When I bought my flat I had no idea what the neighbourhood held in store for me. So sure was I that this was where I was meant to live, I didn’t do my usual stroll around the streets to see what was on offer. The only things I noted was the Catholic Church and the mtro station. Blind faith or sheer stupidity – call it what you will. I’ve never laid claim to being the most careful consumer in the world.
Things come and go in my neighbourhood – shops are open today and closed tomorrow; they transform overnight from a bakery to a nail salon. There is little rhyme or reason to it all, but that’s what makes the nyolcker (local term for the VIIIth district) what it is. It’s even spawned a cult animation film: In a Budapest ghetto, Richie, a young gypsy in love with Julia, daughter of the local Hungarian pimp, wants to put an end to the old family feuds. But there’s only one way to do it: money! For that, Richie goes back in time to eradicate mammoths and turn them into oil he’ll be able to sell later.
From my front windows, I can see across into the IXth and that, too, is a treasure trove of interesting finds. Take Mézes Bödön Kisvendéglő– a little restaurant on the corner of Bokréta utca 28. The upstairs has two dining rooms, one of which is brightly painted with folk murals. The furniture is old and the ambience older still. It doesn’t take much imagination to believe you’ve left the city and are now firmly ensconced in the countryside.
I wandered down one Sunday for lunch with the lovelies MC and DB. There was a daily menu on offer (on a Sunday?) and we had the most delicious cold grape and plum soup, followed by some sort of Hungarian chicken noodle dish. All for the princely sum of 800 ft. (that’s about €2.80 or US$3.60). I went back there again, just to be sure I was on a winner, and this time I took a couple of Australian visitors who were mega impressed with the decor – not quite what they’d seen on their tour so far. We had a choice of soups – cold fruit or pumpkin – and then a mouthwatering catfish stew. Where would you be going, I ask myself.
This week, as I seemed to have shelled out moxie loads of money on flights, health insurance, and …em… books, I’m grateful that it’s still possible to get good food at a reasonable price, literally across the road.