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France Jewish? They wanted to get the gist of everything, in a quick and thorough manner…” The café had its golden age in the early-1910s, and its silver age in the second-half of the 1920s and into the early-1930s. Some of the most influential Hungarian journals were edited in the gallery. Their editors were exhibited in caricatures for many decades, which were said to be lost when the café closed before the recent renovation. In 1945, just after the siege, potatoes were sold through the windows of the shelled and burnt out café. It reopened, when during the night of January 15, 1949, a dozen people arrived to nationalize the café. The inventory is no funny reading: “69 marble tables, 7 newspaper frames, 36 coffee glasses, 11 kgs. of coffee beans, 6 liters of milk, 6 jars of artificial cane sugar.” New York was seen as the symbol of the old, useless world, and so a sporting goods shop was opened there. The café reopened in 1954. It was renamed as Hungária. As long as publishing houses and newspapers operated upstairs, it was a natural meeting point. In the early 1990s they all left. The monthly 2000, a highbrow intellectual paper was edited in the gallery for some years. Its staff were given a 40 percent discount, in the memory of the Good Old Days, and Aunt Irene, the literary toilet attendant never let the editors (the author of this book included) pay if they happened to visit her institution. The New York is now listed in all the guidebooks and has become a tourist pilgrimage site. The building’s meticulous restoration is universally praised, and its modern furniture and prices are mostly cursed. Expect some queuing, even if there are free tables inside. The next section of the Nagykörút is called Erzsébet körút. It runs through district seven, which is called Erzsébetváros (named, like the bridge, after Franz Joseph’s wife). It is the most densely populated part of the city with more than 50,000 people per square-kilometre. There are a number of single-storey buildings here, and along the Nagykörút there are many small shops, especially in the entrances of the buildings (and some even on the upper levels). To the left there is the Old Jewish Quarter, which by now is hardly more than a nickname. Here the disappearance of small old blocks, the unification of sites, and the low quality new apartment blocks is what threatens the very character of Budapest. Pressure groups try to prevent further damage. The problem is that the local district governments don’t represent the interest of the “greater good” – that of Budapest. They say they represent their immediate voters – who are usually less educated, and don’t understand the intellectuals who come here to protest against “progress”.


Budapest had more than On the top 400economic cafés at research the turn institute. of the 19th floor there is a board room, where annual century, but the New York Café reports and privatization blueprints are on the ground floor of this builddiscussed. ing was the most beautiful, the busiest the liveliest. When Newand York Palace 37Fthe VII. Erzséplace opened, writers were bet körút 9–11some can be seen from afar as it is situated on thrown the benditsinkey the into road. It faces said to have streets. Builtitasshould the headquarters of thethree Danube so that stay thenight New and Yorkday. Insurance open As theCompany saying (Alajos Hauszmann, 1891–95), it usedhad to house Bugoes, at that time “every writer Fleet Street. The neo-Renaissance hisdapest’s own café and every café had building wasThe built of York fine, had long-lasting its own writer”. New materials and in a tasteful, unique many writers: virtually all of the mixture of styles, hintseither of art nouveau literary menalready of the with era were (especially in the tower). Boscolo hotels regulars or regularly dropped in. bought it around 2000, and is converting it Many came to work here from the into a hotel/office/commercial block. Part dark, unheated rooms that they of it opened in 2006. rented, and also to fill themselves up Café on theNew “writers’ (cold Yorkplate” 37F On the ground meat, whichBudapest floorcheese of the and New bread) York House. had more 400 cafés at the turn of the they got for than a discount. They also butpaper. this was most beautigot19th freecentury, ink and Thethe literNew York Palace ful, the busiest and the one knew with the liveliature-loving headwaiters est atmosphere. When it waseverybody’s opened, some writers were said to throw its habits and their latest key intoThey the Danube so that writers it shouldtostay open andWriters day. As the sayworks. also allowed dine onnight credit. ing goes, at thatbooks time, every ownorcafé andthe every café had its also sold their here, writer lookedhad forhis jobs, read latest own writer. The New hadthat many: all the literary men of the papers. The titles of theYork papers thevirtually café subscribed to were era, since those who were not regulars here often dropped in. Many written on a notice board that read: “all the dailies and arts of them came to work here from dark, unheated rooms they rented nearby to fill journals of the world” (there were 400 of them, at one time). themselves on the “writers’ plate” (cold meat, cheese and bread – with a Not only writers frequented the place, but other types of people discount for writers) and because ink and paper were free. The “literary also came, depending on the time of day. Actors, journalists headwaiters” knew everybody’s habits and latest works; better still, writers and cinema staff came thewrote morning. Retired could dine on credit. A early lot of in them here but some actors also sold their arrived Groups dressed elegantly came dinner, books orlater. looked for a job and everyone read the for latest papers.and The titles of card players,the circus and to waiters enjoy the noticeboard: nights. the papers café artists subscribed were came set outtoon a huge “all Dezső Kosztolányi, novelistofand immortalized the New the dailies and arts journals the poet, world”. Of course, it was not only writYork in ajournalists story: “Itwho felt came so good ourselves in that mist, on the ers and here to butdip people of all kinds, depending in thatofhot pool, not thinking anything a while, time day. Actors, journalistsofand cinemafor staff early paying in the morning, attention to how is bubbling and and it wascircus a great retired actors later,itelegant groups at wabbling, dinner, card players, artists and feelingfrom to know allenjoying these people who are here, waiters other that places the nights. Thepaddling clock above the door to the basement restaurant calledbeing “Mélyvíz” (Deep have worked are slowly being relaxed, tied to eachwater) other,must all will insoon thosebe days. It did not,one forsingle, many years, theallcafé closed for a lengthy melted into noisy before soup … were talking reconstruction, in 2000. at the same time. The topics were: whether one has free will The café had itsshape goldenisage the early 1910s, and silver age the second or not, what theinpest bacterium, howamuch are in salhalf of in theBritain, 1920s and in far the away early 1930s. wasbe, here, up in the gallery, that aries how SiriusItcan what Nietsche the most influential journals were edited. Caricatures the old editors meant by ‘eternal return’, is homosexuality rightful, isofAnatole

New York Palace

Millennium Quarter, along and ...

were still to be seen on the walls, before the renovation in 2000. (They are said to have been lost.) After World War II, potatoes, and later shoes, were sold through the windows of the shelled and burnt out café. Still later, the

PARK_Budapest_belivek_v065.indd 266-267

2011.04.20. 15:49:54

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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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