Gimme Shelter

The sun is blazing and I'm waiting for a tram. Where do I stand?

a) Out in the open
b) Under the shelter
c) Across the road in the shade of a tree

The answer, of course, is either a) or c) but never b). Why? Because there are no shelters at tram stops in Budapest. Well what's that then?

That, my poor fool, is not a shelter.

Shelter is one of man's basic necessities, along with food, water and oxygen. If you had to rely on Budapest's "shelters" for shelter, you'd be in worse shape than if you relied on Jean Michel Jarre's "Oxygène" for oxygen.

I interviewed the Minister of Transport and he explained:
"My mate owns a glass and plastics company." *

*Clearly, I made this up.

Andy Sz.

In Budapest almost anything goes. Almost.

It's a laid back city, with ruin bars, people drinking beers in the street literally at all hours of the day (I've seen dudes on their way to work, 6:45, open beer in hand), and enough dog poop and people puke on the sidewalk for people to step en masse. However, there is one place where a plethora of distinct rules presides: THE TROLLEY BUS.

Phantomly smoked cigarettes have been banned from all trolley buses since the '56 revolution.
Dogs whose noses have just been covered by Spider-Man's web are exempt from all laws and are allowed to board without a ticket.
If you're trying to transport that car door and you're caught: 1 million forint fine. Shit's serious.
Farmers are prohibited from drinking from long-neck bottles while the trolley bus is in motion. Cans are okay.
Single, double, and quadruple ice cream cones are in fact permitted, but three scoops: a definite no-no.
If a dispute over a seat occurs, the only legal way to resolve it is to do that old baseball bat 'hand over hand' game.
Kids and cops alike: please silence your walkie-talkies, it's distracting to the driver.
Runny nose? Don't you dare even think about grabbing for that tissue.

Don't say we never warned you...

-Jacob P.

Back in October, we ran a blog called "Get the fuck out of here..." directed at Gloria Jean's, the extortionate coffee mongers. And guess what... they got the fuck out of here!

Some would blame the tough financial climate for their decision but we prefer to believe that our chastisement was just too much for them.

It turns out that they're not only in the business of trying to rip everyone off (615Ft for a small cappucino) but they're also in the business of trying to fuck everyone up (treating anorexia with exorcism.) More on their links with deranged "Christian" organisations here.

In their farewell blurb, they say "Our aim remains to make Gloria Jean’s Coffees, Hungary’s most loved & respected coffee company. We thank you, with all our heart, for your support and hope to be able to welcome you back again soon."

We, on the other hand, say "Spare us your sentimental bullshit." ...and once more, with gusto: "Get the fuck out of here!"

Andy Sz.

An Oik at the Opera

Hungarian State Opera
Andrássy út 22 [map] [tickets]
Tel. 331 2550
Pest Centre, Opera (M1), 1 min

Alright? I went to see an Oprah, wiv singin' n'that at the Oprah house. I fought Oprah was well gay an if my mates knew I was goin’ to that kind of thing, they’d say I was losin’ it. But the missus wanted it and so I gave it a go.

So all the toffs and students were all wearing suits and sparkly dresses an that, an I was wearing a t-shirt but it was ok. But the thing was, I had to leave my coat at the cloakroom, an that cost like 140 florints, which they should of just put on the ticket because you have to leave it. Know what I mean?

We was up near the top because the seats up there was much cheaper than in the main bit but I reckon it was better cuz you could look round the room which was well posh: all gold stuff everywhere, like for the Queen or Puff Daddy. Maybe in one of the boxes, she would of sat in there wiv Prince Phillip on one side and Puff on the other. Ha ha! That would be well weird.

But that would of been loads an I reckon it's not much different an even we paid 3500 florints each for a ticket when we could of paid 400 florints - when you could of sat not anywhere but it would of been the same. But don't buy any drinks because wine was like 1200 florints for a glass an you can't take it in with you. Rip off! You're better off getting a coke, which was 350 florints, an then just getting drinks somewhere else later.

So this one was called Anyegin or somethink like that an it was in Russian, which I knew because when the scoreboard said "Nem, nem, nem" the men in the Oprah sang "Nyet, nyet, nyet" which was "No, no, no" in Russian. I didn't know they had a scoreboard like that at the Oprah! Shame it was in foreign.

So I didn't know what was happenin' half the time because I don't read these old stories where people fall in love an then they end up killing each other and that kind of thing. Not exactly modern is it? So it would of been a bit better if I'd looked at the internet before we went.

But the good thing was that they put people in different colours. So there were two couples: a red one and a white one, and the girl in the white one was with this guy in the white and he didn't like her as much as she liked him. But the red ones liked each other but they had a party an the white girl got off with the red guy an then they did a big stand-off, like in a Western, and the red one got shot. But in the end, the white one wasn't happy either because the girl that he didn't like at the start didn't like him anymore but he liked her. She wasn't worth it, mate!

Anyway, so it wasn't that real but they had a big square stage that tilted and moved round, and these bits that kept floating over - so it didn't look the same all the way through. And, of course, they were singing all the time - an they were good singers - if you like Pavarotti or whatever! The orchestra was there at the front too. Imagine if they done that for films.

So it was ok in the end. It didn't go as slow as I thought and it was better than the time we went to the ballet. The room is worth it and it was ok if your girlfriend wants to go. You only have to spend 400 florints each and you can still see. Anyway, I can say I've done that now, an everyone at work's gonna say "You went to the Oprah?" And I'm going to say "Well, man of the world, my friends, man of the world."
Oik Sz.

You may have noticed that there are some pretty shady characters kicking around in Budapest: the ones who think they're in a Hungarian variant of the SS. The uniform of camouflage trousers and jack boots is completed with a black bomber jacket with a sewn-on badge of "Greater Hungary" - thanks mum! - and a t-shirt that proudly announces:

"MAGYAR VAGYOK NEM TURISTA!" (I'm Hungarian, not a tourist.)

It's not easy to comprehend the thinking of the confused misanthropic nationalist youth at the best of times. Unless there's some genuine resistance to tourism, which isn't beyond possibility, I can only assume that these t-shirts have to be worn beyond Hungary's borders to make any sense.

It's impossible to say where teenage angs
t ends and where fascism in earnest begins but it's disappointing that no one seems too interested in making any opposing political fashion statements. (Perhaps because that would result in having the shit kicked out of you by the kids in the jack boots.)

But maybe it's just that the fashion industry hasn't cornered the market. Here are a few ideas, just in case...

Andy Sz.

My experience with record stores in Hungary has been pretty non-existent. Mostly because I’m never compelled to go into places that have Jonas Brothers or Guns ‘n Roses posters in the window. I may be judgmental, but you can (and should) judge a record store by its cover, and quite frankly the High School Musical soundtrack isn’t even on my radar. let alone the riffraff that might lie alongside it in a record shop with such terrible taste. For these reasons I’ve just about given up on finding any decent record store in Budapest, but after spotting Laci Bácsi's Record Shop, hope returned.

Look at this place. The exterior is perfectly painted, no blemishes or graffiti, the metal gate always hangs over the windows to stave off even the thought of a late night break-in. The outside is about as inviting as a prison and gives you an idea about the guy running the place, none other than Laci Bácsi himself.

Record collectors tend to be anal, bordering on obsessive-compulsive and Laci’s no exception. His presence is downright intimidating. Sure he might be a nice guy if you get to know him, but the tension in the air alone had me choking on and fumbling over my words upon his annoyed and disinterested inquiry if I needed any help.

Normally record stores (in the US at least) have mountains of unorganized records scattered about, falling from their sleeves and in all sorts of conditions. Not here. Every LP is perfectly baggied, priced, and in near-mint condition. There’s not a single record haphazardly out of place—an anomaly if I’ve ever seen one.

His categorization is nearly impeccable, evident in the militant organization of the store as well as in the searchability of the online catalogue. He’s got things labeled to a "T" - Czech Beat, Polish Jazz, Eastern European Progressive, the obvious vast Rock section, even a lacking Punk selection that encapsulates the predictable (Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Damned). The world music sections are the standout qualities here. His collection of 1950s French Pop is great and includes plenty Édith Piaf LPs. Leonard Cohen has a strong presence, even if the prices marked seem a bit steep. And there’s plenty of the Smiths and Morrissey for the “in-touch with your feelings” crowd.

To any foreigner, well at least myself, this place is a gem that you’d have to scour the span of the USA to find. It might be near impossible to pick up old communist-era Hungarian Avant-garde LPs anywhere else, save for maybe eBay. Even if you’re without a turntable, or aren’t even into records, just browsing through all the remarkable album art that you’re not likely to come across anywhere else is worth your time, especially if you’re looking for artistic inspiration of any sort.

Music nowadays is disposable. Downloading is killing what used to be known as record sales, but is too easy to not do it. To me vinyl is the only thing that’s going to save the music industry, so Laci should breathe easy, he’s got a good thing going. It’s just a question of whether Budapestians are catching on.

Laci Bácsi's Record Shop is located at Kertész u. 42, just across from Hummus Bar. It’s open Monday-Friday from 12:00-19:00. Official site (including map) and more info here.

Jacob P.

What's that? Gyros. Looks like a kebab to me. Yes, it is, they call them gyros here. Have you ever wondered what's in it? Well, it's meat and salad in a pitta, isn't it? Is it? Isn't it?

Gyros takeaways are everywhere in Budapest. They serve at any time. They're cheap. So what's the catch?

You're going to die! (No kidding.)

My name's Andrew and I used to be addicted to gyros. I gave it up about 6 months ago and I've never looked back. [Applause.] I called them gyrosh, for a while, thinking that Hungarians did that. They don't. I never thought they were healthy. It's just, at 4 o'clock in the morning, when the alcohol abuse stops, the stomach remembers its primary purpose, and there aren't that many alternatives.

I gave up gyros because I came to notice that, more often than not, I didn't like it very much. For a while, I thought I was just getting a dud here and there, and it's certainly true that quality varies. But I eventually realised that when I was kind-of sober, and the meat was chicken, it was just too greasy; and if the meat was, well, whatever the brown one is, it was just too... not that much like meat.

Which raises the question: what is the brown one exactly; the 'meat' gyros? I mean, it goes without saying that anything called 'meat' without specifying which meat, could be anything. But perhaps it's not that they don't want to tell you but rather that they can't!

Not surprisingly, I'm not the first to consider this; click here for more extensive research.

The final straw was that Andy T kept going on about this article in The Guardian. Just in case you can't be bothered to follow the link, the key phrase for me was:

"Eating two a week could cause a heart attack within 10 years."


Now, that's a worst case scenario, clearly, and one relating to someone who eats "pie and chips and fried breakfasts as well." Now I'm not that big on pies but I do occasionally have a fried breakfast. How many years does that give me, I wonder?

Sorry gyros, we can't be friends anymore.

Igen, I think you heard me right. I said, "Szeretnék egy falafelt!"

Andy Sz.


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