Friday, 16 May 2008

Budapest, Part 3: Night

There is a gentle intensity about the Hungarian nightlife. It is similar to its Eastern European neighbors in that Budapest loves a good night out, drinking and dancing until the sun comes up. But the Hungarians have a spirit about them that seems more easy going and less intense than the Polish or Germans. They are definitely not pretentious like the French.

When I was in Budapest, Lena made sure I saw all the various aspects of the nightlife. Well, I will specify that we did not go to any strip or sex clubs, a reputation that Budapest somewhat encourages due to the number of tourists. However, despite being named the "Sex Capital," the streets were remarkably safe and as long as you stayed away from the crazy winos and alcoholics like the one we encountered on the airport bus, you were fine.

Enough about the merits of walking on Budapest streets at ungodly hours!

The first night I arrived I was too incapacitated by lack of sleep (I'd woken before dawn) to do anything. However, the next night Lena took me to a party in a friend's flat where I promptly met her international crew of friends. I was informed by the Hungarian that the wine label Danko was "a lifestyle" and given the quality of Hungarian wines, I would fondly join this lifestyle. (Note: Danko is only a lifestyle for those who can afford bottles of 3 euro wine or less) We then all went to a student night at a club called Living Room. Let's just say it was like a student night at any club anywhere in the world. Too many bodies, one "free drink," bad music, and guys to avoid. However, it is in someways both better and worse when you can't speak their language. They might actually be interesting people in their own right, but there is no way to ever figure it out. However, it also becomes an easy escape mechanism when there is no way to communicate. After several hours of this, Lena and I decided to go back to her apartment.

The next night proved better, or at least made for a more interesting story. We had been invited to a Polish dinner party - Lena's Polish friends were throwing a dinner party for their friends to introduce them to their native cuisine. That said, what I did eat was excellent. I can always go for a good pierogi. However, what we had thought was a sit down dinner became much more of an epic battle to get food. The Polish group had originally only invited their Polish and Slavic friends but it quickly morphed into 35 people for dinner and food for 10. Luckily, one of the skills I have mastered being a poor undergraduate is how to quickly navigate a buffet of free food. Of course, there's also an art to being polite at the same time. Another point of interest: there was more than plenty vodka to go around multiple times for everyone.

Afterward, Lena convinced half of the dinner party to join us at Szimpla, one of Budapest's "found bars." By "found bar", it is an old decaying building which is now a bar and that has been decorated by objects found around the streets. I believe I've seen these kind of establishments in various German films. Think found art plus cool hangout and a little post-communism mixed in. Clubbing seems to be the preferred option among many Europeans, but I absolutely adored this place. It was artlessly cool and had the perfect mix of ambience and people. No one was too hip or too touristy or too anything in particular.

Of course when we went to a jazz club, Fat Mo's, later on, we encountered a completely different environment. This place had once been a sleek bar of the 1920s and still looked so. The jazz band was remarkably good and the Hungarian twist to the music was all the more interesting. Unfortunately Scotland is a bit of a wasteland for music unless you like Brit rock or traditional Scottish music, both of which are fabulous. But forget about jazz. And if I hear another cover band playing "Sweet Home Alabama" in a Scottish accent, I am going to kill someone. The folk/rock band we heard at some other bar also was surprisingly good and they were singing in Hungarian. Europeans seem to think that if they sing in English it makes the music better. No comment.

I'm sure there are other things I'm missing from our night adventures. There are still plenty of other things I haven't even gotten around to like going into a random side door of a museum and having to be escorted out, or the adventures of the Roman baths. But all in good time. I must get back to reading Ian Rankin's Black and Blue for my Scottish Culture and Society final. Now that I'm on page 311 it's getting pretty good, however it's not exactly high brow literature. However it is Scottish:

Glasgow wasn't such a bad place: he'd been to cities in the States that could eat it for brunch.


cheney said...

i saw bence last night for the first time since when you visited...he was drinking Danko as always.

escorted out of the roman baths? i don't remember this...

i am glad to hear that you enjoyed the Budapest nightlife. I am rather fond of it myself.

russeaime said...

No, no. I was escorted out of the museum. I should remember to use more commas in my posts.