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Millennium Quarter, along and ...

Nagytemplom utca, and the blasphemously-named Leonardo da Vinci utca. The Corvin–Szigony real estate development project (2006 – 2016?) will radically change the character of the neighbourhood. Offices, apartments and shops will be erected around a new, wide avenue which will probably lure new, young, middle-class residents here, and will gentrify the area and ultimately change the connotation of “Józsefváros”. The area along the Nagykörút on the city side and as far as Baross utca was called “Cérnakorzó” (thread promenade) before the second world war. Seamstresses used to walk here after work to become acquainted with the craftsmen in the area. The ladies promenading here now are looking for less long-lasting relationships.

Rákóczi tér is known for its market hall and its secondary dressmakers school. But it also used to be the centre of low-prostitution in Budapest. Since 1947 all forms of prostitution have been illegal in Hungary. After years of desperately struggling in vain to end prostitution when the aim was to keep it under control, in 1999 severe anti-prostitution legislation created “zones of tolerances” to be newly outlined by local governments. But none have came into being so far. When a closedcircuit camera system was installed the girls disappeared from this square. They must be around, though. The buildings here look the same as elsewhere in the area. The value of the flats, however, is lower because of the location’s notoriety. The area beyond the Nagykörút is, if possible, an even more

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pathetic sight. Lights in the ground floor flats in these dark, narrow streets must be turned on even in broad daylight because natural light is so scarce. When I lived in this area for some years, alongside the old lived many young gypsies who were settling there from the country. There were gypsy musicians with a number of kids, and dealers of secondhand goods. My flat was in a five-storey building with a shared courtyard. You reached your flat by walking down the long access balcony, passing all of the other flats that shared it. During the summer when people left their windows open, you could hear the baker’s alarm clock go off at three in the morning and then, one by one, at 15 minute intervals, every other alarm in the building. On this section of the Nagykörút the number of small shops increases. There’s a watchmaker’s shop, a pipe shop, a souvenir shop disguised as a tobacconist’s, computer shops, a ballet shoe maker, an old-fashioned hairdresser, and a fountain pen shop with a long history. There is also a Totó-Lottó betting office. “Lottó” is a type of lottery, established in 1957, in which you tick off five numbers out of the 90 on your ticket. “Totó” is the Hungarian football/soccer pools where you guess the results of 13+1 matches. Now there are new forms of online lottery. If fortune wants to find you, she will find the way to do so. Jewish Theological Seminary/University of Jewish Studies (Orszá­gos Rabbiképző – Zsidó Egyetem) 36I VIII. Bérkocsis utca 2., www.or-zse.hu ••• Rabbis have been being trained in Budapest since 1877, which was the high-point of belief in the possibility of assimilation, when an increasing number of Hungarians of Jewish faith or origin thought that in a couple of decades Judaism would be no more than a faith. Currently there are about 250 students here, including about a dozen from abroad. Since the mid-1990s not only rabbis and scholars are trained here, but also teachers and social workers. This part of the institute is called the “Pedagogium”. Since 1990 there has been a Jewish renaissance in Hungary, with new associations, newspapers, community centres, secondary schools, summer camps and websites being founded (see the seminary’s web site for more). Corvin Department Store: the Old and the “New” 37A ••• We approach the department store on Blaha Lujza tér from the back, which is neglected, but is still reminiscent of the original idea. The store opened in 1926, but was only completed by 1929. Designed by Zoltán Reiss, the building had the first escalator in Hungary installed in 1931. Since then, it has been rebuilt a zillion times. Its appearance changed again in 1966 when a new metal-looking plastic façade was designed by

Walk FIVE

Walk FIVE

Café Stex (Stex Ház) 36D VIII. József körút 55 – 57., www.stexhaz. hu, open Monday and Tuesday 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., Wednesday to Saturday 8 a.m. to 6 a.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. ••• Behind the not very promising exterior, there is a huge interior which has several different rooms (including small intimate ones and private ones) and billiard tables. In Hungarian slang, stex means “money” or “cash”, and the décor is organised around this theme with money and various forms of gambling presented fairly crudely, but humorously. There are photographs and documents (some fake and some real) plastered all over the walls, all with personal comments. It’s as if the owner is trying to tell us about grandparents and great-grandparents who lived under the spell of gambling. There’s a bronze bust of Alfréd Stex, the head of the family, on the bar. There’s a variety of lottery cards available and the Józsefváros gambling locals have made themselves at home here. It’s a place where you feel good, and where the food is filling. There’s a non-smoking area, which is as empty as it’s possible to be. There must be people who believe this tongue in cheek history of the family.

Millennium Quarter, along and ...

2011.04.20. 15:49:53

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András Török's Budapest: A Critical Guide  

The Celebrated Insider's Guide, upgraded many times, probably the deepest and funnieast and truest portrait of any major European city. With...

András Török's Budapest: A Critical Guide  

The Celebrated Insider's Guide, upgraded many times, probably the deepest and funnieast and truest portrait of any major European city. With...

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