Friday, December 15, 2006
I arrived at Budapest airport very keen and excited to see an old friend from Oxford, Mark is living in Budapest at the expense of his London law firm who sent him to Hungry on secondment.
We met near the Opera House on Andrassy Uta (the Champs Elysees of Budapest, and spine of down town Pest, a street filled with designer boutiques and stunning Christmas lights).
The Callas Cafe was stunning, gorgeous high ceilings, white tiled interior and dark wood furniture. I ordered a traditional Goulash soup, it came with a thick layer of grease on the top that kinda just floated there but was delicious.
Afterwards, Mark showed me to his palatial apartment and I mean PALATIAL, it was a real treat with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Opera House and more rooms than one single person ought to have.
That night, Mark and I arranged to go out for dinner with his friend, another English lawyer also living in Budapest on secondment. We went to a stylish restaurant called Mokka and I proceeded to have the wild bore, compared to the nasty pictures I have seen on the net subsequently the pig taste quite gentle.
That night, after dinner Mark delivered some chocolates to his friend and had a night cap despite saying he would return home, he spent the night and I was left in the palatial apartment by myself. I awoke several times convinced that the phantom from the opera (from across the road) had decided to haunt me instead. The apartment made more noises than I remember any other home letting out. The heating rattled like an old train, and the light fitting in my room was broken and several times I was a woken to my light flashing on and off quickly.
The following night, Mark and I ate at Menza, a funky restaurant that you could be forgiven for thinking was in London or Sydney. I was surprised to see how sophisticated and global Budapest had got in the five years since my last visit, gone were the preforming monkeys at the train stations, the weary looking faces and run down apartment blocks, replaced with a city on the brink of prosperity. Chain stores were in abundance, the same stores that line the high street in every European city, H&M, Zara, Clinique and top shop are on every corner, I also notices an abundance of cranes, perhaps on vacation from Berlin an indicator of the enormous growth and development that had been stimulated through Hungary's inception into the EU.
The next night, Mark and I went to the ballet at the Opera House and I dressed up a treat, we saw the Nutcracker and for a few hours I was back watching the Bolshoi ballet at the Sydney Opera House with my mother aged 5, memories came flooding back, a good sound track always does that... well done Tchaikovsky.
Afterwards, we decided to have dinner at Menza again (because it really is that good) and Mark went back to the office to do what corporate lawyers do best... and called me later to say he was leaving the office.
Mark was late and in typical KP fashion, I managed to strike up a conversation with three empowering and wonderful women sitting near by. The women were great value and consisted of a publisher from Melbourne, a forgien news correspondent from Germany and a photographer from New York.
Together we drank glass after glass of red wine and had a wonderful night.
The girls I met at the bar were angels to me and they spent the next 4 days showering me in attention and friendliness which is good when your host is a corporate lawyer with little or no free time.
Bianca even asked me to do a photo shoot, Palma took me to the Christmas markets, Mags engaged me in good old aussie conversation. It was an unforgettable week.
Posted by KP at 10:20 pm