Tuesday, August 20, 2013


After days of sifting through hotels and VRBO listings in search of the 'right' place to stay (I must admit, it's something I obsess about), it was time to make a decision. Unfamiliar with the city and its neighborhoods, this was becoming difficult. It's not that there were no good options for accommodations in Budapest - on the contrary. What was difficult was choosing just one! Then, there it was, the apartment! ... complete with white linen slipcovers, Ingo Maurer lighting and an amazing location. Something about it made me do a double-take. It was almost as though there was someone who knew me too well created this apartment to tempt me.

The dining area opens onto a high-ceilinged living room with French doors. On the right is the master bedroom (below). Notice the slipcovers of the same washable linen as those on the dining room chairs. And the flat-felled seams!

Best of all: the red refrigerator. When I saw this photo (below) I emailed the owners in wild excitement hoping the apartment was still available. This fridge is a work of art. It may sound ridiculous, but if the owners chose something like this, it signified that everything else in the apartment would be equally amazing. My hunch turned out to be true. Weeks later when we opened the refrigerator, we found a bottle of champagne and a bowl of Balaton cherries.

Even my son thought it was cool (below). And he doesn't think anything is cool.

It's up to you to decide if the stencil of the old lady cooking in the background is charming or bizarre. My vote is charming.

At the end of the day, the most amazing thing about this apartment was the subtle and beautiful way it related to its location and neighborhood. The owners, Sandro and Claudia Negri, are Swiss, which perhaps explains their meticulous attention to detail! After long hours of exploring the city, there was nothing better than relaxing on this balcony for an apero to observe life in the street below.

NEXT WEEK: more about the Egyetem Tér neighborhood.

[If you're interested in staying here, contact Sandro and Claudia at].

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


While investigating a few of Budapest's ruin pubs one evening (see 30 July 2013 post), we happened to witness at Szimpla Kert the local ritual of burning sugar on a spoon to drip into absinthe prior to its consumption. An interesting and beautiful sight!

Friday, August 2, 2013


There are so many layers to the urban fabric of Budapest that it is impossible to not to be intrigued and fall in love with this city. We did - within the first five minutes of arrival! It is at the same time gorgeous and gritty, modern and vintage, polished and patinaed, hilly and flat. Its complex history has resulted in a diversity which extends to language, food, architecture and music. "Cultures have been clashing in Budapest for a good many centuries, and usually not to Hungary’s benefit. But through several waves of occupation, tyranny and heroic revolt, it has become one of the few places on earth that have learned the trick of transforming that clash into music." (NYTimes)


The city wasn't always a single metropolis. Prior to 1873, when Buda and Pest were combined, they were separate cities on either side of the Danube joined by the first permanent bridge, Széchenyi Lánchíd (the Chain Bridge). Amazingly, it was designed and shipped in sections from the UK to Hungary in the 1840's. The dignified and intricate framework of crisscrossed steel is studded with enormous bolts, embellished with stone lions, and happened to be located about 300 feet from 'our' apartment in a fascinating neighborhood of the 5th district. More about this area later...

On our first evening at dusk, as we strolled along the boulevard bordering the Pest riverfront, we stopped for a refreshing drink on the deck of a barge (top) to survey our surroundings. Later, our dinner at an outdoor wine bar, Borkonyha (Sas utca 3;, consisted of a Hungarian specialty - braised Mangalica hog cheeks with roasted baby carrots - wildly delicious! Not ready to call it a day, we boarded yet another barge to explore the illuminated architecture along the river, a sight most dramatic and lovely at night. The Hungarian Parliament building (bottom) was positively glowing. Completed in 1904, this spired, opulent, gold-leafed hall (88 lbs of gold) is a uniquely Hungarian combination of Gothic and Renaissance revival styles. It is stunning both outside and in, as we learned the next day on a tour of the interior.

NEXT: photos and details of our favorite apartment in Budapest!

Széchenyi Lánchíd (CHAIN BRIDGE)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Budapest, once in the shadow of Prague, may well be one of the most intriguing cities in Europe. After years of wishing to explore it firsthand, I recently had the chance to visit.

It was a trip back in time to a world of dark cathedrals, cast-iron suspension bridges, and crumbling mansions turned into indescribably fantastic open-air clubs (more on that later). Overwhelmingly, there was evidence of the confluence of cultures and influences that formed the city's aesthetic sensibility – it was cutting-edge hip and old-world royal at the same time; illuminated gold spires of Parliment reflecting in the fast-moving dark waters of the Danube. Other aspects were rougher around the edges, bringing to mind the East Village of the eighties. 


Budapest was spared much of the bombing that devastated other Axis countries like Germany, and the gorgeous nineteenth-century architecture that dominates the city was frozen by the Iron Curtain. Gradually, as repression lifted, a vibrant, multicultural city emerged against this backdrop. Today Budapest exudes what could be called an 'urban rustic' aesthetic. 

One example is the emergence of 'ruin pubs,' built into the rubble of abandoned buildings. The first to become established was Szimpla Kert (above). Inside, the walls are covered with graffiti carved deeply into the plaster. Furniture is an eclectic mix of flea market finds and lighting is, well, let's just say it's doubtful that it  meets code! Cast-iron spiral staircases weave upward through a network of catwalks and awnings, surrounding an enormous interior courtyard filled with tables of people drinking, among other things, flaming absinthe! whilst being misted from above to ward off the heat (not caring that water and electricity aren't always a good mix).

At night, locals gather in outdoor parks to share drinks and play music. At a large park in the center of Pest, a recessed pond was surrounded by shelters constructed of every possible material, shipping pallets in one case (above) serving margaritas and Belgian frites. 

Next week: more on the architecture and urban fabric of this incredible city.