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The City and The Víziváros Area

At the launch of the Hungarian edition of this book, which was on the 125th anniversary of the birth of modern Budapest, I was given a surprise gift from all three generations of the Szalay family. It was a large cake with the key to the city on top, and it was the only present that I have ever accepted from a business featured in this book.

Culinaris Shop and Bistro V. Balassi Bálint utca 7. A Playground 11K ••• This playground between Balassi Bálint utca and the river is in another world from those in the grim 1950s when playgrounds only held three things: swings, see-saws and sandpits. Swings were always painted red and parents constantly argued with their kids about fastening their safety chain and not standing up on them. The see-saws provided opportunities for socialising. You could “send your partner on a summer holiday” (which meant keeping him in the air for a long time), or you could let him down fast to “make him jump”. But the real area for socialising was the sandpit. Unfortunately, the old park-keeper (which was common in all Budapest parks in those days) would not allow us to bring water in the sandpits. “Watering again, are you!” he used to shout, waving his stick with the nail at one end for collecting dry leaves and litter. At that time there was much less for kids to do, and there wasn’t a single slide in town. Nowadays, Budapest is being converted into a city of playgrounds. The best ones are fenced off and closed at dusk. Falk Miksa utca Antique Row ••• Miksa Falk (1828 – 1908) was a journalist and politician who taught Queen Elizabeth, wife of Franz Joseph I, Hungarian language and literature. The street was first named after him in 1910. However, in 1943 his name was not good enough any more and the name of a recently deceased supreme court chief justice took the upper-hand. Two years later, Falk gloriously returned, but only until 1953 when he left again and the name “People’s Army” arrived on street signs. Falk’s name returned in 1990 when several hundred old names were restored. Also that year the rather severe rule was passed that no street could be named after someone who had died less than 25 years earlier. (When Ferenc Puskás, the great soccer player died in 2006, this rule was softened and honorary citizens of Budapest are now exempted.)

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The old-new name easily stuck because in the early 1990s antique shops began to proliferate on the street. Originally there was only one: the large and naff state-owned shop called BÁV, which used the Venus de Milo as its trademark, and sits on the corner of the Nagykörút. In the mid-1990s the shop was given a tasteless facelift and since then no decent local or expat is likely to shop there. The excessive use of brass rails is an obsession with some nouveau riche businesses owners. Maybe because brass resembles gold? But before you get to the anticlimactic end of the street, it is worth visiting the four key players on the scene, whose listings follow, though the others are interesting too. Opening hours are quite standard here, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, and until 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Pintér Antik 11I V. Falk Miksa utca 10., www.pinter-antik.hu ••• This shop is a revelation for the uninitiated. The two modest windows hide an 1,800 square-metre labyrinth holding a universe of treasures. Pick up one of the shop’s postcards featuring its amazing ground plan when you enter. Péter Pintér is a mid-career dealer who began selling antiques in the early 1990s in a similarly large space in a no-name area along the Outer Boulevard. His clients were loyal and followed him to his next and bigger Józsefváros shop, and then to this final shop, which is one of Budapest’s finest. The variety here is tempting for people from various walks of life – for its style, quality and state-of-repair. The varied space has been restored with an imaginative vein. For instance, there is a small circular café space with a new floral painted ceiling, there are parts paved with cobblestones, and there is a central spot with a classic street sign that says “Pin tér” (“Pin Square”), which is a pun on the owner’s name. His wife, Sonja Pintér, opened a contemporary gallery/shop in another part of the shop, which has changing exhibitions, all of which are fit for a home in the elegant surrounding blocks. Pintér is open until 2 p.m. on Saturdays, which is when his most precious diplomatic and fast-lane clients visit his shop, and practically all of the other major shops on the street.

Walk TWO

Walk TWO

A rest

The City and The Víziváros Area

Cirko-Gejzir Cinema 11L V. Balassi Bálint utca 15 – 17., www.cirkofilm.hu ••• This independent two-screen art cinema moved here in 1998 from another Pest venue. There are five employees and 10 volunteers who keep the institution in motion, for 35,000 to 40,000 visitors a year. Director Péter Balassa claims to be able to judge whether a film will attract 500 or 5,000 viewers here. Films focus on European and South American films, as

2011.04.20. 15:49:23

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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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