48 Hours in Budapest!

Wow! What can I say about two dawns in 48 hours, a ridiculous amount of drinking, walking, bicycling, and making great connections with new Hungarian friends? Great, simply great! These are the kinds of serendipitous and enthralling moments we travel to find. Big thanks to Reka and Krista for their amazing hospitality. Here they are with Rob on day two at one of the numerous drinking spots they took us to:

Reka answered my plaintive email (via Justin Hyatt: Thanks Justin!) and met us at the station as we arrived. She took us on a bus ride to an outer neighborhood of the Pest part of Budapest (we stayed mostly on the Pest side, flatter, more popular, lots to do) where we were given an empty apartment on the 14th floor of an old housing tower, from which I took this photo:

Not super glamorous for sure, but a great gift. We arrived at 11 pm and by the time we’d dropped out stuff and enthusiastically went back to the city for drinks, it was about 1:30. Reka took us to the top of the old socialist department store, now converted to regular supermarket and on the roof is a brand new open air bar, with dancing and other hang-out spaces scattered around on the top floor just beneath it.

This is the building on which sits Corvinteto, the latest in a string of huge open air bars dotting the old Budapest…

After a couple of drinks here, and a short burst of dancing in their disco-balled hip-hop parlor, we walked a few blocks into the old Jewish quarter. There we walked through a nondescript door and a couple of hallways and rooms of an abandoned building to find a gorgeous inner courtyard bar, really quite large. I wish I’d had the camera for it, but anyway, it was called Simple Garden, and there Reka turned us on to the local specialty, Palinka, a grappa-like firewater made from a variety of fruits, distilled to a clear white burn… we all really loved it and drank about 10 shots of different ones together: plum, pear, apple, sour cherries, peach, raspberry… and we bought some to take with us. It has quite a special high, so when in Budapest, don’t miss Palinka… and when you drink it say “Egeszsegedre” (diacritics missing)… It’s a great new way to say “Skol!”…

We got back to our digs at dawn, crashed until about 11 and then went downstairs to Krista’s apartment and she fed us a huge wonderful breakfast. Then we spent the day wandering around in Budapest, so here are pretty pictures of buildings and places around town. The city is an odd amalgamation of gorgeous Beaux Artes fin de siecle architecture and drab socialist functionality, with a healthy smattering of garish 21st century postmodern capitalist chrome thrown in now… here are some images I thought worthy:

Here’s the gang crossing the bridge back from the Castle on the hill, where took the next picture:

Taking buses around during the first day of our time we kept seeing this tantalizing sign on the bus… what *else* might happen if you push this button?

At 6 we met Reka at her office, which she later graciously gave us the run of when we needed a place to work. We had failed to find a bike rental place during the day, so we scrambled to find one and did, which led to a magic evening of bicycling around Budapest until dawn. Once equipped with bikes we went to a bar where I met Sinya, one of the main organizers of Critical Mass here in Budapest (it was thanks to the aforementioned Justin Hyatt that we had the contacts in Budapest, he also a big organizer of CM here, but he just moved away before we arrived). We hung out for a while, went to a great dinner at a place called Paprika where everyone else had the famous Fish Soup, but I had mixed grill “Transylvanian style”… delicious! Here’s an image around 3 a.m. from the evening, as we tried to visit Tuz Tate, another crumbling ruin with an open air club/bar in its midsts:

But before we got there we went to a curious place in the center, a park over a shallow fountain that is also the roof of an art gallery with a big bar/restaurant at its opening. We met Istvan and Sinya there, along with a crowd of young cyclists, and had a lovely time hanging out in the balmy evening. Here I am, well inebriated at the edge of the pond:

There are SO many places to hang out til the wee hours drinking and talking in Budapest. Quite amazing in comparison to our cramped possibilities in SF… and between Berlin and Budapest I had a lot of experiences in bars where I could actually hear well enough to have real conversations! Yowza! We really have to find a place in SF to make our own where we can find our friends and have some drinks and not have to compete with blaring, crappy music… Anyway, try as I might, I don’t stay up til dawn very well… here I am at our 6th or 7th stop, the others are off drinking (more) and dancing a bit, but I fell asleep:

As it was dawn soon after, we finally headed back to our apartment, a half hour bike ride away. We went past this amazing monument circle on the way, and it was just dawning… worth being away just for this moment!

Slept about 4.5 hours before going back to have a soak in the amazing City Park bathhouse. Rob and Ali had decided to stay in the park for an hour before the place opened, so they spent about 7 hours in this place. Here are some images of what is easily the most impressive bathhouse/public pool place I’ve ever seen. Then there are close-ups of the monuments in daylight from the dawn picture just above:

After all this, I went scorching across Budapest, darting like a courier among gridlocked traffic (and there’s no room on the sides here, so it was back and forth from sidewalk to middle of traffic and back again), and made it to the place with Sinya has a big thriving courier business, and it’s also the home to Critical Mass organizing. I was given a shitload of schwag for my ongoing archives, and had a fun brief moment at their place…Here I am with Sinya and another guy whose name I didn’t write down, but he’s on the cover of a local newspaper during Critical Mass holding his bike aloft…

Then, after a frantic couple of hours of reorganizing ourselves and doing some online work, we made it to our 11:30 train to Sofia, Bulgaria… here’s the fab four on the train as we departed at midnight…

A spectacular visit to Budapest, with a bit of everything!… next, Sofia, Bulgaria…

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