After one incredible year, we are leaving Budapest. I’ve really loved living here. It is a breathtakingly beautiful city, and I feel much under-rated as place to live. We have made some great friends, finally built ourselves a ‘normal’ life and Mesi has established herself as a regular yoga teacher in one of the city’s best studios (why are we leaving again?).
The other night at our farewell party, someone asked me the three things I’m going to miss most about Budapest. Here they are in no particular order:
1. Sztrapacska at Potkulcs
Potkulcs is a nonchalant rom kocsma in the 6th district that is nowhere near as famous as other iconic ruin bars in BP such as Szimpla, Fogashaz or Instant. What it lacks in notoriety, however it more than makes up by offering one of the tastiest meals in all of Budapest. ‘Sztrapacska’ adheres to traditional Central European cooking philosophy by incorporating three of the region’s most commonly used ingredients: meat, carbs, and an indifference to vegetables. The dish is essentially potato dumplings with bacon bits, sour cream and a hint of onion. I don’t know what else they put into the meal at Potkulcs but it’s very delicious and even better than the sztrapacksa I had in Slovakia (where the dish originates).
My buddy Jeremy and I came to Potkulcs almost every Friday during winter and I’m pretty sure we were known to the staff as the quaint sztrapacska-obsessed foreigners who needed to get out a bit more. I put this on the list as one of my favourite things about Budapest, not only because I was here so much, but also to acknowledge that, despite the grandness of the city – with its architecture, its baths, its world-famous ruin bars – the simple things are often the best and, when it comes down to it, the stuff ‘real life’ is made of.
2. Dogs in bars, cafes, restaurants
Hungarians love their dogs and it shows in the way people go about their lives – if you have a dog it comes with you, everywhere. What makes this even cooler, is that proprietors of bars, cafes and restaurants are incredibly accepting of this, and it’s not uncommon to see a dog pop out from under the table during lunch or wander up to you during a morning coffee. It doesn’t even have to be in the middle of the day: dogs hang out in bars at night, looking forlorn into their drinks while telling other dog buddies about the latest bitch that left them. It’s amazing, but probably to be expected from a people that purposely bred a dog that looks like a mop head.
3. Riding across one of Budapest’s seven bridges
The Danube River that separates Buda from Pest is for me, the most beautiful aspect of the city. Most of the architecture along the Danube (and indeed in the old part of Budapest) was built at the turn of the 20th century, when Budapest was the Hungarian jewel of the wealthy Austro-Hungarian empire. At that time, 20% of all construction budgets had to be devoted purely to aesthetics – a rule which means that today you’ll find grand buildings adorned with sculptures and beautiful, decorative finishings all over the facade.
Walking along the river you have not only this architecture but iconic pieces such as Buda castle, the Parliament building and a series of small but spectacular churches. Together, it’s a grand mix of breathtaking architecture and natural beauty that is just unparalleled in this part of Europe.
When I first came to Budapest I lived in Pest, but had Hungarian classes in Buda. Every morning I was ‘forced’, as part of my daily commute to cycle across Freedom Bridge and every morning I took in the views across the Duna. After a month of this, I couldn’t NOT stay.
Budapest feels like home to both of us, and we plan to come back to Budapest many many times. But it’s time to move on and jump head first into the next adventure.