A colleague’s foresight
“Let’s have a coffee at the market hall” my colleague Peter said. The coffee in the hotel wasn’t bad, but he is a market enthusiast and had the foresight to find the market hall some time ahead and squeeze it into our busy business schedule.
So we walked a few minutes through the city of Kecskemét, passing by beautiful buildings of the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The city is located roughly one hour southeast of Budapest and was in the past, and probably still is a hub for agricultural trade. In recent times car manufacturing created many jobs.
The sky was announcing a hot day, and the shade of a market hall was welcomed.
The first sight of the market hall did not look promising, the structure reminded rather of the back side of a supermarket than something welcoming. Inside we first crossed a couple of coffee shops with people just getting ready for the day with a cup of caffeine.
The market hall is one which needs a second look to discover all the goodness. Many tables in the middle of the hall were empty and we later discovered that the action was outside on that day. But some great goodness was waiting for us.
The couple cheese stalls had true artisan cheeses, from fresh ones to slightly older ones. The fresh one was just a big white, depending on the customer the right size was just cut off with a big spoon. Despite the language barriers Peter was not shy at all to ask for some samples and I benefited greatly from it. The different cheeses were all rather mild but with a clear character, a wonderful discovery. Buy some for a snack if you come across them.
The butchers got Peters attention: “look at it: they have real big chicken, not as small as we have at home”. Indeed the whole meat section was wonderful with a slightly archaic touch – just the way I love it. Dried and smoked skins of pig heads, offals of all kinds and large cow rumen. Of course regular meat cuts and Hungarian salami were available as well. A well spiced one of the latter found space in our luggage, and I believe no smell bothered any other travel companions.
And yes there were pickles. I first saw the Hungarian version in the Budapest market hall. There was a tendency that those pickles in the jars were assorted in a neat way, and some seeds used to mark smileys on larger chunks of vegetables. I thought those were done for tourists only, but here in Kecskemét it was the normal way of doing it. Great marketing approach, makes not only kids look for them.
Before getting our coffee we went outside, as it was the day of the extended market. Under a larger covered structure we saw the bounty of summer time: it was full of ripe, juicy fruit and vegetables. Nothing looked evenly shaped as in the supermarkets, nothing was wrapped in plastic. All the produce looked like coming from real farms of the area. It had a touch of paradise: Watermelon in red and yellow, big juicy peaches, beautiful plums, peppers, fresh corn, cucumbers and more. It was just beautiful.
And it was busy. It looked like people wanted to make sure that they got the real, fresh stuff before going to work or back to their homes as in the case of the older people who were in the majority.
We bought some fruit to eat during the day and got some water melon samples. English skills were not abundant at the market but this was not a true barrier. At times German helped.
Finally, our coffee
Just before heading back, we finally got to get our coffee. A simple stall with a high table in front to sit down a bit. The specialty of this popular shop was espresso in a glass with very sweet whipped cream on top. Double shot here meant double portion of whipped cream, not coffee. It went down very well, and we headed out of the market to get our business day starting.
All in all: When in Kecskemét visit the market hall and have a coffee while watching the locals getting fresh produce for their home, don’t hesitate to try the goodness available.