Like a particularly malignant infestation these Nemzeti Dohányboltak have cropped up everywhere in the last few weeks. No longer Mindjárt lesz they are here Most. Like scurrying cock-a-roaches they have found there way into every abominable cesspit and seedy enclave in the city as well as discreetly off the radar in more frequented areas. They seem to have lent squalor to every corner with their dark foreboding exteriors. Chocolate brown, though some folk have suggested elsewise brown on the colour chart, their prohibitive 18 s sign has led in some cases to tourists avoiding, or entering, them taking them for sex shops. The national colours seem misplaced in such illustrious company!
First, why the sense of clandestine usually held for the dildo dealing outlets or casinos or other establishments of such character? Maybe, as has been suggested, it’s because the shady sorts are indeed involved. Whatever the spin you believe, as with the games machine debacle, vested interests have been served. Welcome IN Hungary? Naw, welcome TO the world is all!
I dedicate this to Rebecca, Zolsi, Sziki, and last but not least, Vivien. Who are they you may be asking: my friends, my past lovers, my colleagues, my acquaintances; My children!?
None of these things but special nonetheless. Here in my heart a place is kept just for them.
Let me tell you about Rebecca: she held my destiny in the Palm of her hands. Clear and sharp she set it and I embraced it. Zolsi offered a taste of the sweet, and I left cherry picking indulged in the nectare of a fruitful intervention.
Sziki’s cold gaze dissipated in a Brusselian whiteout, I was now most truly and fully immersed in the dolce vita. Even statues offered their own sense of relief.
Oft times the self proclaimed Cap’n, I was met upon the high seas by Vivien, daring me to engage. Not to be left floundering I set sail for the oceans of the mind and I’m still not sure when I’ll, if ever, return.
A mention I feel is necessary for Gyuri but I have no clue why. Did we meet in the shadows of my memory? And then there’s a place, not a person: the Liget Kocsma. Maybe Gyuri is the mad grinning stranger purveying such on the foamy side of life.
Now before you think that was that there was a moment when Gianni stood in horror, or intrigued, I can never tell, and was set on the path to perfect pizza. Sounds like the beginning of a good joke. An Irishman goes into an Italian pizzeria…
…and add the fact that I was coming from the Belgian beer festival and all would seem sensible, at least in some vein.
Year 3 of an eternal programme to get things to perfection in all ways cider-ly. First 2 years had the highlights and the low-lights, the last batch actually gassy and sweet on opening, while the previous year’s sour torment was over-ridden by the fact that there certainly was an effect, even if this was just a fast track to poisoning. Later harvesting versus earlier harvesting is also in debate this year with 3 specific time periods pencilled in. Today, 12/8/12, being the first of these with the windfalls all to choose from. The next harvest will also be windfalls and…while the last should be tree picked. Either way this year will see the introduction of the red apples from the garden too. Sweeter to taste let’s see how that translate into brewing and end product. Fingers crossed.
The bus that takes me over the hill from Paseréti to Kolossy tér is a tale of two cities within the confines of an even older one, Buda.
What I mean by this is, well, this! Over my side, where I jump the bus there lies the relatively sleepy suburb, albeit Hűvösvölgyi út which is an artery bleeding both ways. A few feet off, however, and one can capture the comparative solitude whether passing low beyond the tram tracks or high beyond the 129 bus’s last port of call this side of town.
On the other side, the yang to this ying, is the positively busy hub around Kolossy with many’s the bus passing through either up Szépvölgyi út or along below on Lajos utca. The tram, No. 17, also dissects the area and with the road, and pavement, works ongoing in this sweltering August, the place truly is a hive of activity.
But let me tell you about Disneyland, or Noddy Town, or whatever it was my student coined in reference to Kolossy tér. It is a place with facilities, provisions to both commerce and fun, and together where applicable. However, it has never quite captured my undying interest. Given the choice of Anya’s, later Tina Turner’s, bar on Podmaniczky utca in the 6th district, Pest, or any of the places here, whether dives or fancy, I’d have leaned towards the former. It was all about the atmosphere, and this Buda haven lacked of all this.
That said, today in my leisure I walked over from Pacsirtamező utca, through the Timár utca stop, itself Flórián tér directed – I, however, about facing going the opposite way and as I strolled along Lajos, the pretty girls from the Szolarium out smoking, the old women dragging trolleys laden from the market, I began to notice the söröző-s this side, not the Bécsi út side, of the Kolossy complex. Perhaps the casino and the Leroy always put me off there, but here, suddenly I found myself pondering a drink, the tables outside a definite lure. I didn’t stop this time. I passed them on. I’d made up my mind to go home quickly to my little flowers, but the seed had planted itself – for another day.
Passing Café 5 on the corner of Szépvölgyi and Bécsi I glanced at an alluring menu: 990 huf for a 2 course meal and thought, definitely another day.
Bouncing back over the hill now and on up to the Bölöni György stop on the 29 I’m beginning to notice a growing importance to this once tedious transport line.
There is a house in New Orleans, there may even be a hotel in California, but if there is any sense to be made of any of this try NAV, post-APEH, Budapest.
When I first tempted the threshold I turned and fled and if only I had listened to these base first instincts, and stayed the hell away, but as the man said, there are only two certainties in life, Death and Taxes, and here I am fighting the mortal battle while playing to my idiocies as a semi-honest man. On one of the hottest days on offer, topping 40c, I find myself in the foyer (!) of the Kertesz utca NAV office, the shade is welcome even if the air-conditioning comes in the way of the coolness exuding from the security man’s tub of ice-cream.
Ticket to hand and my number called I go delving into the mystery finding within a beast of a machine set in the middle of the room freshening up the interior. If this is hell, well, apart from the seeming shabbiness, it isn’t at all bad but I’m aware of the old adage – don’t judge a book by its cover – but as with previous experiences my temptation to explode into a rage is mostly down to my lack of understanding ( so that’s why there are so many conflicts in the world!). Again the lady borders on the edge of Job, patience tested by my continual expressions of “Nem ertem”. Now where people criticise the office staff at any tax branch anywhere in the world I have to come to their defence and say – listen it’s a bullshit job working for bullshit consecutively corrupt governments, and having to deal with people’s discontent day to day. Noone wants to pay taxes, not even administrators I imagine, but it is not their fault that the system has the average Joe running ragged. They are not the financial consultants, policy drafters, the experts credited with calamity. They have been duly employed to offer the buffer between the people and the shit (as are politicians but more on that later) and if shit floats then we, the hapless taxpayers, are face down in the deep-end with the same civil servants stepping on our backs to climb up. The problem is, they, too, are caught in the chaos and are being swept away on the whim of the bastards floating on top, who seer in the light while their putrid stink rises. In the sewers the rats don’t bother to dress smartly. On the oceans of power the stink of corruption is a badge of honour and up there nobody needs to hide who they really are. It’s just us, the drowners, who feel compelled to play with masks while casting accusations. “Oh they’re corrupt!” we scream but on the filter of leagues this merely bubbles to the top as another unanswered request. To them who reside there this is redundantly pretty. They are not fishermen, not interested in the depths and so we may pilfer our happiness for the remnants of hope, ordering this energy into another ream of hot-air-rising.
Redundantly pretty. That’s all. And just in case you thought it could change – remember we all stink up there so take heed and grow gills. Stop trying to support them with the banality of our existence.
On that note let’s remove ourselves to election time, and those moments when the bigger fishes* drop low to ‘dirty’ their filthy hands with the propostioning of the electorate. I say fishes here because they are not the boatsmen, merely the bait, ironically. They have only the capacity to aspire. Up where they are it’s brighter and closer to the stink…
What says you? Cast in the darkness with justice abounding or on a cruise conscious of the depths of depravity beneath? Trick question! If you’re up there you’re not thinking down here. But let me realign…
Come election time, come the chance not to change and revolt; toppling, sinking and rising on the crest of a new wave – this at best is just the inversion of power. The only true revolution allows for the acceleration of decadence and the collapse into the depths of everything. Only from the ground can we build a foundation and this is the flaw of everything. If you truly despise the system destroy everything it ever represented, represents, and will have the potential to represent. To allow tit-bits to favour you is to allow the germination once again of the festering seed, or rather to kill the daffodil but leave the bulb. And please, I don’t want to hear the “but that’s such a pretty flower”. If you’ve missed the analogy drink cyanide – one less dope when all comes to pass. In the real revolution the pretty, the ugly, the insane, the destitute, the intelligent, criminals, addicts, fools, the best, the worst, shall all be considered first as this – equal! And from that premise we must then move forward rationally towards a better society. Nothing is for the betterment of humanity if it doesn’t include all humanity**.
Ah, but I may have strayed. So apart from the bad news conveyed by her, the lady in APEH, now NAV, that I dealt with was a sweetheart, a darling. She even had the gall to compliment my Hungarian. Now that took courage. In truth I understand more than I once used to*** but please, no more compliments, no, oh you shouldn’t have…OH, you didn’t!
Leaving Kertesz utca and strolling into Pertu Cafe on Dob utca, I have indeed found a rhythm, a rhythm increasingly indicative of the understanding of my position. Unless I want to be drawn into immorality I must strengthen myself against the temptation, and even when those around me may fall victim to the aesthetic, I must be strong enough to enjoy life on my terms. As we in the drowning department are under the illusion that our voice matters, them in their boats in that stinking hell hole up yonder are also deluded into thinking we really care.
Choose not to care about them and one day they’ll have to submerge themselves deep enough that they shall really be in our domain. Until then, civil servants beware. You are test subjects till the cowards come along.
Viva la revolucion…whichever one you may choose.
* Fishes as a plural can exist and whereas it may usually be defined as the different species rather than the number of individuals it has its biblical usage in the Miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes, so there!
**Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind then that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; and while there is a criminal element, I am of it; and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
The tram that runs through the heart of Pest is the Combino, a worm like creature that betrays it owners by such description, and I’m under no illusions about people power; this is the government’s toy on loan to us and at any time available to be removed. When first purchased it couldn’t be held on the tracks so these had to firstly be reinforced. Now I’m loath to suggest that this was a lack of foresight on local government’s part. Call me cynical, but for me the idea of sensible thought at all was absolutely secondary to profit. There is little urban planning that is purely altruistic. Sometimes there is on offer more than lip-service but this is partially due to a significant lobby. Here in Budapest the Critical Mass gang may have had some hand in coercing the coffers of the local politicians (taxpayers money actually) but in Ireland, at least Cork, even that was presented almost as a pie in the face. The half arsed attempt to create bicycle lanes there was insulting.
Now a few pretty laneways in Budapest for our two-wheeled compatriots doesn’t amount to a victory if looked at from the greater perspective – the Combino again. After ‘readjusting’ the tracks it was soon realised that, well, in the summer these metal corridors of transportation stink of body odour (b.o./ be oh!) and coupled with the intense heat generated they were a punishment. My times in the confessional were a Funfair in comparison but, of course, on the latter issue I was one of the lucky ones!
“Bless me Father (!) for I have sinned…”
“Haven’t we all, my boy, haven’t we all!”
“Really Father now what have you…”
Not to have taken the initial plunge into the funds and bought the air-conditioned versions WAS money-saving but in the long term money-wasting. Installing air-conditioning into these models later would prove much more expensive than the first outing, and maybe even less efficient functionally speaking.
Dumb? Yes, if you thought they’d been thinking but let’s be honest, they hadn’t, they aren’t, and they never will, at least not when it comes to us. To accuse them of erroneous judgement is to attribute to them a humanity that is laughable. And all this without one mention of the Metro 4. Good God! Good luck!!!
“A masik kusz, nem szeretem!” Tara announced defiantly.
She didn’t like the ‘other’ bus. Well, I knew what she meant. A funky-blue bus – air-conditioned – has arrived in Budapest and appears sporadically on our bus route, 129. That I, and Tara, both, prefer the older, smellier, rattlier models is to understand our traditionalist values…hehe.
The new one as we entered was immediately declared wrong by Tara as I lowered her into her seat. Was it the A-C? Maybe. The constant beeping, however, I fear was the real culprit, and the fact that there is that blackout on the windows. Her view was obstructed – she being every bit the explorer already, this was tantamount to blindness in front of the Greats (visual artists I mean though Pele or Messi would necessarily apply).
We suffered the journey, needless to say, songs and reassurances doing the bare minimum to provoke subsidence, and yet the truth was plain to see. She was unhappy. On the way home later, an older model, still expressed some reservations but this may have only been due to the lingering memory.
Next time she missed the funky bus deliberately with Andi and it crashed. Maybe she knew. Later the following day she began to profess a love for all motorised vehicles, at least as long as they fell within the range of securely familiar. No fancy schmancy. At least not till she turns three and wants to impress the Kindergarten ‘bastard’!
Homeward bound on the newer model now I find myself curiously inclined to wondering – what is it that is fundamentally wrong. The seats though tiered are more coach like which provides the comfort. There generally seems to be a more logical layout even for the prams, but something in that intercity feel only to the suburbs may be a little disconcerting for the tormented traveller while furthermore the air-conditioning is not exactly tip top, well not down the back at least. I’m beginning to feel the nausea as once I did on the school mini-bus we had, all huddled in together on those day trips to the beyond. Heat stuffiness, vomitessness. I’m merely implying a discomfort but I’m willing to heed my daughter’s senses more than the rationality as proffered by those in the know. Haven’t some of those clowns also condoned GM foods – those soulless, tormented miscreants, whose eventual suicide is their only true gain. The yields initially astonishing are recorded, in fact, as depleting rapidly in each subsequent year. The super pesticides used, and flaunted airborne into neighbouring non-GM fields, are developing an environment where super-pests are slowly but surely ensuring the death of everything.
Our technology, I fear, has only given us the illusion of comfort because it tinkers with our memory and encourages us to think that we cannot live any other way. Now where did I put my phone? I know: I‘ve got a map app on it and GPS, but really what use is that if I can’t even find the phone. And no, I don’t have that whistle-and-it-beeps key-finder either! Damn-it! Well enough of this. Here’s my stop…
Why this street in particular caught my attention has nothing to do with what’s nearby, not even that a famous writer took up residence here (if there was one I’d like to know), but that to an English speaker’s eye the actual street name could, in certain circles, and for reasons of mere hilarity, take on a whole other significance.
You see in English both the words ‘pity’ and ‘pang’ exist and to put it briefly they, in concert, would seem to suggest a physical discomfort caused by a rush of sorrow for somebody. What, if anything could this mean? Come with me!
In fact, placing these two words together in English can make a lot of sense and where a person is particularly sensitive this could even be considered a physical, emotional, or on a greater scale, a psychological condition. A pitypang could cause a physical manifestation with a display of fresh tears, not unlike women (me never! just dust in my eye) weeping to every romantic comedy ever made. The emotional reaching deeper could put one’s spirit off tilt for a period of time, one to an immeasurable number of days, not unlike…! However, the final disposition, itself entering the realm of madness could make certain people a lot of money even if the final prognosis is no more enlightening than it was some thousands of dollars, pounds, euros (remember them?) before.
We can of course have pangs of hunger, pangs of guilt and maybe having pangs of hunger on a medium income can cause pangs of guilt when we realise that we are, regardless of our immediate state, a lot better off than 90% of the world.
Anyway on a bus one evening coming home from work, looking up from my book, the sun nearly in my eyes, I managed to glimpse this sign and from that moment this moment ensued. “And that has made all the difference.”
P.S. Pitypang is the Hungarian word for Dandelion…by the way
There are places where you can go to use the internet for free. In fact, most of the American chain fast food and coffee shops provide it but with a twist, a half hour limit with a code on your receipt. In some places the sockets don’t function, deliberately or otherwise (maybe there’s a code for them too). Those places, however, which cater to both needs, i.e. really free internet (unlimited) and a charge-up for you battery, are worth mentioning.
Okay so the great offender concerning the sockets is our all too popular Ronald the Clown gaff but to lump others such as the Coffee Chains in here was probably unfair. However, I have another purpose. These big places are already thriving so why not bring some attention to the little man.
Fasor Espresszó, where I am now typing this is one of those little diamonds in the rough. It’s situated Buda side and has all the studenty appeal, old vinyls decorate the ceiling and cassettes serve as curtains, strung together as they are in a cascade of memory! Bottle tops comprise the chain for flushing in the toilet. So if this is quirky enough, and, hey, the drink is cheap, then come on along.
Another spot Pest side is the Izabella Kávézó on Izabella utca. On the corner of Szondi utca, and in the heart of the 6th district it’s a good spot not only for a bit of surfing but also for the football and other sports events.
Now the Cafe Cream*, or Corner Cafe, on the corner of Hattyú and Batthyány utca in the 1st district is only worth a mention here in terms of location. It has no WIFI but it does have available sockets if that’s all you require.
Ostrom*, also in the 1st district, is one of those places that provides WIFI from opening, late afternoon, till, well, whenever. It also boasts two screens for the football.
As I’m at it I’ll put a word in for an ex-pat place deeper into the heart of the 6th district, on Mozsár utca. It’s the Caledonia ( Kaledonia) by name and is run by a Scottish man and Hungarian woman. A perfect partnership in business? Seemingly so.
While there are plenty more and I will keep you updated take these as a sampler to the greater good of the smaller, but cosier spots to kick back and while away a few hours in the company of the World Wide Web.
I’m a pedestrian who cycles a bike and occasionally gets into a car, on the passenger side (the cause of confusion more than once).
As a pedestrian I will not stand at a red light and wait while the street remains empty of cars and other motorised transport, though I must say that I don’t usually step out in front of cyclists either. I will wait for the green man if there is a risk to my well-being but I’m not about to be that overly cautious type who denies themselves the ability to discern between what is or is not potentially dangerous.
When it comes to being a cyclist I appreciate it when a pedestrian realises the red cycle lane and tries their best to stay on their side but where a cycle lane passes through a junction such as at Budagyöngye, the cycle lane mingling with the bus stop area and the entrance to shopping centre, I’m also tolerant of the absent-mindedness of pedestrians or for that matter their sheer dogged determination to catch that bus. As I move through this part slowly I never have to practise wild, evasive manoeuvres as I have sometimes seen done by other cyclists. However, the fact that some pedestrians never get out of the way is rather an inconvenience and, well, rude.
Never having being a motorist; I flirted with the option at one time, but this was mainly confined to back roads around the city of Cork, deserted as they were, and as I have never had the inconvenience of ‘stepping out’ pedestrians and ‘dodging and weaving’ cyclists, I cannot say but as to my experiences watching others and being in the car with some of the greatest offenders when it comes to highway fascism.
In Budapest motorists rule which has led to movements like Critical Mass being set up with the intention to try to extend the awareness of a cyclist’s right to the road, at least a small part of it. Successfully executed in their mobilisation they have managed to turn the streets of Budapest, once a death trap into something akin to a promise of safety. There are still places where the cyclists have to decide between life and haste. The Chain Bridge (Lánchíd) comes to mind.
The measure of their achievements is most noted in the emergence of a greater number of cycle paths around the city which is all very well and good till the conflict begins to shift towards the two groups who should be united, the pedestrians and the cyclists. You see not only do motorists treat all and sundry with contempt but so too does the hierarchy appear between cyclists and pedestrians. Too often I have heard the warning ting-a-ling on the pavement where no cycle path is drawn and while I consider it polite to move aside, an insistent ringer is most deserving of all available expletives, and where both those on foot and on bike have to contend for a tiny patch, e.g. along certain parts of the bank walk between Margaret’s Bridge (Margit Híd) and the Chain Bridge, it becomes abundantly clear which group considers itself the superior.
This, I have seen boil over into assaults, physical or verbal, and I have been witness more than once to a cyclist being seized, handlebars first, and getting an almighty dressing down from a disgruntled pedestrian. The worst case was when a hulk of a man held a girl up who had been merrily ringing her way along a pavement near the Varosmajor, and not on the cycle path side. She had, at time of accostation, been attempting to squeeze her bike between the wall of a building and a parked car (note the car was on the pavement and had graciously allowed enough space for a slightly built man to pass through at a struggle) and had thought to remove the man mountain from her path, he half wedged, half wriggling already between said obstacles. With her ring-a-ding-dinging his anger was forthcoming!
Do I propose a solution? Not really, other than a modicum of respect all round. As for the big man he could probably do with a chill pill; the girl on the other hand I’d prescribe a reality check. I, for now, have had my say. I do bid you all adieu. Safe travelling!