The Glitz, Glam and Grit of Budapest
Budapest startled me. The fine beauty I associated with Western Europe interlaced with the darkness of far and recent past so perfectly that I was sure I was in a storybook. Here the opulent Parliament building sits just in front of walls still suffering from Soviet bullet wounds. The Jewish Quarter hosts one of the world’s largest – and most beautiful – synagogues in between lots that have been abandoned since most of the Jews there were deported in the last months of World War II. From the Danube River you gaze at a fairytale castle just next to the statue made to commemorate that the people wanted no more war. Budapest quickly became one of my favorite places.
Along with Gorgeous and Sinister, Budapest also does a fine mash up of Traditional and Quirky. Those old abandoned lots in the Jewish Quarter I mentioned? Many of them are now outdoor bars with such random themes as “hammocks”, “rave venue with a five star chef from London” or “graffiti cow in a traditional purple cowboy outfit that makes it look like an archbishop.” Old Soviet buildings that once housed terror and oppression now house bus terminal-themed bars. The old courtyard market? Now bars. In fact, pretty much anything old can – and might – be re-purposed into a fun and funky bar in Budapest.
Then there are the people; the nicest group of people you could ask for (maybe it’s all those bars?). Mom and I quickly learned our rolling suitcases were not compatible with Buda’s stair obsession. But we also quickly learned that any time Suitcase met Stairway there would be someone there offering to help us. In fact people were always willing to help us. Even when we stood in the corner, facing the wall to trying to look at our map without looking like tourists, people came up to help us.
The rich aesthetic, the respectable and disturbing history, the resiliency and kindness of Budapest intertwine into the coolest goulash in Europe.