budapest attractions
Unusual Budapest: Childhood Memories & Sweet Treasures In The Marzipan Museum. Photo: Emily Monaco; Edited: Epicure & Culture

By Emily Monaco 

When I was seven years old my mother’s older sister – my godmother – came down to New York from Boston and walked me down a Manhattan street that was, at that point, unfamiliar to me. We peered in the windows, and I reveled in the way that my hometown could be so foreign. It was one of the first times that I remember feeling that now-familiar feeling of displacement, of being somewhere completely unfamiliar and letting it wash over me. I loved it.

Before she returned to Boston, my aunt gave me a small box with four miniature fruits in it. When I bit into an orange, however, it tasted nothing like citrus.

budapest attractions
Marzipan Museum Image by Emily Monaco

 

“It’s marzipan,” she said. It reminded me of the petits-fours on the buffet table at every christening and First Communion we went to in our extended Catholic family. When I saw the Nutcracker and watched the marzipan dance, I was transported back to those little bites, to that day.

When I first moved to Paris I did a lot of traveling – London for the weekend, Cannes for spring break, Bern with friends because… well… why not? But in the past nine years my travels have decreased to pave the way for daily life, with one exception: every Thanksgiving, my godmother comes to Europe, and we visit a new city.

Is The #Marizpan Museum #Budapest's most #unique attraction? Share on X
budapest attractions
Marzipan Museum Image by Emily Monaco

Exploring New Cities

The choice of city is always somewhere to the east of Paris, always somewhere at least a bit off the beaten track: Krakow, Prague and most recently, Budapest. These trips are an opportunity to wander around in our own little bubble, letting the cacophony of the language that we don’t understand wash over us. They are also the opportunity for us – the two travelbugs of the family – to discuss our family history, our voyages, and to share some interesting experiences.

budapest attractions
Marzipan Museum Image by Emily Monaco

 

On our most recent trip to Budapest, we decided to visit one site that my aunt had already seen on a previous trip. I wasn’t sure how much she remembered about that first gift of marzipan, but I said nothing and followed as we rode the little train to the top of Buda and entered the Marzipan Museum, aka the Szabó-Szamos Marzipan Museum.

Here's why no #trip to #Budapest would be complete without visiting the #Marzipan Museum! Share on X
budapest attractions
Marzipan Museum Image by Emily Monaco

Budapest Attractions: The Marzipan Museum

A museum devoted to marzipan may seem like a kitschy idea, and in some ways, it is: the museum itself contains different representations of scenes made entirely in marzipan. Think Disney characters, castles, even an almost-scale replica of Empress Elizabeth of Austria. But while the museum itself was swimming in kitsch, the people working there had just as much of a love of the product as I did.

budapest attractions
Marzipan Museum Image by Emily Monaco

 

Staff member Sophie explained the love that founder Szabo Károly had of this candy. When she first arrived nine years ago, at 17, she knew very little about the candy; however, Mr. Sabo was the careful guardian of her education.

budapest attractions
Marzipan Museum Image by Emily Monaco

 

“He was always testing me!” she recalled. “So I was working, and he would call, ‘Sophie!’ and I said, ‘Yes?’ And he would just show me a marzipan and say, ‘What kind of flavor is this?’”

Bit by bit, Sophie became just as much of an expert as her boss of all of the different flavors and products sold in the museum’s adjoining café.

budapest attractions
Marzipan Museum Image by Emily Monaco

 

Everyone who works in the shop has a favorite. While most prefer plum, the local specialty, Sophie is partial to cinnamon, which adds a touch of spice to the super-sweet treat.

budapest attractions
Marzipan Museum Image by Emily Monaco

 

But even working in the Marzipan Museum, Sophie and the others don’t eat marzipan every day. Like it was when I was growing up, for them, marzipan is a special occasion treat.

The Disney characters and little animals that the shop sells are often purchased by parents for the top of a birthday cake. “And this is the first thing that every child tries to eat,” Sophie says, laughing. “Not the cake, the marzipan. It’s the most important thing.”

As my godmother and I left the shop, laden with packages of marzipan for later, I thought about these sorts of sensory memories, and how interesting it is that Sophie and I could share, across cultures and languages, the same special taste that would send us back to years past.

Do you have a fond #childhood memory? Here's mine, relived in #Budapest's Marzipan Museum! Share on X

Have you been to the Marzipan Museum, or any other fun Budapest attractions? Please share in the comments below! 

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Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is a born-and-raised New Yorker based in Paris. After pursuing a Masters degree in 19th century French literature, she devoted herself full-time to writing about food, drink and culture shock in France, a topic she discusses extensively on her blog, Tomato Kumato. Emily is always on the lookout for an excellent cup of coffee, a good beer, and fantastic cheese.

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