like these. Although there are toys, these are more like unique and hand-made ones that develop children’s competences. There are little puppets too among the little things intended for children but you are more likely to find unique ornaments to cross from your wishlist for adults. Starting from 1 December Bookline can be found too, again to please adults. Even if it’s not advisable to do your shopping here, there’s a good chance for finding one or two treasures as you walk in the fresh air around the enormous Advent wreath and the Christmas tree with its blue glow surrounded by fine aromas and kind merchants.

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