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All I want for Christmas, are my three front teeth...

Europe » Hungary » Central Hungary » Budapest » Pest 17 December 2007

all seasons in one day 0 °C

They call it 'dental tourism'. Alas, in my view at least, the two words really don't belong together. 'Dental' relates to injections, drilling, sore gums, and all sorts of other unpleasantness - arguably, none of it self-inflicted. 'Tourism', on the other hand, is something pleasurable - interesting sights, sounds, smells (some better than others), and tastes - apart from occasional sore feet from too much walking, it's totally painless too

Anyhow, here I am enjoying some 'dental tourism' on the last lap to replacement of my smiling teeth (remember: the three front uppers that everyone notices when you smile, particularly when, like now, they're missing!)..

I arrived back in Budapest on Monday morning. It was cold and wet. I was met by one of the drivers from Dr Batorfi's clinic and taken directly to his high-tech chair. Deftly wielding his scalpel, he quickly exposed the healing caps from beneath my now healed gums, unscrewed them (the caps, not the gums) and replaced them with larger ones. Only a small amount of blood loss this time. Then it was off to my apartment in the city centre.


Because I'm here for 8 days this time, I wanted neither the formality nor expense of an hotel. So, I booked a studio apartment. For just over GBP 200 a week I have a clean apartment with a studio bedroom (double Ikea bed, large convertible settee which could sleep a dozen kids, an ancient bookcase, dressing table and standard lamp that my granny would have been proud of, a hi-fi, tv and dvd player). There's also a kitchen with a couple of hotplates, microwave, toaster, kettle and an Ikea table and chairs. The bathroom, with its 60s psychadelic tiles and avocado suite of bath/shower, basin and toilet, has to be seen to be believed. There's plenty of hot water and a heating system left over from the Soviet era that's either on or on! I have to leave the windows open day and night to avoid total dehydration. Fortunately, I'm on the second floor. There's a lift from byegone days.

The most fantastic thing about this apartment, however, is its location. If I look out of the window, I can see McDonalds across the pedestrianised street outside - convenient for chocolate shakes to cool sore gums. To the left, I can see the Danube and the pedestrian promenade which runs alongside it on this, the Pest, side. I can also see a bit of the hill on the other, the Buda, side. To my right, I can't quite see the Vaci utca because a shop is in the way, but it's only a dozen paces from my front door. The Vaci utca ('utca' means street and I think it originally led to a place called Vaci) is a pedestrianised street about two miles long, full of shops and restaurants of all descriptions, both at street level and underground. It's a popular place for locals and tourists alike.

On a damp day, the Vaci utca is a bit gloomy - but it's full of shops and restaurants, and it leads to the Christmas Market at one end and the Central Market at the other.

Just a hundred yards from where I'm staying is Vorosmarty ter, a large square which, at this time of year, is transformed into a wonderful Christmas market. Apart from around fifty stalls selling wooden and pottery crafts, jewellery, fur hats, and even creatures made from hay(!), there are bubbling cauldrons of hot food, giant bratwurst sausages served with mustard and bread, and gluhwein (mulled wine). There's a tree to rival the Norwegian's annual gift to the UK in Trafalgar Square, and a stage where there are regular performances by folk singers and musicians playing the weirdest of instruments. The whole thing is magical by night. I had a bratwurst there in the snow last night.

Just a part of the terrific Christmas Market, best seen by night. The lights, the people, the smell of mulled wine and giant bratwurst...

At the opposite end of Vaci utca is the Central Market, Budapest's main produce market. I've seen some covered markets in my time and, although this doesn't match somewhere like the souks of Marrakech, it certainly is very impressive. Here, innumerable stalls sell meat, salami, fruit and vegetables in huge quantities - all fresh and beautifully displayed. There are stalls selling chillies and paprika too, basic essentials of Hungarian cooking. Upstairs, there are food stalls (excellent goulash), and small stalls selling brightly-coloured, hand-embroidered tablecloths, leather goods, and ghastly souvenirs. Hungarians aren't big on fish, but my nose led me to the basement, where there were large glass-fronted tanks full of live carp that the average angler at Stanborough Lakes would have been proud to have caught on hook and line. These ones didn't look too comfortable - perhaps they knew that a winter delicacy here is carp soup.

The Central Market - Budapest's largest produce market is a feast for the eyes

If I was feeling better, I could have spent all day in that covered market. As it was, I wandered for three hours on Tuesday before retiring to my bed. Along the way, I bought eggs, bread, and various types of fruit - all by sign language. I pride myself on being able to order a cold beer in several languages, from French to Swahili, but Hungarians speak a language like something out of Star Wars.

Wednesday saw another day of dental torture. I was expecting an easy time - just some impressions of my upper and lower jaws. Instead, I got removal of healing caps, insertion of abutments (the things to which the teeth will be attached), some injections when I rose up bodily from the chair screaming obscenities, then the impressions, and finally removal of the abutments and replacement of the healing caps with even bigger ones. I spent the rest of the day resting!

Thursday was dry but with a bitterly cold wind, which I was told came all the way from Red Square. They seem to be as fond of the Russians here as I am! So, I decided to take a walk - with my mouth open to calm my throbbing gums - along the Danube, and across the Chain Bridge to the Buda side of the city. A funicular took me up to Castle Hill, just in time to see the changing of the guard in best Toytown tradition, complete with bugle anthem. This is a picturesque and characterful area. Depending on how I'm feeling and the weather, I may return for a better look round at the weekend.

Fishermen's Bastion

The view from the top of Castle Hill, towards the Parliament Building is magnificent on a fine day.

Friday saw me back at the clinic for a trial fitting of teeth, which arrived at about the same time as I did, with the technician who had made them in two days flat. They seemed a good fit, but Dr Batorfi went to great lengths to make adjustments to ensure they were just so. I return on Monday or Tuesday for final fitting of the finished teeth. Meanwhile, no smiling.

Now it's Saturday and I seem to have spent all morning writing this blog. Well, it's cold and snowing outside (although the snow isn't settling yet). In this internet cafe, it's warm and I can practice my French with the guys from the Ivory Coast and Cameroon who run the place. I hear they're en route to the UK, where the handouts are better than they are here.

I'll add some final words to this blog when I get home next week. Maybe I'll add some pictures of the sights and the new teeth as well!

Meantime, keep smiling (I wish I could...).

Oh, and I must stop whistling that tune - All I want for Christmas daa, dee dum, dum, dum...


P.S. I'm home - and Just to prove that I do now have a smile as well as new teeth:

Posted by Keep Smiling 07:58 Archived in Hungary Tagged budapest hungary europe dentist

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