Wednesday, January 31, 2007


For my area it started with the building, or rather digging, of the underground garage in front of the Basilica. Before that, the space was just a plain car park with doggy doo lurking around every tyre.

Once the funky, robot, underground garage was created, the surface was turned into a very pleasant cobble-stoned square.

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From this little acorn of an area, the pedestrian zones have spread. At first they claimed a small section of Hercegprimas utca. Then a smidgen of Sas utca. Now the powers that be are expanding the Hercegprimas stretch and zooming down Zrinyi to complete a walkway from the dome of the temple to the banks of the Danube.

It may have something to do with linking up the ultra-posh Four Seasons located in the old Gresham Palace at the end of Zrinyi, but I think the whole project will improve the 5th district and get people wandering up and down. Of course, it'll bring life to those streets as well as shops and cafes brighten themselves up to take advantage of the new thoroughfare.

So here's to pedestrianitis, the uncontrollable growth of pedestrianized streets, and may there be a cafe on every corner to sip a hosszu kave (in a glass) and watch the world go by.

* If this post contains mistakes or is generally crappy, I apologize and rest the blame on the beers and unicum consumed just a few hours before. At least the were good. However, this must be one of the freshest pics on the blog as it was taken just a few minutes before arriving home and writing this article.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Avenue Activists

It looks like not everyone is happy with the work being done to Nagymező. The signs advertise a meeting to be held on the Saturday of last weekend at the church on the corner of Nagymező and Király.

The posters from protesters are warning people that the trees on the avenue shouldn't be turned into toilet paper and they should be left alone so that they can be seen in real life and not just in photos.

I'm not sure if the meeting took place or not last weekend but it seems that maybe it wasn't necessary anyway. According to the news, it's unlikely that the underground garage that was planned will go ahead.

As I've said before, I'm all for underground parking spots but I also like my trees. Hopefully we can have both without building projects being turned into petty political spats.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

First Snow of the Season

The title isn't strictly true as I saw snow back in November in Komló in the south of Hungary back in November, but this was the first snow I saw in Budapest this winter. It was literally freezing on Saturday and the bitter winds brought in a light sprinkling of snow. It dusted the cobbles in front of the basilica for a few hours and then was gone.

I keep telling people who ask me about the summers and winters in Budapest that summer gets very hot and winter very cold. When they ask about snow, (the questions are usually coming from people living in the south of England), I reply yes, without fail there is snow. Even in the capital there tends to be quite a bit of snow that looks great at first but is then churned into grey slush by the people and cars.

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This year, I foolishly promised my niece that she is bound to see snow when she pops over in February. Then it turns out that this winter has been the hottest for the last 1,000 years. What are the odds? A thousand to one perhaps.

The "hottest year in 1,000 years" line sounds faintly familiar, but I guess if it is getting hotter each year then they can trot out that line all the time.

I was glad to see the snow at the weekend, even if it did only hang around for a few hours. It means there's a small glimmer of hope that I won't break my promise. This morning the temperature is about 5C at my window, the wind is howling but the sun is shining. As my bosses would say, "ratfarts".

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Friday, January 26, 2007

An Apple A Day

I'm not sure it they are keeping the doctors away but one of our neighbours (probably not the one with the cat) has laid out a selection of apples on top of the kitchen appliances stored abandoned in our corridor.

A phrase I often hear from people in this city is that Budapest is a village. That's not meant to be a slur on the size or sophistication of the capital. The fact is that as I live my day to day life in Budapest I'm continually bumping into people I know. Or if I meet someone new, it's quite likely that I'll find out that they're connected to some other people I know from a completely different part of my life.

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It's been said that there is six degrees of separation in the world. Meaning, any person in the world can find a connection to any other person in the world by hopping through 6 people. I have a feeling that in Budapest it gets pared down to 3. It really can be freaky sometimes.

The apples seemed to me to be a more literal aspect of the village theme. I live smack-bang in the centre of the capital city that is Budapest, yet someone has been harvesting apples and setting them out in the cool corridor until they need them.

Incidentally, the apples are disappearing one by one, so the theory of the neighbour making one large batch of almakompót (apple sauce) or almasajt (erm... apple cheese) has been scratched. But the remaining apples must be scared out of their pips wits thinking about who's going to go next.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Vörös és Fehér is Klassz

Vörös és Fehér was a great little restaurant in the 6th district on Andrassy. It served tasty meals with an emphasis on quality wine. The menu was a bit pricey so I had only been when someone else was paying.

It was here that our group from the office gatecrashed a wine tasting evening (turned out pretty good) and also saw a naked woman with painted on clothes strolling down Andrassy on a weekday lunchtime while we were entertaining visitors from out of town. Needless to say, they were entertained.

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Hello Everybody my name is Klassz. I will be a restaurant and a winery one day when I will be ready. I offer you beautiful, tasty food and nice wine. Please feel free to come in! R.

Sziasztok! az én nevem Klassz. Etterem és Borozo leszek ha egzsyer kész leszek! Már megnyitottam finomat főzök és jó borokat szolgálok. Gyertek be! R.

So it seems that Vörös és Fehér is dead and in it's place is Klassz. Though peeking into the place shows no real difference to the interior and according to the writing on the wall windows, the aim is the same. Premium food with a leaning towards the wine rack.

I'll take a look at the menu if they pop one out onto the street and perhaps suggest it for a bit of experimentation but other than that I'll probably leave it to chew to review.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Crappy Quickie

Just a crappy quickie to keep my daily postings record. I find that setting aside 30 minutes in the morning around breakfast time means I push out a post no problem. Until I don't have 30 minutes in the morning, then it all turns pear-shaped.

Seeing as I'm running out of time for this Wednesday, I thought I'd share something that I hope isn't becoming a trend. There's quite a bit of feces involved. Basically in the span of less than a week, I've trodden in a huge pile of doggy doo, been shat on by a pigeon and a neighbour's cat left a little pungent package for us on our doormat.

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Out of all the above, the doggy doo must have been the worst. It was just after a hike of several hours over the Buda hills. We'd reached civilization and as I took my first steps on the pavement, I almost slipped head over heels in something that must have been left by Dogzilla. As I was wearing my walking boots with chunky grip, it took me ages to get the damn things clean and sweet smelling.

I consider the pigeon dropping droppings fairly lucky. There's always the "could have been worse" thought that crosses my mind. I was lucky it wasn't a few centimetres to the left where it would have hit me smack on the head instead of on my sleeve. I was also lucky that I noticed it just before I went to wipe my forehead with said sleeve. It washed off easily and didn't smell. Definitely lucky that dogs don't fly.

Then there was the cat from a few doors down our corridor. Cute little playful kitten that meows outside our door when it feels like playing. Perhaps because I wasn't at home and able to play that it took offence and left a little message for me for when I got back. Oh well, at least it was solid.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Filming in Budapest (V)

It seems that Budapest is Hell to some people. Perhaps that explains the warm weather we've been having. Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro and crew are said to be filming the sequel to Hellboy in Budapest, cunningly titled Hellboy 2.

Now I thought Hellboy was one of the worst films I've ever watched. For me, it was so bad it was fascinating and I had to watch right to the end to see if there were any redeeming features and to test my endurance. But I'll admit, I never heard about the Hellboy comic character until the film so if people tell me I'm missing the point, then I'll probably agree.

There's not a lot of info about the second film and I'm not sure if they're really shooting in Budapest or out in the sticks at Etyek. However, if you see some mutant creatures running down the streets like all Hell has broke loose, it probably has. That or the stag & hen season has started early.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

The Scottish Pub

It's not the Scottish Play so I think that I can mention its name, Caledonia. The pub opened up at the tail end of 2006 and has already built up a good reputation and a lively crowd of regulars.

Situated just off Jokai tér on Mozsar utca, the bar is very central and easy to get to. You just need to know it's there as most people forget that the tiny Mozsar utca even exists.

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I wouldn't say I'm a local there but I've popped in for the occasional pint and chat with friends. Yes, they really do sell some of the beer in pints, which probably violates some EU law but seeing as a pint is 0.568 litres I don't think anyone will be complaining. Oh, and I'm talking about the good old fashioned Imperial Pint as opposed to that new fangled US pint which equates to a mere 0.473 litres.

The staff are warm and welcoming but the best thing about the whole place is that they sell Belhaven Best Bitter (in pints!) which tastes utterly delicious and reminds me of the great bitters back in Blighty. The best bit about the Best is that instead of charging some rip-off price (like Birdland charging 380ft for a 0.25 bottle of water but that's another story), a pint of this lovely liquid will set you back 600ft. Which, although more expensive than most beers, is not that far off from a watered down Dreher from Mediterran in Liszt Ferenc tér on the other side of Andrassy.

While I've been going on about the beer, I've neglected to mention the fact that they also do great food (so people tell me). I can't find a proper Caledonia website but their menu does appear on an xpatloop page. The steaks, burgers and all-day Scottish breakfasts have all been recommended to me.

So, they've got the food and drink covered and they've also covered the walls with a smattering of flat TVs for the sports fans. Oh, and it seems that Thursday nights is karaoke night. Karaoke isn't "my thing" but people were having a lot of fun and that's good in my book.

If you're around Liszt Ferenc tér and looking for an alternative option. Cross over Andrassy and stroll down Mozsar. You'll find a fantastic pint of beer down there.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Blustery Budapest

The sun has risen and a new day has begun. The world didn't end after all, which is what seemed would happen according to the number who warned me about the storms coming into Hungary last night.

I realise that, yes, the winds were pretty windy over a lot of Northern and Western Europe. They were strong enough to kill people with falling trees and blowing lorries off course.

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Hungary also recently messed up when the last bit of really bad weather blew in on St Stephens day last year. As it was a holiday the weathermen were taking it easy, people from all over the country had traveled up to Budapest to see the fireworks on along the Danube. Then the storm hit and people died.

To try to prevent the same happening again, it seems that the media went into a frenzy over the approaching Armageddon and every single Hungarian I met yesterday mentioned it to me. They suggested that I leave work early so I didn't get caught in it, get hit by trees, roofs, flying cows etc. I appear to have survived and according to the news, no Hungarians were killed by the thing so hopefully it's all blown over now.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007


Apart from being a great name (not to be confused with Spork), it's also great "furniture". I've put furniture into quotes as while the chairs, tables and cupboards that Antal Sprok designs can be used to hold your everyday things, they themselves are far from ordinary.

A chest of drawers is placed in the chest of a strange man or a little old lady. A lean rabbit poses with a backpack into which you can place your own things. Or perhaps you prefer the camel who rests backwards to create a chair for you.

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The furniture is all wooden sculpture and Sprok also takes it further with objects with no other purpose than to fascinate you with their fun creativity.

I first saw Sprok furniture when it was displayed in a Demko Feder shop on my way to work. It reminds me of the great originality of my old friend Dr. Pockless who turns out similar sketches over at Squint.

It appears that Sprok has a permanent display of his work in a Budapest gallery over at Kő utca 14, in the 2nd district and has an exhibition starting in the House of Hungarian Wines from March 3rd. I highly recommend popping over sometime to take a look at the weird and wonderful world of Sprok.

* Images "borrowed" from the Sprok and Squint sites. Please visit them for more of the same.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Not An Uplifting Experience

This is a sign that I am seeing more often than I should. It reads

"Rossz vagyok. Javitás sajnos csak reggel"

which translates into

"I'm bad. Unfortunately, fix just in the morning"

which can also be read as

"The lift has broken down yet again for the umpteenth time and so you better start hiking up those stairs. Might be repaired in the morning, might not, who knows?"

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Maybe I'm getting cynical and it's all in my mind but I'm sure that this is happening more frequently. It's a real bummer to see it when you've had a busy day at the office then stopped off at the shops to load up with food on the way home. It's a non-negotiable contract that you signed unwillingly to lug all your bags up 5 flights of stairs. Then again, think of the little old ladies that have to trudge up the steps. That's got to be hard.

People who get trapped inside used to have a alarm bell to ring with a push of a button. It sounded just like a normal doorbell so it was a while before I realised what it was when we first moved here.

Those who have to respond to the bell got fed up with the lift breaking down and the lift getting stuck. But instead of the house paying for repairing the lift properly or installing a new one they've just added another button and another alarm to ring. This one is linked to a telephone somewhere, so that you can chat to someone while you're imprisoned awaiting release.

I love the flat and the house that we live in. It's slowly improving bit by bit so I'm sure it's only a matter of time before it's in tip-top condition. The only problem is that by that time I'm probably going to be a wrinkly, old man muttering to myself as I carry my shopping up the stairs.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Other Side of the Square

After writing about postcards from the edge of Erzsebet ter yesterday, I realised that I never put out a post for the smart, new Erzsebet ter on the other side of the old bus station.

Workers spent a few months pushing and pulling it about in the second half of 2006 and then sometime back in September or October they finished it off and opened it up.

Read moreThese pics are from back then, which explains the lack of bulky winter clothes on the people wandering about. But to be honest, the weather has been so warm this January that it might as well have been yesterday.

The park has lost some of it's wild charm as they have pulled out a lot of bushes and put more paving down. It now appears very sparse and open.

However, some people will see that as a good thing as it's less scary to walk through at night with not a lot of places for nasty monsters to lurk.

Now, instead of an open gravel area where people would walk their dogs and just leave them to it, there's a fenced off doggy area. This should help keep the park clean but I often wonder how often (if ever) the canine cage gets de-crappified. It doesn't take long for it to become a concentrated camp of crap that is so bad, even the dog walkers refuse to enter.

Other improvements include a decent looking basketball court that's actually used (I even saw a group playing around midnight as I was walking home from the pub this weekend) and a good kid's playground with lots of fun swingy, swirly things.

The main statue and fountain has stayed put and I think they have improved the lighting of it. Strangely another statue of a shepherd playing music to his sheep was moved to the other side of the square, but at least they've kept it.

The old statue of Erzsebet that used to sit, hidden in the bushes was hauled away some years ago.

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