Looking Back: Four Years of Wonderful Guests at Katona Apartments


We began running Katona Apartments in May 2012 and since then we have hosted several hundred guests, all with different cultures  and backgrounds, and we feel so lucky to be able to meet so many different people. We will start our fifth season soon, so I thought it was time to look back at our experiences and memories of the past four years.

I asked my husband, János about his most interesting guest experiences.

Do you remember who the first guests of Katona Apartments were just after the opening back in May 2012?

I remember it like it was yesterday. Our first guests were a very kind young Indonesian couple.

The husband, Budi, works in Finland and comes to Budapest now and then for business trips and his wife, Hanny, accompanies him each time.

I remember myself being tense. My hands were almost shaking. I wasn’t sure if they would be satisfied or if we had forgot anything that would be essential for a few days stay. We put in a lot of effort to have the apartments ready but hadn’t had any feedback yet. The Indonesian couple were very comforting and we had a nice chat. A few months later they came back again for another stay.

What type of guests book the apartments?

All sorts of people turn up at our place. We have already greeted actors, actresses (e.g. from the film called November Man), sportsmen, teachers, doctors, most of which are families and friends who travel together.

Once we even accommodated a female Buddhist priest.

Most of our guests are tourists but a small percentage are on business trips.

What countries do your guests arrive from?

I have greeted guests from all over the world. From Russia to New Zealand, from Canada to Argentina and from Norway to South Africa.
Right now a nice family from Paraguay are staying in our One Room Apartment E, a couple from the US are in Studio Apartment C and a circle of friends from Singapore are in the Two Room Apartment D.

Who were your most admirable guests?

We had many admirable guests but I just have to mention Dinah and Win from Australia.

Prior to their arrival Dinah informed us that they were coming to Budapest with a group of roller skaters and bike riders. Beforehand they had skated and cycled from Linz (Austria) to Budapest. That is a distance of 430 kilometres (267 miles).

What an unexpected surprise! Both of them were above 70 and very sporty. We had a nice chat and they explained that they are members of an international group of active skaters and bikers and they organize a tour twice each year, during which they visit different parts of the world.

Dinah and Win

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Dinah and Win

Who was your youngest guest ever?

Our youngest guest visited us in summer 2015. She was a 2 month old baby Annika who came from the UK with her parents, Vicky and Malcolm. They stayed with us in Apartment B following a family wedding in the countryside. We provided a cot for Annika to be able to have a safe sleep.

Baby Annika with her parents in Hungary



Baby Annika in pram in front of the Royal Castle in Budapest

Have you ever encountered any language barriers?

It does happen sometimes if our guests don’t speak English, German, French or Hungarian, then we are only able to communicate with them  using mimics and gestures. Sometimes we use online translators, but unfortunately communication still flows slowly at times.

Last summer we received a reservation from two Italian ladies through the internet. As they arrived it turned out that they only spoke Italian. As we don’t speak their language, we were in trouble. They were just talking and talking to me endlessly, but I hardly understood a word. They had reserved one of our apartments for one night for the day they arrived and for another night three days later. From what I understood they would visit Pécs, a South Hungarian town, and they would return a few days later to stay with us again.

I was wondering what they would do in Pécs without any knowledge of the language. Did they come to visit their friends? Did they come for a special concert or event? There was no answer.

Next day their apartment was reserved for different guests so we had to clean the apartment after the ladies left. When I entered, I was astonished as I found their clothes unpacked all over the apartment. What I did was ask a friend of mine who speaks fluent Italian to call them. It turned out that they were already on a train on their way to Pécs.

It came to light that, as the ladies don’t use the internet, it was an agent in an Italian travel agency who made their booking to our apartment and the agent didn’t inform them that he booked just one night for them and they would have to take their luggage with them to Pécs.

The ladies asked me to pack their luggage and store them until their return. To my surprise they arrived from Pécs with 3 cute puppies. It was only then that I found out the aim of their journey to Hungary.

They invited me for a tasty Italian pasta that they prepared in our kitchen just to say sorry about the confusion caused by the language barrier.

At the time it was quite stressful trying to resolve the situation, but now it’s just a funny memory and we will probably never forget the chatty Italian ladies with the puppies.

What were the longest and the shortest stay in the apartments?

The shortest stay was just a few minutes, I checked in a Hungarian young sportsman who came to Budapest to party with his friends. He just left his bag in the apartment and went out to meet his mates and was going to leave the following morning.

The party was so sensational that he ended up not sleeping at all and it was only his bag that stayed in the apartment during the night.

In the morning he rushed back to grab his bag and hurried to catch his train.

The longest stay was for more than two years. The guest was a very kind German-Turkish medical student, Betül, who started her studies at the Medical University in Budapest. She chose our Studio Apartment C for her stay. At the beginning she planned to stay for just a few months but then she decided to settle down for a longer period.


Betül in Budapest

Also we had an Italian guest, Mauro, who came to Budapest for a stop-over. It turned out, that he came to have a job interview at the Budapest airport. His dream was to become a pilot and he wanted to start his career as a flight attendant. His job interview was successful and as he felt comfortable in our apartment, he decided to keep it as his long term base in Budapest. His dream did come true and now he works as a pilot.

We are proud that we could be a part of his success.


Our captain, Mauro


Do you have any long term plans regarding the apatments?

As I’m a big fan of Budapest, I always feel pleasure when I can greet new guests and have the possibility of introducing them to the city, so we will definitely continue this venture. In the future we hope to expand and open new apartments for our guests.

These posts may also interest you:

Arriving at Budapest Airport -­ How to Exchange Money and Where to Buy Bus Tickets
Which Bath to Choose in Budapest?
Hungarian Local Food Products
7 Curiosities about the Chain Bridge in Budapest


About the authors: Virág and János

Virág, a native of Budapest, and János, who’s been living in the city since 1997 are real fans of the capital of Hungary and try to awake the enthusiasm of others. They are dedicated to helping tourists to make most out of their stay.

Here you can read more about them: http://katonaapartments.hu/

7 Curiosities about the Chain Bridge in Budapest


There are many wonderful sights in Budapest, loved by both locals and visitors. The Chain Bridge has become one of the most well-known symbols of Budapest and is an indispensable feature of the city and Hungary.

The Chain Bridge was built between 1839 and 1849 and was one of the most outstanding technical works of its era.

Not only was it one of the first permanent bridges across the river Danube, but it is recorded among the largest and most beautiful bridges in the world.
Chain Bridge and the Royal Castle

Chain Bridge and the Royal CastlePhoto: my cousin, Mészöly Nóra


I have collected 7 interesting facts and stories about this beloved bridge, but there are many more.

1. Origin of the Chain Bridge

The idea of building a permanent bridge over the river Danube in order to bind the two towns, Pest and Buda facing each other, derived from Count Széchenyi István. He was a theorist, writer and politician, and one of the greatest statesmen of Hungarian history.
In the winter of 1820 he was not able to cross the river due to the heavy ice breaking and so he could not attend his father’s funeral. This was the moment when he conceived the idea of a permanent bridge.

Ice breaking on river Danube, Photo: Fortepan, / Budapest Főváros Levéltár

2. Symbol of Burden Sharing

Right after its completion the Chain Bridge became a symbol of burden sharing, as no one was exempt from the payment of toll. In these times noble men had many privileges, but crossing this bridge was not one of them.

A pedestrian crossing from Buda to Pest or back paid one kreutzer. If the pedestrian had a load on his back he had to pay double, for a cow it was 3 kreutzers and for chariots it was 5 for a small one and 10 for a big one.

Around 1898 Chain Bridge with the customs houses, Photo: Fortepan / Budapest Főváros Levéltára. Levéltári jelzet: HU.BFL.XV.19.d.1.07.106

3. The Legend of Lions Without Tongues

Numerous anecdotes have been circulated about the Chain Bridge. The one best known is regarding the tongues of the four lion ornaments guarding the bridge at each bridgehead.
The sculptor had been mocked so much for forgetting to carve the tongues that it was said that he committed suicide by jumping into the Danube.
But in fact, this was not true and he was alive right up until the 1870s. The truth is that the lions do have tongues they just can’t be seen from the level of the sidewalk.



Lion guarding the bridge, Photo: my friend, Bús Mónika


4. A Joke

This can be heard from Hungarians quite often: If it rains the Chain Bridge can be pushed into the Castle Hill Tunnel so that the bridge doesn’t get wet.
The tunnel is in line with the bridge and connects it with the eastern side of the Castle District Area. They are almost the same length, the Chain Bridge at 380 meters (1246 ft.) and the Tunnel at 340 meters (1115 ft.)
This is where the joke comes from.

Bridge and Tunnel in one line

5. Apartments in the Tunnel

Would you actually think that there are apartments in the Castle Hill Tunnel? Well there are, the caretaker of the bridge and his family used to live there, but these days the caretaker just uses it as his office.
His tasks include traversing the entire length of the bridge several times a day to ensure that everything goes well technically and the traffic flows smoothly. Cleaning away any graffiti is also one if his duties. In addition to this, he is responsible for the maintenance of the 350-meter-long tunnel under Castle Hill. His office in the tunnel comes in handy as you can’t get much closer to your work place than that.

6. Chain Bridge on Currency

The Chain Bridge has been depicted on several Hungarian coins throughout history, most recently on the 200 Forint coin that was released in 2009.

Chain Bridge on the 200, Photo: Virág

7. No Vehicles on the Chain Bridge

The bridge is closed to traffic during the weekends of the summer months and on some ceremonial occasions. On those days it is only pedestrians and cyclists that are allowed to cross it. The Chain Bridge Festival is held on a weekend in late June and people can join diverse programs and activities on the bridge whilst admiring its surroundings.

If you have further questions about this or traveling in Budapest, please contact us.



These topics may also interest you:
Art Nouveau Buildings in Budapest
What (not) to bring with you for your Budapest stay
18 Suggestions for What to Do in Budapest in Rainy Weather
A natural formation transformed into a hospital


About the authors: Virág and János

Virág, a native of Budapest, and János, who’s been living in the city since 1997 are real fans of the capital of Hungary and try to awake the enthusiasm of others. They are dedicated to helping tourists to make most out of their stay.

Here you can read more about them: http://katonaapartments.hu/

Hungarian Local Food Products

If you want to live like a local during your stay in Budapest, I suggest you to try out these products that can be bought in any supermarket or even in smaller food shops anywhere in the city. You can also take them home as a present to your loved ones.
They may love or hate you for that.

1. Erős Pista (Strong Steve)

A very popular Hungarian sauce that is made of minced raw red hot paprika.
Hungarians use Erős Pista in gulyás soup (beef and vegetable), fish soup and pörkölt (stew).
In restaurants they will put it on your table and you can add it to your dish.
Édes Anna (Sweet Anne) is a mild version of it. You can buy both in a glass jar.

Anne and Steve, Photo: Virag

2. Paprika (Bell Pepper) Powder

There is a hot and mild version mainly from two areas of Hungary: Szeged or Kalocsa. Some have a simple packaging (plastic), others are wraped in a textile bag with some traditional Hungarian embroidered motifs on them.

Selection of paprikas, Photo: Virag

3. Pick or Herz Téliszalámi (Winter Salami)

This very tasty pork product is a Hungarian speciality and is seasoned mainly with pepper and paprika. It’s name derives from the fact that it was formerly produced solely in winter. The reason for this is that in those times cooling was unavailable in warmer weather. The product must be first cured in cold air and then smoked on beechwood in order to extract water. During smoking a special grayish white noble mold is formed on the casing of the salami.
For a wide selection of Pick products visit the Pick store in Kossuth tér close to the entrance of the metro station. This store is next door to the Parliament building.

Herz and Pick salamis on the same shelf, Photo: Virag

4. Pálinka

Pálinka is a traditional Hungarian fruit spirit that is solely made from fruit, like plum, apricot, pear, cherry and apple, but it can be made from any fruit. It is not allowed to be sweetened or coloured.
The spirit contains at least 37.5% alcohol, so a shot may be enough to cheer most of us up.

Pálinka, Photo: Virag

5. Negro Cough Drops

The black negro candies that are used as cough drops have existed since the 1930s. The Negro (”NAY-GROW”) is Hungary’s leading brand of hard candy. They have a taste similar to anise but the ingredients are a well kept secret.
Its slogan is well known to all Hungarians: Chimney sweep of the throat. An old fashioned chimney sweep can be seen on its packaging sweeping a chimney.

The traditional negro is black, but negro exists in other colours and flavours as well; like honey (yellow) or black currant (red) and the extra strong negro is white.


Cough drops, Photo: Virag

6. Túró Rudi

This sweetish-sourish cottage cheese roll with a chocolate coating is a favourite of all Hungarians. I noticed that non-Hungarians find it a bit bizarre and not all are enthusiastic about it, although it is worth a try.
Look for it in the fridge of any shop and choose the original one which has a red packaging with white dots.

Favourite of all Hungarians, Photo: Virag

7. Gesztenyepüré = Chestnut Puree

My Hungarian friend living in the US misses it so much.
You probably wouldn’t expect it but it has a sweetish taste. We eat it with whipped cream. It’s a dessert that doesn’t need too much preparation and it’s not risky either, as everybody likes it.
It’s a frozen product, so if you want to take it home with you, it must be well wrapped in many layers of paper.

Chestnut puree, Photo: Virag

As you can see, living and eating like Budapest locals is both fun and easy.

If you have further questions about this or traveling in Budapest, please contact us.



These posts may also interest you:
Facts about the quality of Budapest’s tap water
Four Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making in Budapest
Three Day Visit Itinerary for Budapest
18 Suggestions for What to Do in Budapest in Rainy Weather

About the authors: Virág and János

Virág, a native of Budapest, and János, who’s been living in the city since 1997 are real fans of the capital of Hungary and try to awake the enthusiasm of others. They are dedicated to helping tourists to make most out of their stay.

Here you can read more about them: http://katonaapartments.hu/