Sunday, December 10, 2006

More Budapest

A few more photos from Budapest... while not, I think, quite as photogenic as Prague, Budapest is not short on beautiful and interesting photo-ops. To the left is the courtyard of our host's building. The rather surprising shade of green is frequently to be found in the city, but I have no idea why. It's brighter in real life than in the photo, something like the old Crayola "spring green." I gather that it is not all that difficult to buy property in Hungary (compared to in the Czech Republic); the main thing foreigners need to do is give evidence that they won't be letting the property become derelict, and that they won't be removing historical treasures from the country. So, somewhat like a condo or coop in the US, you can buy an apartment in a building like this. I didn't ask how much these things cost, but presumably renovations are often in order.

Some buildings, for that matter, still have bullet-holes from (I assume) 1956. I don't suppose most people who have a building with such a historic form of disfigurement are likely to cover it up at this point, but you never know.

Not noticeably disfigured in any way (unless one simply abhors the style) is the New York building. This historic cafe was recently renovated and appears to be utterly swanky. We didn't go in, but I thought the sinister lamp-holders were a nice touch.

Here and there one also finds some stunning art nouveau doors.

Budapest also has numerous bridges across the Danube, although I think Pittsburgh outdoes Budapest in sheer quantity. They are fun to walk across at night, anyhow.

Back on the Pest side of the river, one apparently has a choice of brands in American hamburgers. We were more interested in sampling the Hungarian fare, which bears some relation to Czech but cannot be considered the same. There tends to be a lot of paprika in the sauce. I didn't get to sample very much Hungarian food, but I enjoyed what I did try.
Another Hungarian specialty that I tested out was a liquid called Unikum. We went to a tanczok one night, where a crowd of regular attendees were dancing nimbly to Moldavian music (which, I'm told, has been adopted by the Hungarians), so it seemed appropriate to try the Unikum. The flavor isn't bad, but the aftertaste is unpleasant. Nonetheless, I was so bold as to have two shots of the stuff. Whether it helped or hindered me on my one foray onto the dance floor is uncertain. Probably neither.
A particularly agreeable aspect to visiting Budapest in December proved to be the Christmas market, which I did not photograph. It's my understanding that Prague is much better known for its holiday markets, but the markets I've seen in Prague are extremely disappointing. In general, I don't know why anyone living in Prague goes to them except to eat holiday food and (on Staromak) to listen to holiday music. The wooden toys are nice, but exactly the same as those found year-round all over the city. The rock-salt lamps are also appealing enough, but again, you can buy them any time. I have yet to see any non-food, non-Christmas-decor item at a Prague Christmas market that couldn't have been bought in a regular store or vendor's stall at another time of year.
So... it may be that I am biased toward the Budapest market because I don't live in Budapest and don't see the same things year round. But I don't think so. The Budapest market was not filled with mugs emblazoned with the name of the city, Russian matryoshkas, refrigerator magnets with pictures of bridges, and so on. The Budapest market did have a lot of CDs of Hungarian folk music, ceramics of a wide and generally impressive variety and quality, traditional embroidered goods, leather hats and wallets, interesting items of clothing, and generally speaking a lot of crafts. I got a few things, but my purchases were limited mainly by my lack of a way to carry them off rather than by price or lack of selection. I would have liked to have gotten more ceramics, but I knew that this was just not a good idea (and, in fact, the one plate I bought has already been dropped and broken, although I think it should be fixable).
I don't know what the Hungarians think of their market, but I thought it was one of the more impressive craft markets I've ever been to.


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