september 2009

september 2009 | 76 3 Perfect Days Budapest For centuries a tumultuous crossroads of art, architecture, invasion and rebellion, the boh...
Author: Agatha Moore
1 downloads 0 Views 3MB Size
september 2009 |


3 Perfect Days

Budapest For centuries a tumultuous crossroads of art, architecture, invasion and rebellion, the bohemian capital of Hungary has finally found serenity. But it’s still got a maverick soul. // by sarah horne 78 day one

Crossing the Danube and having a bath

83 day t wo

Dining alfresco and listening to cellos

84 day three

Spice shopping at the Great Market Hall

CROSSING THE LION The Chain Bridge links Buda with Pest.

september 2009 |



BLUE DANUBE The lobby of The

Flick through any history of Budapest and it’s abundantly clear that for every flourishing of the arts and architecture, for every golden decade filled with pastries and sweet coffee and endless conversation, residents have had to endure less lovely periods. It’s no wonder Budapestians have a reputation for telling it like it is. Suffering invasions by the Turks, the Germans and the Communists, the city’s denizens developed a taste for both decadence and rebellion, tempered by a hefty dash of sunny resignation. And yet, in spite of it all, Budapest is flourishing again, its grand buildings refaced, its pitted streets once more lined with Belgian blocks, its edgy spirit thriving in unexpected corners. But don’t worry—the city’s rebirth hasn’t diminished its bohemian dreaminess. Hollywood couldn’t have concocted a more evocative, nostalgic scene. All you have to do is step into one of the city’s smokefilled bars, where locals squabble good-naturedly until dawn. Or you can take in the buildings skirting the Danube (which splits the city in two: Buda and Pest), all moody in the hazy afternoon light. Budapest is moving forward, but its heady past is everywhere. And rest assured—the shopkeepers are still delightfully surly. HIT THE DECK! A peaceful nook at the

Lánchíd 19 Design Hotel

Day One Channel the minor European aristocrat within as you wake up under starched sheets at The Gresham Palace (1), a 1906 Art Nouveau masterpiece ravaged during World War II and restored to its former glory in 2004 by Four Seasons. Descend to the lobby and linger for a while, transported back to the height of Budapest’s Golden Age, when The Gresham’s shopping arcade was filled with every fop and dandy worth knowing. Steel yourself for a day of walking with a carafe of strong coffee, fresh bread, cheeses and dried meats—vegans beware, you’re in Hungary now—at the Gresham Kávéház, where British bankers in pinstripes seal their investment deals with a handshake. Step through the whimsical peacock-adorned wrought-iron gates and out into the city. Cross on foot from Pest, the commercial 19th-century city, to Buda, its leafy, medieval counterpart, by way of the landmark Széchenyi Lánchíd (Chain Bridge) (2) and keep your eyes out for the façade of the Lánchíd 19 Design Hotel (3), a cutting-edge building designed by Hungarian architects and artists on the Buda side of the river. Its high-tech shutters move constantly in response to the shifting daylight, rippling like translucent fish scales. Ascend to Castle Hill on the quirky funicular railway and set about exploring Várhegy, the tourism nerve center, before the crowds


p h oto g r a p h s by lu c i a n o l e p r e/p h oto l i b r a ry ( p r e v i o u s s p r e a d ); c lo c k w i s e f r o m to p l e f t: co u r t e s y o f f o u r s e a s o n s, s i m e / e s t o c k p h o t o, m a r i a g r a z i a c a s e ll a / p h o t o l i b r a r y, c o u r t e s y o f l a n c h i d 1 9 d e s i g n h o t e l

Gresham Palace; the Szechenyi Baths; and, opposite, the Buda Castle beyond the Chain Bridge


The steeple of St. Stephen’s Basilica looks onto Pest. | september 2009

c l o c k w i s e f r o m l e f t : P h o t o g r a p h s b y J e a n - l u c B o h i n / p h o t o l i b r a r y, m a d e i / b i l d e r b e r g / a u r o r a p h o t o s , j av i e r l a r r e a / p h o t o l i b r a r y, f e r d i n a n d h o llw e c k / p h o t o l i b r a r y


gather. After surveying the cobbled streets and taffy-hued cottages, wander over to the Fisherman's Bastion (4), a purposeless fantasia POOL PLAYERS Immersed in the timeless thermal baths erected at the start of the 20th century to evoke medieval ramparts, and take in the stunning views of Pest and the Gothic Revival Parliament building across the river through the arches. Inevitably, a charmingly impoverished music student nearby is playing a mournful tune on his violin. Before you give up on the ever-so-slightly artificial-seeming Buda, take a taxi down the hill to Krisztina Tér and lunch at the landmark Café Déryné, a 1914 coffeehouse and patisserie once frequented by Budapest’s literati and now restored and refreshed as a funky French-Hungarian bistro. Watch local swells flit about in scarves and horn-rimmed glasses as you dunk fresh-baked bread into finely spiced pumpkin soup. Next, hop onto the No. 18 tram. Alight from the kitschy buttercup-yellow vehicle in front of the Hotel Gellért (5), named for an 11th century Italian bishop who was martyred when he was rolled from the heights of Gellért Hill inside a barrel lined with nails. (Ouch!) Cheered by this news, enter the dramatic 1918 building and follow signs marked “swimming pool”—a vast understatement. Pass through the turnstile into the amazing tiled baths, don a bathing cap and do some laps with the local gentry before slipping into hot and cold underground pools. The ritual will leave you pleasantly befuddled and invigorated. Back on the Pest side of the river, don some stylish duds and take a stroll down the pedestrianized Zrínyi Utca, the imposing St. Stephen’s Basilica (6) looming before you. Walk a veronika harcsa few short blocks to Café Kör (7), a wood-paneled institution with clubby green library lights Musician // “Go to Citadella, where the night’s Hungarian dinner specials are scrawled on a sheet of craft paper on the the old fort on Gellert Hill, and have a look at Budapest wall. Order wine from the Lake Balaton region, a hearty plate of chicken paprikas and rice, from above. Whenever I travel and sit back and wonder how you can possibly consume portions this large for the next 48 to Paris, London, Rome or hours. Helsinki, on my After imbibing a postdinner sour cherry pálinka, waddle back to your hotel absurdly first day I try to find a high sated, and sleep like a baby. spot to have a look at the city   from above. It gives you a Day Two Make your way back toward the Basilica and step in line for a pastry and a strong certain point of view.” brew to go from the California Coffee Company (1), a local favorite near the steps of the church. ROGUES GALLERY Fantastical Fisherman’s Bastion and its stern-faced protectors

illustrations by Esra Caroline Røise


The sublime Gellért Baths

3PD BUDAPEST | september 2009


ONE KLASSZ-Y JOINT At the swank bistro Klassz, a serving of roasted duck leg with red cabbage

Then make your way to Andrássy Út (Andrássy Avenue), an elegant boulevard built in the 1870s and seemingly invented for peacocking and pontificating. The avenue has recently undergone a renaissance, luring luxury brands like Gucci, Roberto Cavalli and Louis Vuitton, though it’s also retained its historic charm. Tucked between these designer behemoths are vintage spots such as the Müvész Kávéház (2), where tweedy types drain espressos under glinting chandeliers. After absorbing some of the beatnik grooviness, cross the street and peer into the lobby of the Hungarian State Opera House (3)—which is all but plastered in gold leaf—where Gustav Mahler once directed the opera.  Then it’s on to lunch at Klassz (4), a swank wine bar and bistro. Peruse the bottles of local wine in the back and take a seat at one of the tables in the bar for a leisurely Hungarian lunch with a modern twist—don’t miss the lemon ginger risotto or the zucchini cream soup, poured ceremoniously at the table from a copper sauce pan. Descend into the underground and take the M1 train, the second-oldest subway line in the world, emerging at Hösöck Tere (Heroes Square) (5). Behind the square sits Városliget (City Park) (6), home to the neo-Baroque Széchenyi Baths and the peculiar hodgepodge of Vajdahunyad Castle (7), built for the 1896 millennial celebrations marking the arrival of the first Magyar tribes in Hungary. Ignore the agricultural museum inside and feel a sense of awe as you bask in the shadows of the castle’s Disneyfied extravagance. Find your way back to Liszt Ferenc Tér, a tree-shaded square decked with a contemporary statue of the composer Franz Liszt, who called Budapest his home for stretches in the 1870s and 1880s, and make your way past the Academy of Music (8), built in 1907 and also bearing Liszt’s image. Listen for the strains of students rehearsing cello and piano, and toast Budapest’s enduring love of classical music at Menza (9), a fashionably retro café and bar on the square, decorated in 1960s style in homage to the campy andy hefler communist canteens of the era. Order a Actor // “I love Bambi, a kitschy coffee shop in house beer and watch the now-contented Buda that’s a throwback capitalists quaffing cocktails and ordering to the Communist era. (with a touch of irony) Hungarian staples You’ll see little old ladies such as goulash and dumplings. in orthopedic shoes and Then it’s on to dinner at M (10), a men playing dominoes, delightfully kitschy hole in the wall. Ask for and the waitresses are venison stew chased with a bottle of Villány notoriously mean. It’s just red, which will inevitably be consumed amid so great—and so typical.”

p h o t o g r a p h s b y d av i d d u n a i , e x c e p t f o r u n i c u m ( h e m i s p h e r e s )


Egészségedre! Even if you can’t pronounce the national toast, you can still partake like a local. Tokaj wine // Thought

to have been discovered by accident when a 16th century Hungarian princess postponed the wine harvest (due to those pesky Turkish invaders), Tokaj wine is produced partly with grapes that have been afflicted with “the noble rot.” Fans of the stuff include Peter the Great, Louis XIV and Queen Victoria. Go on, indulge in a glass or three.

unicum // First

prescribed by a Dr. Zwack to the AustroHungarian royals for the treatment of digestive troubles, this powerfully bitter national institution isn’t just a kitschy nostalgia act. Pop into just about any corner grocer and ask for a bottle of the black bitters. Take a swig and see if you still need that Rolaids.

pálinka // Downed with breakfast in the countryside, and 24/7 in Budapest, this fruit brandy comes in many varieties (all throatsearing) and has been described as “a necessity at village pig killings” by food writer Carolyn Banfalvi. Sour cherry is a good bet, but if you’re feeling a surge of patriotism, go for the “Barack,” which means apricot in Hungarian. 

september 2009 |


water world Diving into Budapest’s inscrutable spas // It’s not easy to understand the rituals of the Hungarian spa, but never mind the obtuse entry procedures: It’s best to plunge right in. People have been “taking the waters” in Budapest since the days of Aquincum, when the Roman colonists took great pleasure in turning themselves into prunes in a steamy communal setting. At storied old baths like the Széchenyi in City Park, you'll be privy to an anthropological experience central to life in Budapest. Note the placards imploring you not to smoke or eat Sachertorte in the pools. From the sidelines, oiled-up octogenarians watch the healthful proceedings approvingly, all the while eating fried chicken sandwiches and puffing away on ciggies. You do a lap or two, watch some old guys playing nearly-naked chess, and lie back on your scratchy towel. Ah, relaxing.

a haze of cigarette smoke (don’t bother protesting). Before you know it you’re chatting with the artists at the next table, draining a shot of Unicum and following your new friends to Szimpla Kert (11), a bar in the old Jewish quarter. A discreet sign leads into what appears to be an abandoned building, and suddenly you’re in a beer garden crowded with young night owls. Before you know it, it’s well past three. The Budapestians show no signs of letting up, but you call a taxi and fall asleep before your head hits the soft goose-down pillow.   Day Three Now a devoted habitué of Budapest’s medicinal baths, you trudge to The Gresham’s top-floor spa and steep yourself in its hot tub, allowing last night’s toxins to evaporate in a cloud of steam. It’s all beginning to make sense. After a good 20 3 minutes, you emerge wrinkled like a prune, ready to face the day. Walk the Danube and watch the pleasure boats bound for Vienna. Stop in at Café Gerbeaud (1), a grand, 150-year-old coffee shop once favored by Sissi, the Queen of Hungary. Step inside to admire the historic interiors and scarf down a doughnut. Then it’s on to the Great Market Hall (2) for further lessons in Hungarian gastronomy. Watch as salesmen proffer bags of sweet or spicy paprika, fruit brandies, Pick salami and piles of fresh cherries to little old ladies carrying wicker baskets for their shopping. Feeling overwhelmed by the vast quantities of sausage on display—which really doesn’t travel well, let’s be honest—it’s on to the Hungarian National Museum (3) and somewhat more cerebral pursuits. Across the street, browse in one of a half-dozen bookstores, where you can get lost thumbing through antique maps of Hungary and vintage books in Magyar. Head for a highly szandra sandor intellectual lunch at Múzeum, and watch Fashion Designer, Nanushka // professors from the nearby university locked “Budapest’s a great design city. I love to check out what’s going on in serious conversation, seemingly oblivious in Hungarian fashion at Retrock to the powder-pink tablecloths. Deluxe, a boutique (that also In the late afternoon, it’s time to wander sells my clothes) on Henszlmann farther into the Józsefváros district until you Imre Utca. For retro 20th century finally stumble on the fantastical Museum of furniture there’s Möbelkunst, and Applied Arts (4). An art nouveau Hungarian for quirky objects or gifts, I also hybrid, the museum is inspired by Hungary’s love Forma.” Turkish and Asian roots (dating back to the

c l o c k w i s e f r o m t o p l e f t : p h o t o g r a p h s b y c at h e r i n e k a r n o w, s c h m i d r e i n h a r d / SIME , s i m e / e s t o c k p h o t o

FINE TUNED A pianist at the Academy of Music, and the opulent Gerbeaud Coffeehouse


germany | september 2009



czech au s t r i a

s lo va k i a

• Budapest

hungary s lo va n i a romania c r o at i a bosnia y u g o s l av i a i ta ly b u lg a r i a alsania


greece iv Sz

nt I s


ca ut








t ru

1 4


nb tca


Jósef körút







i ut




lso iA


ja yal








3 4









ti At





y rg yö


Pesti Also ra


zs Dó


ö it k arg

1 21






á ds




öi u


fi H

tö Pe



5 6 Lángmányosi Hid

m a p i ll u t r at i o n b y s t e v e s ta n k i e w i c z

those 3 perfect dayS DAY ONE (1) The Gresham Palace Roosevelt tér 5-6; Tel: 36-1-268-6000 (2) Chain Bridge Between Roosevelt tér and Clark Ádám tér (3) Lánchíd 19 Design Hotel Lánchíd utca 19-21; Tel: 36-1-419-1900 (4) Fisherman’s Bastion Hunyadi Janos út (5) Hotel Gellért Szent Gellért tér 1; Tel: 36-1-889-5500 (6) St. Stephen’s Basilica V. Szent István tér 33 (7) Café Kör Sas utca 17; Tel: 36-1-311-0053 DAY TWO (1) California Coffee Company Teréz körút 38.; Tel: 36-30-465-2195 (2) Müvész Kávéhás Andrássy út 29; Tel: 36-1-352-1337 (3) Hungarian State Opera House Andrássy út 22; Tel: 36-1-332-8197 (4) Klassz Andrássy út 41 (5) Heroes Square Andrássy út at Dozsa György út (6) City Park Állatkerti körút (7) Vajdahunyad Castle Városliget (8) Academy of Music Liszt Ferenc ter 8; Tel: 36-1-341-4788 (9) Menza VI. Liszt Ferenc tér 2; Tel: 36-1-413-1482 (10) M VII. Kertész utca 48; Tel: 36-1-342-8991 (11) Szimpla Kert Kazinczy utca 14; Tel: 36-1-352 4198 DAY THREE (1) Café Gerbeaud Vörösmarty tér 7-8; Tel: 36-1-429-9000 (2) Great Market Hall Vamhaz körút 1-3; Tel: 36-1-366-3300 (3) Hungarian National Museum Múzeum korut 14-16; Tel: 36-1-338-2122 (4) Museum of Applied Arts Üllöi út 33-37; Tel: 36-1-456-5100 (5) Arcade Bistro Kiss Janos Alt. utca 38; Tel: 06-1-225-1969 (6) Gödör Klub Erzsébet tér

september 2009 |


THIS LITTLE PIGGY WENT TO MARKET Above, a sampling of the local pork products sold at the Great Market Hall;

black soup Coffeehouse culture done right // Hungarians are rightfully proud of their gorgeous kávéházes, where turn-of-thecentury writers and intellectuals once energized endless debates with the local joe (dubbed “black soup”). Today, the tradition continues. Kávéházes still offer artist-friendly prices, suitably sudbued venues to write and think, and three meals a day. Fine brews can be found at glitzed-up grande dames like Café New York (at the New York Palace Boscolo Hotel); and the more well-worn, like Café Central, where you might actually spot a writer or two settling in for a day's scribbling, laptop at the ready. Then there's the funkily restored Dunapark, first opened in 1937, where, as Metternich had it, “the coffee is as black as the souls of diplomats.” We think he meant it in a good way. 

days of Attila the Hun), with nearly every surface adorned with colorful Zsolnay tiles.  Just when you’ve rebounded from the last multicourse meal, it’s on to the next. Take a taxi to Arcade Bistro (5), a chicly understated restaurant located on a quiet back street in Buda. Indulge in the sweet pea soup, rich, tender duck and a dessert of homemade ice cream and fresh raspberries. Hop a taxi to Gödör Klub (6), an outdoor bar with an anything-can-happen vibe, housed amid the unfinished foundations of what was to be the National Theatre on Erzsébet Tér—a fine example of the Budapestian knack for turning disappointment into an excuse to party. Here, the capital’s young scenesters throng around café tables and talk about how Budapest has changed over the years. Without much effort you’re absorbed into a group of expats, who insist that the city is becoming a more cosmopolitan place. But everyone, even the traditionalists resistant to such changes, seem to agree: Budapest is still delightfully raw and decadent. In the small hours of the night you wander back to The Gresham, its sophistication standing in stark contrast to the hip gypsy band you’ve just heard at the Gödör. Intrigued by this enigmatic city, you throw back your heavy teal drapes and step out onto your balcony, awestruck by the nighttime view of Buda Castle and the Chain Bridge, the glittering, ominous currents of the Danube swirling below. sarah horne has never felt so ravishing as she did wearing a standard-issue Gellért Spa bathing cap.    

vandad khashefi Photo Studio Owner //

“If I want some quiet I head to Margaret Island, right in the middle of the Danube. Parts of it feel quite wild, and there’s an old ruined church on the island that looks like something out of an eerie fairy tale—lovely, weird and out of place.”

c l o c k w i s e f r o m t o p l e f t : p h o t o g r a p h s b y r i c h a r d n e b e s k y / l o n e ly p l a n e t i m a g e s , C at h e r i n e k a r n o w, s c h m i d r e i n h a r d / s i m e , s e r g i o p i ta m i t z / p h o t o l i b r a r y, c o u r t e s y h u n g a r y t o u r i s m

and the exterior and interior of the Museum of Applied Arts, below

HALL-MART Shoppers in the Great Market Hall