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Destinations · Europe · hungary · Budapest · Worth knowing ·

Worth knowing

Author: Anothertravelguide.com0 COMMENTS

Worth knowing

- In the late nineteenth century, Budapest was famous as a city with over 500 cafes. As with Viennese cafes in that epoch, they weren't always only places to relax and symbols of the city's joie de vivre. Many artists and writers didn't have sufficient funds to heat their small apartments back then, and so the Hungarian cafe was also often a place to work as well as socialize. Under communist rule, cafes were closed. Now they flourish again, an important feature of Budapest's unique atmosphere. One witness to a bygone era is the Cafe Central (V. Karolyi Mihaly utca 16) - unlike at New York Palace (Erzsebet korut 9-11) or Gerbeaud (Vorosmarty ter 7), also nice places, the Central draws locals and not only tourists. It opened in 1887 and immediately became legendary because of its clientele, which included the creative intelligentsia and the cream of Budapest's writers. Its history is tied to two magazines, whose staffs treated the Central as if it were their home. Closed in 1949, it became the headquarters of the council for paprika growers. After restoration in 2000, the Central was reopened in full glory again. Not much has changed since its heyday - it isn't expensive and it's often packed with customers, some of whom are regulars and some who have simply wandered in. Everyone talks rather loudly, pushing back the wooden chairs, eating, laughing, and simply enjoying part of Budapest's inimitable cafe culture.

- Budapest has endless fascinating streets, courtyards, and squares - some are dressed up, others tattered. One of them, which I discovered totally by accident, is found in what was once the old Jewish Quarter, not very far from the elegant Andrassy Boulevard. Gozsdu udvar links seven interconnected courtyards and once led from the quarter's primary shopping street, once graced by the Jewish market, joining Dob Street, and creating a kind of city within the city. This series of arcades was designed by Gyozo Czigler in 1904 and was meant to be home to various Jewish businesses. The way in which one courtyard joins another creates a strange feeling of infinity. It seems as though the passageways are never-ending when you pass through them. There aren't many pedestrians here. Long nearly abandoned, the courtyards stood empty and the street withered. Life still hasn't quite returned, and there's a somewhat eerie, otherworldly atmosphere to the place. Nevertheless, restoration is slowly taking place and a couple of cafes, a few shops and a fitness club mean it's not completely dead. It's said that there's a plan for luxury apartments. Budapest, despite its air of the old world and stately facades, is still as much in an incessant state of change as any other city in Central Europe.

- Budapest is not particularly bicycle-friendly; the bikes available are also not as modern as, say, in Vienna. However, the overall service and price range are quite good here. In any case, keeping to the sidewalk is advisable whenever possible: the motoring culture is a bit on the aggressive side in this country. As for bicycle rentals, Anothertravelguide reccommends www.budapestbike.hu (13 Wesselenyi Street, phone 06 30 9 44 55 33).

 

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