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A crash course in Budapest

money is one of the nicest in the world. Opinion makers, on the other hand, hate it but find it fitting for a visually backward country. By issuing the 20,000 forint note, Hungary completed a 10-year banknote and coin reform in 2001. It will be the last in Hungarian monetary history before we merge into the Euro zone, probably the late 2010s. The essence of the reform was to issue long overdue smaller format banknotes and to leave behind our artists and poets who were portrayed on the old ones. The new ones portray medieval kings with false dignity on their faces (sometimes resembling heavy drinkers) which are more difficult to forge. Those artistic failures are the direct consequence of a lack of competition. Believe it or not, all of these “beautiful” images were designed by the resident graphic artist of the Banknote Printers, a state-owned operation. The dislike for competition in matters like this was further strengthened after an unsuccessful design contest in the course of the coin reform. Though paying with credit cards is possible in many shops, it is wise to ask in advance at restaurants, especially in the smaller ones.

A crash course in Budapest


food shop with permission to sell other goods. For a year there were some bottles of Heinz sauce to demonstrate that it was a food shop after all. These days it is a centre for the expatriate community and sells all kinds of fiction, non-fiction, reference books, newspapers, magazines and fine stationery. There is also a nice selection of books in French. (V. Október 6. utca 11.,, open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Expat media

The single most important foreign language bookshop

Professional expats nowadays only seem to click, they only read the English version of Time Out, a monthly publication here. They more and more appreciate the bi-weekly Funzine – a free general interest publication, what really emanates fun and often wanders to new paths, edited by young Budapest insiders (and also looks great). The Budapest Sun was established by an American professional couple not long after the Changes of 1990, but has changed hands a couple of times since then. It only survides online. The weekly Budapest Times is the Sun’s younger competitor, and has slightly better coverage of Hungarian politics and business. The Budapest Business Journal is a more serious weekly, published for the busy kind of expats who run Hungarian branches of multinational companies. Budapest in Your Pocket is a useful quarterly publication. Where Budapest is a low-key, reliable magazine that is available in most hotel rooms. Budapest egghead expats tend to read The Hungarian Quarterly, a prestigious journal that is notable for its translations of modern short stories and poetry. It has a lively review section, and articles on the country and its history. It is written in impeccable English by senior Hungarian opinion-makers. Pilvax is a newer literary journal that features short stories, poems and literature from Hungary and Central Europe. Did it survive, Gentle Reader, for you to read it? – I am not sure… The website is a comprehensive portal that features news, original features, tourism information, directories and forums. gathers news that was previously published elsewhere. is a popular irreverent blog and is Hungary’s biggest English language food site.

The shop with the deceptive name “Bestsellers” is operated by an immigrant from Britain, Tony Lang, who had some Hungarian blood, but no prior command of the language when he arrived. He moved to Hungary to buy a shop, which happened to be a

The single most important egghead bookshop The Írók Boltja (Writers’ Bookshop) is at Liszt Ferenc tér where Japán, a famous coffee-house known for its fine Oriental décor, was located. Nothing survived of the original. You can sit here and have tea, watch the crowd leafing through the new publications and literary reviews from all over Hungary and from the Hungarian-speaking regions of the countries nearby. Hungarian literature is the shop’s forte (and it also carries translated Hungarian literature), and there is a book launch almost every afternoon at 4 p.m. Check out the innovative window displays of new titles. After a great deal of toing and froing, the shop was sold to its enthusiastic staff in the mid-1990s, who naturally had to borrow a huge amount of money for the purchase. (VI. Andrássy út 45.,

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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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