Monthly Archives

November 2017

Budapest Expat Tips, Personal Stories

Considering Home improvement in Budapest? Today’s visit to the Hungarian Home Depot (OBI)

November 27, 2017

As many of our friends and family know, we are considering home improvement in Budapest. We will rent an apartment for our first year, but do plan to buy something we can renovate in the future. My husband, Andrew, is passionate about building and renovating.  Today’s visit to the “Hungarian Home Depot” or OBI (as its actually named) was to purchase some extension cords and power bars to run our LED Christmas lights. For those of you that know us best, this should hardly come as a surprise.

The first step’s a doozy…

Our journey south alongside the Danube was fraught with danger.  While simply crossing the street outside our front door, I tripped on the curb and did a full ninja body roll onto the sidewalk pavement on the other side.  The good news?  1. I did not land in dog shit. 2. I did not land in a puddle. 3. I had leather gloves on that prevented any road rash. 4. My wool winter coat also assisted in cushioning my landing. The bad news?  I think I took 5 years off my husband’s life due to panic.

Raday Street

The curb lying in wait to trip me…

Aniko on Number 2

Anikó on the Number 2 streetcar – sitting after my fall.

Once I dusted myself off, we continued on southward on the number 2 streetcar. Unfortunately, even though we used our awesome BKK transit app, we still got off at the wrong stop.  After ten minutes of wondering around looking puzzled, we got back on the streetcar at the same stop and continued on to OBI.

Welcome to Home Improvement Paradise

OBI is in fact what we expected it to be – the Hungarian version of Home Depot (complete with orange signage).  However, unlike our North American Home Depots, OPI divides up its home improvement goods over two massive floors.  Andrew did a quick inspection of the main floor tool section, and then we headed upstairs to the electrical department to look for what we needed.  No less than two people offered us help. And even more surprisingly, I could actually understand that they were offering it. Perhaps they do have English speaking staff, but we muddled through pretty easily in Hungarian.  I suspect if we were after something more elusive, this could get way more complicated.

OBI Budapest

Once you get off at the right stop, OBI is easy to see due to its large size and 4 flag posts on the street.

We selected one power bar with surge protection and one extension cord.  This cost us a total of $2392 forints (about $11.92 CAN). While it is possible to get cheaper versions of both, we will take these with us from our temporary accommodation and wanted to make sure they would last beyond Christmas.  Furthermore, we didn’t need to go all the way to OBI for these items – they could have been purchased down the street. However, we wanted to see what OBI had to offer in terms of general home improvement and renovation supplies. From our current location in district 9, the journey took less then 20 minutes.

Hungarian POwer Bar

Our new power bar in action. We purchased all of our convertors from Amazon before we left.

By the time we completed our exploration and purchase, it was time for lunch.  We headed back on the number 2 streetcar and ate lunch overlooking the Danube. My lunch was awesome.  I randomly choose the “Lunch Menu” that was only listed in Hungarian so I wasn’t really sure what I was going to get.  Andrew choose a burger that was a fail.

Tomorrow we begin our apartment search with the assistance of Inter Relocation.  Wish us luck!


On the east side of the Danube river. The perfect lunch spot.





Budapest Expat Tips

How to Find the Perfect Pillow in Budapest: Cloud 9 Ahead

November 25, 2017

My husband and I are both light sleepers and consequently, picky pillow people. To help us sleep at night, warm and comfy bedding plays a big part. For anyone that has ever looked for quality linens in Budapest, you know this can be tricky. Yesterday, we set out to find the perfect pillow in Budapest.  And guess what?  We did.

Some people are very lucky and seemingly have the ability to sleep anywhere at anytime – just like my sister.  I need a dark room, a heavy blanket, calm music or total silence. My husband is the same and we always wake up if there is the slightest disturbance in the force.

Armed with the knowledge that most bedding found in rental apartments is from IKEA, we included a good amount of linens in our container shipment from Canada. However, we decided not to waste the container space on pillows, so I began the search online for how to find the perfect pillow in Budapest before we ever left Canada.  The once place that kept coming up again and again with amazing reviews is “Elfenbein”,

Elfenbein pillow in Budapest

Keep your eyes out for this sign and then head down the wooden staircase…

Where I found my pillow in Budapest

Located at Teréz krt, 35 in the 6th District of Budapest, Elfenbein is easy to miss.  Only a small sign on the street takes you to a door leading down a fairly rickety wooden staircase into a basement filled with feathers.  It’s like being in a Victorian snow globe – but one filled with goose down instead of snow!

Our trepidation disappeared in an instant when we received a warm greeting from the owner, Tamás Szántó. This small but perfect workshop was started by his grandfather in 1957. Elfenbein makes custom Hungarian goose feather pillows and comforters – and they are amazing!

Tamas Elfenbein

The welcoming and knowledgeable Tamás.

The Store/Custom Workshop

Tamás gave us a tour of the workshop and explained the differences in the 3 types of pillows he offers.   You are also able to purchase them in various sizes – including any custom sizing you may want. We chose to purchase two standard pillows in the “sandwich” style.  The means our pillows are stuffed with Hungarian goose feathers, but then also have a layer of goose down on either side. This method allows the feathers to provide good head and neck support, with the soft down to prevent feathers from sticking into your face while you sleep. Clever.

Luckily, Elfenbein also provides pillow cases, so we didn’t have to go to a separate store on the way home. This is especially important for us since the standard European sized pillow is different then what we use in North America.  Any and all of our of our existing pillowcases just wouldn’t fit.

Hungarian Goose Down

Andrew feeling the very soft Hungarian goose down used in our pillows.

In the news

A corkboard with articles and thank you notes from satisfied and some very famous clients (Goldie Hawn being the most recent).

While I understand that feather pillows aren’t for everyone – especially those with allergies. We LOVE them.  We can even take ours back to Elfenbein to have them adjusted if required.  Tamás said these new ones should last us 30 years before replacement is necessary. It should be noted that we paid more than double for our old feather pillows purchased at The Bay in Toronto five years ago – and those pillows were not hand-made.

Of course, Elfenbein is also famous for their comforters/duvets.  We did ship ours from home, but we know where to get a new one when the time comes.  We highly recommend Elfenbein for your new pillow in Budapest – and they even ship worldwide.


Moving Abroad

Night flight to Budapest: The First 24 Hours

November 22, 2017
Night flight to Budapest

We made it through our night flight to Budapest.  Our entire journey took about 16 hours from door to door – and I have to admit, it was a bit rough.  Our flight went from Toronto to Amsterdam to Budapest. We’ve never traveled with so much luggage AND a dog.  We were sweaty, tired, a wee bit cranky but pretty happy upon arrival. Lucy (our dog) was amazing.  Not an accident or single complaint at all!

Our 5 checked bags.  We had two more for carry on along with our laptop bags and the dog.

Our 5 checked bags. We had two more for carry on along with our laptop bags and the dog.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ve had a successful take-off on this first Nightflight to “Budapest”
Our flying time will be 16 hours. We’ll be travelling at a speed of 2183 miles per second.”  – with apologies to Boney M

Our car picked us up at the airport and we arrived at our lovely, spacious, but FREEZING apartment.  We successfully restarted the gas boiler and then hit the streets in search of a hot beverage while we waited for our apartment to heat up. We found a lovely tented area just down the block to have a mulled wine and a beer. Perfect.

View from our balcony on Raday Utca

The view from our balcony on Raday Street in Budapest’s 9th District

After our drinks, we came back to the apartment where we started to unpack our bags and then proceeded to promptly fall asleep until about midnight.  Of course, we then spent a few hours up in the middle of the night – hungry –  as our bodies aren’t used to the six hour time difference yet. Since we are typically morning people, we were astonished to wake up the next morning around 11:30am.

The next day

We got dressed, headed off to the nearby dog park and then walked a few blocks east to the Danube for a coffee (coffee is so very good in Budapest). We went to do small grocery shop at Tesco, dropped the dog back off at the apartment and went in search of some freshly made goulash soup.  We tried at first to go to the “For Sale Pub” – a quirky touristy spot with autographed papers everywhere – but it was packed full.  Instead, we ate at the cosy “Paris Texas” on Raday Street. The soup came from the restaurant next door and it was delicious!

Aniko and Andrew by the Danube

A very jet-lagged Aniko and Andrew by the Danube

Two very tasty goulash soups on a rainy first evening in Budapest

Two very tasty goulash soups on a rainy first evening in Budapest

Once our bellies were full and warm, we headed back “home” for more unpacking, did a little bit of work online and then collapsed into our bed… only to wake up again in the middle of the night. *sigh*



Moving Abroad

What We are Doing in our Final Week: Moving Abroad Checklist

November 14, 2017

Moving abroad to Budapest, Hungary is a huge undertaking. So many people, places and things to organize and get ready before we board our plane. Here is what we are doing in our final week in Canada.

Prepare an Important Document Folder

Perhaps obviously, you need to take important paper work with you to your new home. We are taking essential paperwork in our carry-on luggage.  That means our passports, International Driver’s Licenses, my Hungarian Residency Card, our Hungarian Marriage Certificate and our credit/debit cards.

In additional to these hard copy documents, I have scanned and uploaded all of the above along with MANY others to a secure cloud-based server that both my husband and I have access to.  You can use something like LassPast or even Dropbox, but I do recommend you scan important documents and keep copies somewhere in case of physical loss.

International Shipment Pick up

As mentioned in this post, we are using Move One to send our goods via sea shipping container to Budapest. Brytor is the company they partner with here in Toronto, so it was with them we met with to pack and load our goods directly from our storage locker. Unfortunately, this happened during a sunny but unexpectedly cold day. It was  -10 degrees celsius and absolutely frigid during packing. However, this made for fast work and our things are now safe and secure for international transit.

Brytor picking up our belongs from our storage locker

Brytor picking up our belongs from our storage locker

Our worldly goods neatly stacked up and ready to be packed and loaded into a shipping container

Government Services

In this final week, we visited our local “Service Ontario” office to let them know we are leaving the country and that we need to suspend our OHIP health care services.  We informed them of our intent to take a two-year absence from our services. A quick and easy process (if you don’t count the long wait time in line).

Doctor’s Appointments

Andrew and I, along with our dog, all have our final doctor’s visit during this time.  For the humans, we are topping up on some prescription medication that may be harder to get in Hungary (that fact is, we don’t really know but we are hedging our bets).  For our dog, Lucy, this vet visit is essential for her being allowed into the European Union.  You can read all about that process here.

Sell Remaining Goods

Unbelievably, we STILL have stuff left to sell. By now, my husband and I are getting REALLY sick of Kijiji.  I mean, its been fabulous, we’ve sold tons of goods over the last few months, but the amount of people that respond to ads simply to express their dislike of the item/price/colour/whatever is truly bizarre and a huge time waster. Luckily, we were able to sell most items quickly and easily.  Our cars are both sold now, so its just some miscellaneous electronics left. The items we don’t sell will be donated or given to my sister to sell in our absence.  Thanks sis!

Pack our Bags

We are moving with seven suitcases.  Yes, you read that right.  Seven.  For those of you that know us well, you know that Andrew and I only ever take carry-on luggage when travelling.  No matter how far – or for how long.  So taking seven suitcases on a plane is completely contrary to our normal travel style.

Dog in Suitcase

Lucy sitting our suitcase “helping” me pack

We have three large suitcases and two medium suitcases that we will be checking in.  We also have two carry-on suitcases we are taking on board the plane with us.  These have our important documents, computers, cameras, medications, jewelry, etc.

While this many suitcases isn’t normal for us, it was considerably less expensive to come with us on the plane that add to our overseas shipment.  These bags contain everything we need to live and work for 8 winter weeks until our shipment arrives.

Saying Goodbye

By now, we have said good bye to the majority of our friends and family.  We had lunch with my husband’s brother and his wife yesterday and we will have a final dinner with the rest of our family on Saturday.  I predict the definite need for Kleenex.

However, unlike when my husband moved from England in 1988… Social media, FaceTime, Skype, YouTube and more will help us stay connected each and every day.



Moving Abroad, Personal Stories

Casting off the Lines: Saying Good-bye to our Yacht Club

November 5, 2017
Etobicoke Yacht Club

Saying good-bye to our yacht club was something I don’t think my husband or I ever expected to do.  I joined the club in 2005 and my husband joined in 2007.  It is where we met, fell in love and held our wedding reception in 2009. Practically all of our friends (and family) are members of the club and there has not been a party or event in the last decade we missed.  However last night, (with thanks to my sister), we found ourselves in the Great Hall saying good-bye to all the people we have shared our lives with. Over 40 people showed up on a rainy Saturday night to wish us well in our move to Budapest, Hungary.


My sister and I outside the Grey Wolf Gazebo at the yacht club.

Our Life at Etobicoke Yacht Club

It was wonderful to see all of our friends in such a familiar environment one last time before we leave for Budapest.  My husband and are dedicated volunteers at the EYC and have in excess of 2200 hours in our “volunteer bank”. Andrew is a “Commodore’s Cup” winner, the club’s resident DJ and I served on the Board of Directors and was the lead singer in the club band, ‘The Members”. Doing these things allowed us to form that friendships that will have no boarders.  No matter how far we go, EYC will always be remembered as our “home”.

Commodores Ball

Andrew and I at the 2015 Commodore’s Ball

Of course time spent at the club, really means time spent on the water.  For us that water is Lake Ontario in Toronto, Canada. And while Andrew and I are “power boaters”, we often enjoyed sailing with our friends. Especially those times with my sister, her husband and our good friend “Cap’t Dave”. Sailing gives us the ability to chat, sing and laugh while enjoying the sunshine, the water, and the waves. It was also the preferred method of travel for our dog, Lucy. She hates the noise that power boat engines make. To read more about moving with a dog to Budapest, click here.

Sailing on Lake Ontario

Andrew enjoying another great day on Lake Ontario

Our Future on the Water

We sold our boat in September in preparation for our move  – we just can’t reconcile shipping it all the way to Hungary.  It was one of the saddest moments of our journey so far – as it meant we were really going. We are really going to move abroad! And in case you were wondering, there IS a place to sail and boat just about an hour from Budapest on Lake Balaton.  Lake Balaton is often called the “Hungarian Sea” due to its size and beauty.  Andrew and I are very excited to spend time there next season and who knows?  Maybe we will have a boat on the water again soon…

Lake Balaton

The Mediterranean-like microclimate around Lake Balaton also makes the region ideal for wine making. Just about perfect!

Personal Stories

Discovering Aniko: Where Everybody knows my Name

November 2, 2017
Aniko Name Listing

Discovering Aniko was a common name when I first visited Budapest as an adult in 2007 wasn’t surprising.  After all, it IS a traditional Hungarian name. However, I was unprepared for meeting others girls and women named “Aniko” and how it would make me feel. It feels strange.

(I know it’s not as strange as meeting someone with the name “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” – but strange nonetheless.)

In Canada, having Aniko as my name made me akin to the “Highlander”. “There can be only one” (the belief and motto among the immortals in the original Highlander film).  I am like Buffy the Vampire Slayer,  “Into every generation a slayer is born: one girl in all the world, a chosen one. In all of my 40+ years, I never met another Aniko on Canadian soil.

Furthermore, I grew up in a country where people could neither pronounce nor spell my name.  My mother tells the story of how when I was in grade one my teacher pointed out that my name was tricky, “so why don’t we just call you Annie?”  Unsurprising to those who know me, my six year old self responded, “Why don’t we just call me Aniko since that’s my name”. At least in Hungary, EVERYONE knows how to pronounce and spell my name.

Two Anikós

Two Anikós in front of the “Anikó” souvenier store in Budapest’s 1st District.

Aniko is a diminutive form of Anna in the Hungarian language. Aniko’s language of origin is Hebrew and Japanese, and it is used largely in the Hungarian language.

Not only do I now have a “common name” to get used to – but a brand new spelling for me.  In Hungary, my name is spelled with the an accent over the “o” – Anikó.  Only my Hungarian grandparents wrote my name this way – never my Hungarian parents or my sister. However, this is my legal name in Hungary. It appears that way on all my documentation, so I must start remembering to spell it that way.

I know all you Stephanies, Sarahs, Nicoles, Emilys and Madisons probably think I’m crazy… but having a unique name is a huge part of my identity.  I don’t really want to be one of many in the crowd – even if it means I can easily find a personalized keychain.

I like explaining how to spell my name.  I like explaining its origins. I like that people often think I am a tiny Japanese woman before they meet me. I like telling people that the other choices for my name were Ildiko or Brigitta. I like being special. I love that my name is Aniko.

Sorry, I mean, Anikó.