Wanderlust: Budapest


A broken down castle would be the best way to describe the central train station in Budapest, or as it turns out, most of the city.  Obviously an architectural phenomenon, this city hasn’t been cleaned properly since before WW2, but that’s part of its sexy bohemian cache.  Its rich cultural landscape spills out onto each and every element of the city.  First stop- Ruszwurn Bakery for the rival tortes to the Viennese Sacher-Torte (Ruszwurm was much better and far cheaper) – These baked goods were the best of the my entire journey.


There is strong feel of political unrest infecting the Hungarian people…some blame it on the economy, most blame it on the dictatorship-like new government. Some new age Hungarians blame the Jews…Crazy, I know. I felt really uneasy in Budapest…especially as a SHAMELESS gay American Jew. I had several experiences that made me feel a new wave of anti-Semitism which only became real when I opened Time magazine on my flight home from Budapest to an article on the new Fascism of Hungary. You can read a few articles here: 123


Hungary lost 600,000 Jews in WW2, and there doesn’t seem to be enough to memorialize this loss. Especially considering there are more than 100,000 registered (closer to 220,000 in total) Jews in Hungary today. The few monuments that remain are heavily protected, often disguised, when instead they should be visited and graced with flowers and rocks (Jewish symbol of respect to graves and memorials). The political situation in Hungary is going someplace very unsafe.  The word on the street told me so, but I felt uneasy in every part of the city.


It’s hard to think of the politics when you are in such a picturesque city with such rich and satisfying comfort food. We had to visit the main city market which was a real experience, followed by a quick visit to the outdoor hot baths (it was 30F outside) before we settled down at the Central Cafe. The Central Cafe not only serves up authentic Hungarian food and wine, but was said to have been the cafe where the post-communist revolution was planned and later implemented. The ceilings are as high as the tensions once escalated by revolutionists at this neighborhood corner spot– what an experience.


The modern day answer to these cafe institutions are the new hipster pubs popping up in the unused courtyards of large mansion block buildings in the Jewish quarter. Szimpla (the hippest of these pubs) is without a sign, but identified by a row of vintage bicycle tire frames. It feels like the attic of several generations scattered over a large indoor courtyard. Mix-matched sofas, chairs, tables and lighting fixtures…with 20 and 30 something hipsters, sipping and smoking while they shamelessly post images onto their blogs from their Apple devices. It was really refreshing to see this new age modification of the Central Cafe style establishment, because this city is about ready for another revolution.


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