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A crash course in Budapest

riverbank – off the embankment, halfway between the Lánchíd and the Erzsébet híd (somewhat closer to the latter). The more passionate the relationship is, the closer to the water you’ll have to sit, in order not to be disturbed. The most stylish stairs these days are indoors: not in a staircase, but in the foyer of the French Institute. If you have a look at them on the occasion of an opening, you will see how well they serve their purpose: to see better and to be seen better, the two reasons for which one goes to an opening. A nice way to go up to the Royal Castle is on one of the dozen stone staircases. The nicest of them lead from Water Town (Víziváros). When you look behind you, you will see a changing landscape of Pest. The gaudiest and by far the most ridiculous stairs are at the corner of Váci út and Dózsa György út in the 13th district at the base of the “skyscraper” of the Municipal Waterworks. It is a stretch of staircase about twenty metres wide that never got to be used. There are dozens of pre-cast concrete flowerbeds placed across the stairs, very near the bottom of what must be the world’s ugliest and least used staircase.

Staring at others and getting away with it Riding up and down the metro station escalators is perfect for people watching, especially at Kossuth Lajos tér (lower middle class), Lehel tér (working class, no escalator, though) and Blaha Lujza tér (a perfect mix). Or ride Bus 15 and look outwards at the changing social scene, from terminus to terminus at sunset. (You can board at either end: Boráros tér or Gogol utca.) In Budapest people tend to switch on their lights, but not draw their curtains right away. But to take advantage is not nice, not even in Hungary. You could be scholarly, however, and call it “applied people-watching”.

An unmistakably old / new café Café Centrál which was a legend between 1887 and 1949, reopened in January 2000. It is authentic and credible, with modern food and no hint that it’s a modern recreation of the original. Thankfully, it does not feel like a museum piece either. When it was reopened, the Mayor and the Minister for Culture were happily present, and there was a surprise flying visit from the Prime Minister himself. As guests started to leave

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A crash course in Budapest

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there were some who accompanied the proprietor bent on following a hallowed tradition of throwing the key into the Danube, signifying that this coffee house should never close (V. Károlyi Mihály utca 16., open daily 8 a.m. to midnight). See Walk Three for details.

Budapest’s kerts, courtyard pubs and rooftops Since 2000, a series of temporary May to September garden and courtyard pubs/cafés began to appear around Budapest in abandoned buildings and in green areas like Margaret Island. In 2011 the following places are the most popular: Pótkulcs, Szimpla kert and Kuplung. Ask around, some of them will not exist when you come and other new ones will have surely popped up. These bars also go by the name “romkocsma” (rom-kotsh-ma), which means “pub in a ruin”. Since 2007 another related summer trend has emerged: “roof pubs”. The first of its kind opened on the roof of the Corvin Department Store, on Blaha Lujza tér, called Corvintető (Corvin Roof). Fecske (literally “swallow”, but it hints at an old fashioned men’s bathing suit), opened soon after on the roof of Komjádi Swimming Pool. As these places don’t have temporary permits, they may become more permanent favourites. Check out www.pestiside.hu for a listing of the latest kerts and roofs.

LEGENDA CRUISE SHIPS This book recommends travellers to discover Budapest on their own… But not even the readers of this book can walk on water. In 1990 a company called “Legenda” first challenged the stateowned cruise service. They still want to be ahead of the others – they emanate a quasi insane endeavour to please theirguests. They have special “all-window” boats, they offer the recorded text in 30(!) languages. Their website explains the routes via animation, and needless to say that you can reserve a ticket via the internet. They even explain sites on a map… It is the next best thing to have a local friend with a motorboat and with a practice in guiding picky travellers… (Departure from Vigadó tér, www. legenda.hu)

2011.04.20. 15:49:05

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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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