Budapest is actually two cities. Buda is the large hill on the west side of the Danube. Pest is flat and stretches out far to the east from the river. Many of the inhabitants of Budapest men sport moustaches not seen since I watched a marathon of cowboy movies in a leather bar. We are talking serious ‘tash country. The inhabitants of Buda prefer what I call the Magyar special number one. Picture a bushy Fu Manchu that tapers to points just south of the corners of the wearer’s mouth. To distinguish themselves from their cousins on the other side of the bridge the Pestians go for the Magyar special number two. This is more of your standard baroque Germanic moustache. The whole continent is littered with statues of imperial assholes sporting one of these. So, it is the accident of one’s birth location that dictates the Budapestian’s facial accoutrement and not fashion.
The cuisine of the city is hearty. Lots of thick sauces and meat. I had cockerel in a red wine sauce with the ubiquitous dollop of cream. It was tasty but I have to admit my choice was dictated more out of a sense of justice. I have eaten a fair number of hens, and I thought it only correct that that smug rooster get his this time. For anyone who cares, cockerel tastes just like chicken but a little more gamey. This sense of justice is also why I never pass on any ‘exotic’ meats. Westerners are quite bigoted meat eaters. I see no reason why after having chosen to eat flesh should I only pick on cows, sheep, and chickens. So, I have digested a good number of god’s creatures. Dog, Donkey, Snake, etc. I have had the whole Chinese zodiac at the end of my fork at one time or another. This time cockerel got his.
My first impression of the city kept changing. As the airport bus drove me to the hotel, Budapest would remind me of New York, then Paris, and then even Florida. It was odd. The city is certainly in flux after having become one of the newest members of the European community. There is construction everywhere. Another layer of living being built upon the layer before. The strata of human history have never been so clearly displayed as it is in the streets of Budapest. Budapest unfortunately is in a perfect spot to be passed between larger empires since its birth. Anyone making there way across Europe in the name of Empire took time to grab Budapest or at the very least took time to raze it. One will see an imperial building built by Austrians that the communists left to rot which stands next to a statue of some Turkish vizier. At the top of Buda there stands a building covered with the pot marks of bullets. They could be from the Nazis, the Allies, the Communists, the revolt, or even earlier. When I was walking through Pest, I came across a huge police cordon that was so large I was having trouble getting around it. I asked a policeman for directions. He explained that a construction worker had found world war two bombs. Sixty years later, they still find these things. I wonder how that construction worker felt after he realized he had been knocking around a half-century-old bomb with a shovel? I would need a holiday.
Despite the occasional discovery of unspent ordinance, Budapest is a lovely city. I hope I get to go back and show off my version of the Magyar special number two.