Monthly Archives: February 2012

After a weekend of museums and museums and not enough time for museums in Vienna, I realized that I’ve neglected to write about my favorite museum in Budapest so far — the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art. I was there in late January with a few friends for two pretty great exhibits. The first, showcasing Yona Friedman’s (unfulfilled) dreams of mobile cities and sustainable urban living, was one of the best I’ve seen this year. The curators had aptly named it “Architecture Without Building,” referring to the floating mazes of trusses at the core of Friedman’s vision of the modern city. Not only did this exhibit include Friedman’s extensive comic strips explaining urban survival and the flexibility of living, but it also offered two interactive installations that apportioned a small experience of the life Friedman imagined for city dwellers. For a few minutes or hours or the whole day, you could leave the building of the museum, step into the interior, imagine it just going up and up and up. Sit down for reading, water the plans, write down some thoughts at the kitchen counter. A terrific afternoon.

© DARABOS György / Ludwig Museum - Museum of Contemporary Art, Archives

Reading about our new home, where helmets were a must and high heels absolutely forbidden.

The exhibit closed earlier this month, so my recommendation comes a bit too late. But if you have time to indulge in Friedman’s ideas, pleas do! He is a visionary. The intensity of his plans (on paper and on scaffolding) is inspiring. I must admit that I loved them all the more because they reminded me of the Russian Futurists and Constructivists, especially of Krutikov’s Flying City and the dreams of flight, escape, movement, and progress that these projects impart. Not a wholly sound comparison, sure, but I hope Kat will be my confidante in the sentiment. (Katya? Yes?)

© DARABOS György / Ludwig Museum - Museum of Contemporary Art, Archives

Currently, the Ludwig Museum has a pretty interesting collection of Rita Ackerman’s works on display. If you go, take some time for the Fire by Days series, easily the most engaging part of the collection. I suggest delaying visits until March 9 to also see the works of János Megyik, a fellow with some odd ideas about spatiality.

The politics of architecture involved in both the Palace of Arts, which contains the Ludwig Museum, and the neighboring National Theatre, is something else to chew on, especially in the matrix of tightening political pressure on the cultural and educational spheres in Hungary. (Not to mention, you know, virtually every other imaginable sphere.) But those are musings for another day.


My dad visited me last week, and I took the opportunity to gratuitously skip Hungarian class and visit places I can’t reach with my student transportation pass. We saw a fair amount of sights in Budapest too, both because he was here for the first time and because I was eager to show the city to someone who knew less about it than I did. (Being asked for directions by tourists is a serious ego trip, for one.) We visited St. Stephen’s Basilica, walked along the river to see the Buda sights, shopped on Andrássy and Váci, had tea at the famous New York Café, and sampled the ridiculous culinary offerings at Onyx.

But driving out of the capital was definitely the best part of our week. With the help of a chatty Russian-speaking tour guide that my dad had found from a friend of a friend of a friend in Moscow, we got to Esztergom, Visegrád, and Szentendre in one day and even crossed the river into Slovakia for a grand fifteen minutes just for the sake of it.

The Esztergom Basilica, perched on a small riverbank hill where the Danube divides Hungary and Slovakia, is absolutely beautiful. My neighbor–who graciously invited me for duck, red cabbage, and Soproni last week–is a native of Esztergom, so I hope to visit the town itself with her recommendations.

We visited Visegrád Fortress next, climbing up the icy levels of the citadel for some fantastic views. The earliest fortress stood here before the Mongol invasion, but this one was built by Bela IV in the 13th century. I had heard of the place in terms of the Visegrád Four, so of course there was a fit of geeky excitement involved in the visit.

The day ended in Szendendre, a lovely little town of colorful houses, many museums, great wine, and lazy cats.

I came back to Budapest absolutely exhausted and carrying a loot of postcards to send to Vera, jewelry to please Helen, and Tokaji to keep me company during endless readings. I definitely want to go back–both because my wine is running low and because the Marzipan Museum was closed for renovations.

Café Eklektika
Nagymező utca 30
1065 Budapest

Remember this place? I had my first sips of goulash here on my first Sunday in Budapest. Back then, more than an unbelievably fantastic month ago, I was too disoriented to realize that this café is half a block from my apartment. Maybe I love it for that reason, or maybe because the soup made me so happy after a cold day of sightseeing. In any case, Eklektika is on my good side. My flatmate and I took the less-than-a-minute walk there tonight out of laziness for food that needed more work than pointing a finger on a menu. My happily growing food baby approves of the choice.

With inexpensive, everyday food of many persuasions (pizza, pasta, salads, soups, meat pies, various pork concoctions, dishes with lots of paprika, and desserts with claims to Brazil and Belgium), Eklektika is pretty pleasing. Nothing spectacular, nothing bad. Yaniv put it best: “For a café across the street, it’s pretty good.”

He likes to be deep, this one.

We were too hungry to bother with pictures of food. I inhaled a mozzarella and prosciutto salad (pretty okay), and Yaniv gulped down goulash (good), spaghetti (rich), and grillázstorta (also good). I’ll forgive my waiter for enjoying my struggle to spell the WiFi password—mestergerenda, meshtegrejgrgrwkrgwejkgra, or something like that—and give him top marks for speedy service and attention. Both somewhat rare in Budapest. He only disappointed when he couldn’t recommend a dessert. Didn’t like sweet foods, he said. (We tried not to stare.)

 The décor is also memorable. Nice, warm, and odd, with lots of posters of fat fish in suits.

If you’re ever in the corner between Bajcsy and Andrássy and need a quick bite, I really do recommend this place. It’s many a step up from the dry sandwiches and microwaved “Mediterranean” dishes that dominate the eateries in the area (and, well, the rest of the city too). And if you do this before April, either walk around the corner to my place or just across the street to Mozsár Kávézó, where I’ll probably be sitting with a cup of coffee and my Hungarian homework. (Details on that find coming soon!)

At approximately five gazillion three million and two pages, one of my readers at CEU hovers at the line between book and weapon of assault. But other than sending me dreams about infrastructural and despotic power, what else can it do?

Well, it can pose as a fashionable hat, for one. A hat that also helps improve posture. Or it can help me waste a few hours balancing everything from my kitchen cabinets on top of my head.

Still, at the end of the day, Habermas and Tilly showed up in my dreams. Should I be proud or worried?

Cheers for a week of ridiculously hard work, everyone! A few classmates and I are having a nerdfest over the class that birthed this reader, which is like a doped up sociological version of Politics of Violence. A good chunk of it is flying over my head, but hey–in the end, I’ll have read at least most of this mammoth. I hope this meets the demands for proof that I (not just my right arm with a camera) am actually in Budapest. Though maybe I should’ve turned on TV Paprika in the background?

Ferenciek Tere 10
1053 Budapest

This trip was technically in pursuit of learning, not my newfound gluttony for all things baked and delicious. Maria, the Hungarian teacher of “nyugi nyugi” renown, charged our class with the tastiest assignment to date: walking to her favorite bakery, Jégbüfé, and trying her favorite dessert, Pozsonyi kifli. All so we can remember the proper Hungarian name for Bratislava. For the sake of correct geopolitical onomastics, my friend Mili and I wasted no time in starting our hunt for Slovakian baked goodness.

Lesson 1: Don’t judge a pastry by its shape.

This little crescent pastry usually has two variants: Pozsonyi diós (with crushed walnut) and Pozsonyi mákos (with poppy seed). I opted for the walnut, and, well, YUM. Warm, soft, filling, savory, not too sweet, and a little reminiscent of my favorite nazooks.

Oh, the sacrifices I make for knowledge.

After inhaling the kifli in an impressive few seconds, we looked around for a list of future targets.

Spotted: dobos torte.

Targets acquired: one of everything in the display cases on the left, please.

Offerings at Jégbüfé include cakes, pies, tarts, buns, cookies, sweet pastries, meat pastries, coffee, hot chocolate, tea, ice cream, and even fresh waffles available through a window outside.

Gofri on the go.

A few more wonderful things about this place. First, it’s very inexpensive. Second, the workers are very friendly. But better yet, it’s open until 9:30 during the week and on Sundays. 9:30. On SUNDAYS. In BUDAPEST.