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This website chronicles my own emerging discovery of a city that I spend several months each year exploring. Fond, enthusiastic, critical, probing, it tries to capture Budapest’s rhythm and pace. Originally a set of notes for the guests in the apartments we rent to visitors, it is evolving into something more…an opinionated outsider’s guide to a city I have loved since long before I ever set foot in it.
I am an American, born in New York. I first visited Budapest when I was 25 (for 3 days), and then waited another 25 years before my second 3-day visit. Although I now spend several months each year there, I am enough of an outsider to feel all the rough edges, to know how it feels to be the only person in a room who doesn’t speak Hungarian.
My father came to his love of Hungary more naturally. He was born in Csurgo and spent his youth in Budapest, and I traveled the city in the stories he told. Charming, twinkling, slightly risqué, mischievous, courtly, very Old World. It made the city seem magical and special, gave it a heightened sense of fun and operetta buffo. When my wife and I arrived for a longer stay it was, for me, as though I were filling in the flesh of an intimately remembered silhouette outline.
You can come to know the city in much the same way, since my father wrote down a collection of those tales in the mid-1960s and they were reissued a couple of years ago in the US and in Hungary. They’re often kitschy and, by definition, are dated, but they retain much of their flavor and, by extension, that flavor is paprika, goose liver, rétes (strudel), and cucumber salad. The book is called Strictly From Hungary.
This blog proceeds from the knowledge that there are tons of guidebooks and websites devoted to the sights and tourist attractions of the city. If that’s what you’re looking for, there’s a characteristically quirky peregrination here, but mostly I try to cover the things that I can’t find in English elsewhere (and I don’t speak Hungarian beyond a handful of curses and construction terms; in a pinch I can tell you what to do to your mother with a piece of sheetrock): restaurants, food, survival, shopping …