After landing in the central European country on a balmy Saturday night, I checked into the Budapest Hilton, located in the Royal Castle District—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—on the Buda side of the city. The luxury hotel seamlessly melds old with new by incorporating parts of a Dominican church and Jesuit monastery into its otherwise modern structure. As tempted as it was to just sit in my room all night and admire the breathtaking panoramas over the Danube, there was no time to waste, as the media visit officially kicked off that same evening with dinner at nearby Pest-Buda Bistro.
As we got to know our fellow travelers, plus our host, Eminence president Boldijarre Koronczay, his parents, József and Józsefné, and other company employees and brand representatives. We were treated to a steady stream of traditional Hungarian dishes such as goulash and chicken paprikash, washed down with local wines like the famed sweet Tokay. As we ate, an accordion player serenaded everyone—including Boldijarre! Later, the ebullient Eminence frontman played tour guide by showing us more stunning river views from the nearby Fisherman’s Bastion, next to the striking 14th-century Matthias Church.
The next morning, thankful that I’d packed some melatonin to ward off jetlag, we all boarded a bus for a tour of Budapest’s main sights. First we wended our way up to the top of Gellért Hill for sweeping vistas of both Buda and Pest from the prominent Liberty Statue. Here, our guide Eszter pointed out and explained the history of the city’s other landmarks and bridges, including the Széchenyi Chain Bridge and more modern Elisabeth Bridge.
Next, we crossed the Danube to take in the grounds of the Gothic Revival-style Parliament Building and controversial Holocaust memorial in Szabadsag Square, followed by strudel sampling at the First Strudel House of Pest. (Our favorite flavors: sour cherry with cheese and the fresh-from-the-oven poppy seed.) Also on the agenda: a glimpse inside the gorgeous Four Seasons Gresham Palace, which serves a posh yet not-too-pricey afternoon tea.
The evening’s highlight was a cruise along the river in a “bubble boat,” featuring a four-course dinner and live entertainment.
Monday focused on a visit to two local historic bathing houses, beginning with the art nouveau Gellért Baths, part of the iconic Gellért Hotel in the Buda district. Nearly a century old, the property encompasses several indoor thermal pools and swimming pools, a large outdoor adventure pool and an outdoor wave pool. We were joined by Ákos, a tour guide with Boutique Journeys, co-host of the trip.
We then stopped by the State Opera House (which was closed for filming—proof of Budapest’s status as an up-and-coming movie location) and caught a peek of Europe’s second oldest underground train system after London’s. We also took snapshots of Heroes Square, with its dramatic statue complex featuring the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars, then strolled through the City Park to admire Vajdahunyad Castle, a fantastic (and deliberate) mishmash of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles.
The rest of the day was spent exploring other key places, such as the Great Synagogue (the largest in Europe) and the Central Market—famed for its souvenir-worthy paprika and delectable lángos, or fried bread, slathered in toppings such as cheese and sour cream.
Tuesday brought the moment we’d all been waiting for: a trip to Eminence’s certified organic farm in Fülöpjakab, about 70 miles south of Budapest in an area densely populated with organic agriculture.
The farm is actually a demo version of the company’s working facility, which is located just a few hundred feet away. The purpose of this smaller farm is to represent the majority of Eminence’s crops in one place, even if they don’t typically grow near each other. Here, plants, fruits and flowers, as well as birds and animals such as frogs and moles, coexist in a chemical-free ecosystem. The property has already welcomed around 6,000 visitors since it opened three years ago (tip from Boldijarre: The best time to visit is between June and August).
After snapping some group photos, we entered the grounds, where an enthusiastic Boldijarre introduced us to the hardworking (and award-winning) employees instrumental to the farm’s success. These included Margitka Csanyi, caretakers (and married couple) Erika and Jani, Hungarian Landscape Architect of the Year Gábor Szúcs—also the farm’s designer—and Organic Farmer of the Year Mátyás Nemes. Volunteers include János, who proffered a tray of farm-fresh strawberries for us to sample as we strolled.
Gábor pointed out some of the farm’s unique architectural features, starting with the four elements (earth, air, fire and water) carved into the main entrance gate to represent life, fertility and richness. Boldijarre added that spirituality is very important to Eminence: The farm is rife with symbolism—even the pillars of the compost beds are carved with angel figures!
Brimming with knowledge, Boldijarre espoused the benefits of each plant and flower, from the hardy stone crop, which addresses hyperpigmentation, to chamomile, with its soothing, calming properties, via naseberry, high in glucose. He threw in some lesser-known facts—rhubarb is an effective appetite stimulant, for instance—while Jessica Timberlake, the Eminence PR consultant and tireless trip organizer, taught us about companion plants, which attract bugs away from (more valuable) crops. Also on the tour: a thatch-roof chicken coop, livestock feed barn and refurbished grape press.
When I asked Boldijarre to elaborate on the reasons for creating the farm, he responded, “I want children who have been undergoing hospital treatment to be able to visit the farm, to enjoy a picnic here, and to see that organic living is a good way of life. I want to show many future generations that you don’t need pesticides to produce beautiful crops.” Indeed, the farm, which is both flat and wheelchair accessible, was designed for visitors of all abilities in mind.
Next, we boarded the bus for a 25-minute journey to Tanyacsarda, a Hungarian restaurant and cowboy ranch, complete with horses! Here, with a talented violinist providing a live soundtrack, we were served goulash straight from a pot over a burning fire, shots of potent pálinka (fruit brandy), followed by a delectable bread pudding-like dessert (more, please!). Sadly, it was soon time to head back to the hotel for our final night in Budapest and our homeward journey the next morning.
We’d like to express our gratitude to Boldijarre, Jessica, Boutique Journeys and the entire team at Eminence for this incredible—and incredibly rewarding—opportunity to visit the farm. Thank you for an unforgettable trip!