|A nighttime view of the Houses of Parliament in Budapest.|
I'm sitting on a hotel bed in Budapest right now, drinking a café latte and listening to Nat King Cole sing "Oh Holy Night." Sing it to me, Nat. SING IT. Times like these make me feel like I was born in the wrong generation, you know? I mean, I know it's been said approximately 37,000 times, but don't you just want to step into an episode of Mad Men once in a while? Or sit down to drinks with Ernest Hemingway in a Parisian café in the Roaring Twenties? Or wear a bowler hat and fishnet stockings whilst entertaining a crowd of expats and Berliners in the 1930s, à la Liza Minnelli in Cabaret? (That last one might be a shared dream between only myself and trannies everywhere.)
|The famous Chain Bridge, with Buda Castle behind it.|
The point is that here in Budapest, things feel different from the rest of Europe - almost like a different time. It's not like ladies are walking around in corsets or anything (and P.S. there is more free, unlocked Wifi here than in any other city I've been to on this continent), but somehow, being here feels like being transported to some other time. Despite being a bit rundown (one Hungarian girl told me that locals like to think of it as "shabby chic"), there is a lot of soul in this little city: there's a lawless, Wild-West type feeling out here without the actual danger factor.
Like Berlin, it's a capital city that is cheap to live in: rent, public transport, and groceries are almost laughably inexpensive, and even though there is a black soot marring the façades of many buildings, the architectural bones of this city are beautiful, and worth saving. And mark my words, since the cat's out of the bag on Berlin, I think Budapest will be the next city artists and creative types flock to - MARK MY WORDS.
Some things are still done the old-fashioned way here. When Dan and I were purchasing round-trip train tickets to Vienna, the clerk used carbon copy paper to make doubles, and there was a 10-minute long process of stamping and filling in - rather than a instant printout from a computer. And somehow, it felt more real: like this train ticket was more authentic than any other train ticket I'd handled before.
They use their own currency, the forint, rather than the Euro. People go to the bathhouses on Sundays. Typical Hungarian food can be found everywhere - not just in touristy neighborhoods where they jack up the price 200%. All of this, I suppose, lends itself to feeling like I've "been somewhere": after the common, albeit beautiful, Gothic and Art Nouveau architecture that seems to populate every European city and the chain bakeries that can be found in every train station (I'm talking to you, Le Crobag), it feels good to be in a place that seems to have retained some of it natural essence as the march toward global homogenization wears on.