Milio Puszi Budapest Week-re

I know my Hungarian sucks, so if anyone wants to correct my headline for this item, please feel free. The point is, the Budapest Week reunion party, and after-party, rocked long and hard! What an awesome collection of people.

Steve Carlson said it best: "Budapest Week was a newspaper that knew how to throw a party."

Sam Worthington wrote a great letter days before the reunion that Rick read aloud at the event. Many commented on how aptly it summed up the mood of the event:

Hi Steve and Rick

I had no intention of coming to the party but suddenly a week ago a little nostalgia over took me as I ate a lonely curry and for all of about 24 hours I was coming. But in the end that went tits up: so a message is all I can contribute to the proceedings.

It would have been interesting as most of you have now seen enough to understand the realities of the World. Things always look different with the benefit of experience, as well as hindsight. The Bud Week was probably doomed from day one but it did, for a while, make a significant contribution to many lives. At the time I was new to publishing and you guys were well new to about everything so in some sense the fact we did what we did was a major achievement. There are as always a million what ifs: but none will really supply the answer. In a way failure, if it was indeed that, made people get on with something else: something that in many cases has proved to be much bigger and better than Bud Week ever was, or would be. That is what I would say when on my tenth korso and 10 tenth Unicum: just is case you wonder!

So have a good one and if anybody ever gets to Bangkok let me know and I can point you in some directions. Bring a bottle of Unicum because ……I miss it!


More coverage on Pestiside.

The whole gang
Photo by Franc Anderson. Others by Rick Bruner
(except where Rick is featured, and then those are
also Franc's with Rick's camera).
The Founders
Whoa, dude!
She never looked at me like that 15 years ago
They drank with Sam (Worthington) and survived
One for the Road
Here, officer, maybe this will change your mind
Party in my mind
Don't ask
We still know how to party

Rick E. Bruner | Budapest Nostalgia | Sep 15, 2006 | Comments (1)

Budapest Week Reunion Bash, This Saturday!

I've been woefully remiss in updates to the most important event in the history of this blog (but insanely busy in my real life). Nonetheless, I'm giddy with anticipation for this Saturday's reunion of more than 100 friends from the era of Budapest Week. Details in a podcast interview with yours truly courtesy of Drew Leifheit excellent Budacast

Rick E. Bruner | Budapest Nostalgia | Sep 6, 2006 | Comments (7)

Make it a double


Has anyone read Julian Rubenstein's book on Hungary's infamous "whiskey robber"? Some say he manages to nail the jaded socio-economic atmosphere of the post-Commie period.

Pangs of jealousy? Sure. But I always find it tough to read articles, books, etc. about Hungary, as one knows that people who have not spent much time here and don't speak the language will invariably get some things wrong. Consequently, I sort of want to read the book and sort of don't.

But I probably should and keep my mouth shut until I have, especially considering that I am listed in it. Dóri and I spent many hours painstakingly translating the court transcript in my kitchen for Julian.

Drew Leifheit | Budapest Nostalgia | Feb 2, 2005 | Comments (4)

The Hungarian Miracle: A 21st Century Tale

[From the Budapest Week Archive Classics]

By Dork Zygotian

Budapest, January 6, 2024.

One can hardly pick up a newspaper in the early 21st century without once again being hit with some lead article about "The Hungarian Miracle." Every second-rate nation, it seems, from South Guyana to the Cornish Republic, seems to want to emulate the astounding boom years that made Hungary Europe's economic and cultural leader in the late twentieth century.

The world's wealth sits in fabled "Hungarian bank" accounts, safe and sound in one of the world's most stable economic climates. "Hungarian efficiency" is the byword in today's economic world. Europolitical trends show an increasing tendancy to emulate Hungary's calm and cool headed political life. "The Magyar Miracle" they call it.

Even the man on the street has gone Magyar-crazy, dressing in the latest Budapest styles, frequenting pricey Hungarian style presszo bars, going out to expensive Hungarian sausage bistros. In any European capital fashionable women simply won't step out unless accoutered in the latest Hungarian waitress boot, and ever since the aging Sting rejuvenated his failing career by releasing a CD of lakodalmi rock with Lagzi Lajcsi, one simply doesn't dream of going to a London or Berlin disco dressed in anything else but an authentic pastel pink jogging suit, swinging the de riguer mercedes keys on a fox tail key chain.

How did it all start? One minute Hungary was just one of many minor players on the periphery of EC action at the end of the 20th century, and the next minute one couldn't pick up a magazine or newspaper without reading about some astounding Hungarian success. Overnight, it seemed, everybody from Lisbon to Oslo was taking private lessons in Hungarian language, queuing up at the bar to quaff astronomically priced Kôbanyai beer and Unicum, and placing down payments on expensive new Hungarian cars like the sleek Ganz Vizsla 4000, or it's shaggier, trendier cousin, the Puli, a favorite among the young. Vacationers flocked to the Balaton from Tokyo, Sydney, and Paris, while the less well heeled emulated Europe's trend setters at less prestigious Hungarian vacation spots such as Lake Velenc or the Bánki Tó. American computer companies vied for space with Germans and Danes to locate their companies' headquarters in the Silicon Plains around Debrecen and Nyiregyháza.

But there is little chance that these second liners could ever really emulate Hungary's brilliant rise to power and affluence in the first years of the 21st century. It was done with a peculiarly Hungarian combination of expertise, organisational ability, plain old luck, and a command of that most Magyar of institutionbs, the kis kapu. The Little Gate Explosion, they called it.

It began inauspiciously enough. Hungary's 1996 World expo was a dissapointing affair, a dusty cement fairgrounds crowded with sausage trucks and polyester sweater stands. Little interest was paid until one sleepy afternoon when an unannounced Japanese trade delegation, dissapointed and bored with their obligatory tour of the Early Hungarian Literature Pavillion, decided to break for lunch. Huddled in the restaurant of the Tolna County exhibit, they decided to try the fish for which Paks is, nowadays, so justly famous.

Unfortunately the cook was well into his third bottle of wine for the day, it being already almost noon, and the fillets of Danube catfish arrived at the table without having been cooked. The ravenous execs from Osaka brushed off the apologies of their shocked Hungarian hosts, and proceeded to devour their catfish raw, sahimi style.

Hungary has never been the same since.

Japan has always been one of the world's largest importers of fish. As the first tantalizing tingle of the Danube catfish' toxicity numbed the lips of the Japanese trade delegation, normally staid execs began to converse excitedly. Figures were hastily jotted on notepads. Wireless telephones buzzed with the chatter of business Japanese as the delegation’s Hungarian hosts looked on, bewildered.

The Japanese are inordinately fond of fugu, a small, and toxic, puffer fish served in tiny portions at the most exclusive of sushi bars. Here was harcsa, a fish just as poisonously exciting as fugu, yet it grew to the size of a Ford maxi-van at the bottom of the Danube. By the meal's end contracts had been signed which set the international market for fish on its head. Billions of dollars worth of pricey harcsa and carp were being exported to Asia within months, providing the Hungarian economy with the cash jolt it needed to jump start the economy. Soon Hungary was the world's largest exporter of fish, and the world stood amazed as the little landlocked nation elbowed Norway, Canada, Peru, and other competitors aside in a brief and successful trade war.

No sooner had Hungary cornered the world's fish market than the wily business cabals on Vaci utca turned their attentions to other markets. By 1998 the world had had enough of vegetarianism, non-smoking, and anti-alchohol campaigns. Even the manufacture of such products had been banned in the EC nations. Hungary began to export larger and larger quantities of Sopianae cigarettes, Cabinet brandy, and Zalái cold cuts to a hungry Western European market, tired of being told what it could or could not eat. Soon the demand for a fresh pack of Kossuth cigarettes pushed the price up to luxury levels, and a single debreceni kolbász in one of Paris' moderate restaurants could set one back a week's wages, after the disastrous pork pestis that virtually ended West European pork exports in 2003.

With Hungary being the source of so much of the world's consumer luxury, businesses began to relocate their European operations to the Pannonian plain. Top execs of the largest multinationals vied for the chance at a Székesfehérvár posting, with its promise of unlimited salami and Unicum.

Tourism followed in its wake, especially after the discovery that Hungary's thermal spas and sulfuric medicinal waters actually did cure every known disease! For years no one had listened to the Hungarian medical establishment. "Quacks" they had been called. Now no one was laughing, least of all the growing Hungarian economy or the Hungarian consumer. Parisian shopgirls in the most exclusive shops reffered to their Hungarian customers in hushed tones as the "donnez me deuxes" referring to the habit of the average Hungarian shopper to habitually buy at least two of the most expensive perfumes or designer creations. At Hegyeshalom the Audis and Mercedes lined up for miles during the summer months, waiting to enter Hungary, eager for the pricey good life that beckoned just behind the customs station with it's bright sign "Welcoming in Hungary: Thank you for Smoking!"

Hungary's position is now quite well cemented, and although other nations were surprised by the phenomenal success story that characterized those heady days at the turn of the century, no one today would have it any other way. Improved relationships with its neighbors meant that, after Hungary, Romania and Slovakia enjoyed the second and third highest living standards in Europe, and the successor states that followed in the wake of the Yugoslav and Russian civil wars quickly sent for Hungarian advice on rebuilding their economies. The entire region became known as "The Peaceful East" an island of tolerance and prosperity which was the envy of the developing western world.

It was but a small step from private taxis to becoming the economic giant of today, but Hungary's model has brought us a 21st century of peace, prosperity, and pork, a world we hardly could have imagined a few decades ago. Truly this is the best of all worlds. As the grand old man of Hungarian writers, Gabor Vajda, wrote in his magnificent opus Hungary and me: a personal view, "That Hungary is great was no secret to those of my generation. It was merely a step, yea, a private taxi ride to prosperity that proved our worth to the world. The sweet dream of Hungary's success rivaled any acid trip I had ever taken. Eljen a Magyar!"

Rick E. Bruner | Budapest Nostalgia | Apr 2, 2004 | Comments (1)

Ex-pat or Wetback?

[From the Budapest Week Archive Classics]

By Dork Zygotian

Last Saturday night my friends invited me out to a local Budapest "ex-pat" bar. Of course, they complained, as "ex-pats" are wont to do, that the summer's tourists had ruined this particular "ex-pat" bar, and so we sauntered over to the door and picked up a copy of an "ex-pat" newspaper. It directed us to another "ex-pat" bar, this one being a favored haunt for local American ex-pats. Sitting at a table full of compatriots we exchanged ex-pat news: how much a dollar gets today at Keleti, which consulting firm went belly-up this week, and what a drag it is you can't get real balsamic vinegar or cheap sushi in Hungary.

I nearly ex-pactorated.

What, exactly, is an "ex-pat" and why are all these foreign people calling themselves "ex-pats?" In my day, which wasn't all that long ago, they were called "foreigners" as in he's a foreigner, he comes from another country. Simple.

Ex-pat is short for expatriate, which is used by english speakers to designate themselves while living abroad in foreign countries. To be specific, it has a British background in that it was a way to deal with a category of person during the years of the British Empire that was neither a "colonist" nor in the military. The term took on a broader meaning in post-colonial days to refer to large foreign communities "resident" in the ex-colonies for any length of time.

Interestingly, the Webster's dictionary definition of expatriate does not conform at all to the present Budapest ex-pat usage of the word.
Expatriate 1. to banish a person from his native country. 2. To withdraw (oneself) from residence in one's native country. 3. To withdraw (oneself) from allegiance to one's country. 4. expatriated, exiled. (

Banished? Exiled? Are all those perfectly sculpted yuppies sipping tequila at Picasso Point really banished from their homeland? Did the Clinton administration start rounding up Young Republicans, tossing them into the dark holds of overcrowded, stinking cattle ships, exiling them to barren shores with no hope of ever seeing their beloved New Jersey ever again? (And if he didn't, then why the hell did we elect him?)

Are the "ex-pats" the poor Huguenots of the twentieth century, sent by strife and politics from their ancestral fields into unabated exile, seeking merely to ply their modest trades and crafts wherever some benevolent monarch will grant them respite from their beleaguered exodus? If we collect enough signatures to send to the US congress, will they be allowed to go home?
Returning to Websters, we ask did they withdraw themselves? It isn't unthinkable, in this era of safe sex propaganda. The ex-pat community, however, is anything but withdrawn. They brought Burger King and bagels with them, so that their residence here definitely isn't a case of intended interruptus. There is some sense of staying power.

Did they withdraw their allegiance? Easy to answer. How many US citizens are voluntarily serving in the Hungarian army. I don't see anyone raising their hands.

No, the term ex-pat has definitely mutated towards a new usage since Americans started flooding into post 1989 east Europe. The Brits have some right to use it at will, since the term got started in their colonies. Americans didn't really have colonies (Puerto Rico, Guam, Samoa, the Philippines and Toronto don't count) and in place of The Commonwealth the best Americans have come up with are overseas tax shelters and franchise food outlets. A token burger outlet really isn't the same as having 30,000,000 sweating coolies working for King and Country.

For Americans, the idea of emigrating from the US doesn't really have a tradition. We are brought up to think that people emigrate from somewhere else into the Home of The Free and The Brave. Americans don't have a unified tradition of living abroad. When Hemingway or Arthur Miller wrote about "ex-pat" American life in Paris earlier in the century, they were commenting on a rather snug literary circle, rather than a mass movement of Americans out of the US.

Today, at least in east Europe, Americans foreign residents have taken to using the term "ex-pat with relish, the way "travelers" like to distinguish themselves from "tourists." The overuse of the term ex-pat does not just designate a foreigner, but somehow a better class of foreigner. Foreigners who are justifiably making two to three times the local wage, but still not as much as a dishwasher back in Jersey City. "Ex-pat" is a term dripping with class conceit. Not that anything is wrong with conceit. Conceit is fine for some folks.

Are the Italians living in Budapest "ex-pat Italians" or the Romanians here "ex-pat Romanians?" A German living in Hungary might describe himself as "a German living abroad in Europe." If a middle class citizen of the Dominican Republic moves to New York City, lives there for five years, speaks English, marries an American, and has children in America, is he an "ex-pat Dominican?" Are the Hungarian-Americans who have returned "ex-pats" or returnees?

The truth is most Americans living here are economic migrants, people who were willing to leave home in search of rewarding employment lacking at home. Middle class employment, to be sure, but being a "development consultant" sure beats being the griddle boy back at the Burger Hut on Route 17 at home. A joke current around Boston goes" How do you call your software programmer? Waiter!" Those programmers/waiters are now voting with their feet, or their plane tickets, at least. I haven't heard anyone speak about "helping Eastern Europe" in several years.

A good many young people arrive in east Europe simply to find an honest way to keep their white collar work resumés alive, even if it means making much less than one would at a similar job in the states. Twelve years of Reaganism bankrupted the middle classes in the US, and today entry level white-collar jobs are as rare as albino orangutans, and the competition for them astronomical. We are witnessing the first wave of emigration, or at least economic migration, away from the United States.

When I arrived here in 1987 there were a lot fewer foreigners living in Budapest, and most of them drove Tupelov tanks instead of Volvos. The few Brits and Americans around then tended to know each other, lived well on Ft 5000 a month teachers' salaries, and it seemed that Hungarians were a lot more enthusiastic about our presence than they seem to be nowadays. Longtime foreign residents in Hungary, the "Old-timers" are now viewed as moldy relics, oddly fluent in Hungarian, endlessly reminiscing about the communist era when everyone called each other "comrade" at work and there were no non-stop stores or fast food outlets and a restaurant meal cost Ft 60, with wine.

One gets the feeling that "ex-pats" are serving the role once played by the Russians, or Hapsburgs, or Ottomans. Overpaid, overfed, and over here. Many "ex-pats" are far too conspicuously enjoying the thrill of upper class life on the cheap in a country that is rapidly returning to the kind of class-stratification that has weakened it so often in the past.

My favorite example of the kind of thinking that exemplifies "ex-pat" mentality is in the pages of a certain local "ex-pat" newspaper (not this one, nor our sister paper, or even the one published by the fat guy who hates the Clintons.) There, in the restaurant listings, we find the Chicago restaurant listed under the heading "Continental Cuisine." Now, the Chicago is an oasis of good, stick-to-your-ribs American food, a veritable Beef Heaven for Yanks in search of Tex-Mex, but "Continental" it definitely ain't. It is ethnic. Damn good, classy ethnic food, too, but when you are located in Budapest, "Continental" does not simply mean coming from some continent or another. In the same newspaper listing, we find the Carmel Jewish Restaurant listed as ethnic, although it serves cuisine that is entirely native to this part of Europe. Ooops! We forgot what continent we are in! Ex-pats do that sometimes.

I don't suppose that suddenly ex-pats are going to suddenly find some new terminology for themselves. Maybe we can start by considering the Hungarian term: idegen. It means, simply, alien. The Hungarian root derives from the Old Hungarian root word ij (bow) from which derives ideg (nerve) and ideges (taut, nervous.) Viewed from the Hungarian etymology, aliens make people nervous.

But don't guests always make one nervous?

Rick E. Bruner | Budapest Nostalgia, Expat Philosophy | Apr 2, 2004 | Comments (8)

On Dating Hungarians

[From the Budapest Week Archive Classics]

By Dork Zygotian

As one walks down the street in Budapest, a common reaction that many visitors have as they gaze at the physical perfection of Hungarians is "Gee! I wish the human race were transformed into cute little rodents whose only aim in life was to have continuous, lusty, mindless animal couplings at every opportunity, hundreds of times each day!" Yes, Budapest gets the juices flowing, and why not? Hungary is a land of romance, of passion. But first you have to get over the hard part. You have to get a date.

This information is aimed at men, those slaves of testosterone who carry their brains in two neat little bundles between their legs. Women who are visiting often ask "Are there any available Hungarian men?" The answer is yes. All Hungarian men are available. Every one of them. Especially if you like married men, about forty, reeking of pálinka. All Hungarian men are charming, enchanting, good-looking, and completely unintelligible if you don't speak Hungarian. Rex Harrison crooned it best, in My Fair Lady, "Oozing charm from every pore/ He oiled his way across the floor/ Never have I seen a ruder pest/ than that hairy hound from Budapest."

Men, however, must take a different approach to attract the wily Magyar leány. Ever since Zsazsa Gabor first uttered "Dahhling..." and Cicciolina first sprayed a front row in Turin, foreign men have felt an irresistable attraction to Hungarian women. And why not? They are among God's loveliest critters, scampering merrily around the Danube basin clad in tiny bikinis, clinging halter tops, and those wonderful high heeled shoes known in other parts of the world as "fuck-me pumps."

If you are just traveling around Hungary or staying for a while, there are a few things you should know about dating Hungarian women. First of all, there is the language barrier. I have known people who had a perfectly happy, if somewhat shallow, relationship with absolutely no intelligible communication between them for months at a time. Rubbing your belly means "Hungry? Want to go to expensive restaurant?" Other communications were made by rubbing anything else. Otherwise you will have to speak Hungarian or find a Hungarian who speaks something you understand.

A good looking Hungarian woman who speaks English, German, or French is quite a find, and she knows it. She recieves daily faxes from suitors the world over and she knows the exact opening hours and addresses of the Chinese restaurants that serve imported lobster Szechuan style, which goes extremely well with a light, yet fruity French white wine, slightly chilled, and remember to tip the waiter 10%. Still interested?

Hungarian women are raised on Hungarian men. That means they are used to recieving flowers before being taken to the theater and wined and dined afterwards by a nice smelling young man who goes to the bathroom every fifteen minutes to preen in front of a mirror to ensure that he still looks nice and then after two dates he's allowed to get to home base, and then they get married, two years later divorced, and that's where you walk in. You are different than all the nice smelling young men she's known. You are not Hungarian. You are exotic.

You did not go to the same school system, did not serve in the same army, did not grope her same girlfriends in highschool, nor belong to the same Young Communist league. Nor has she been busted for possession by the same cop in Alabama, dropped out of the same University, belonged to your voodoo cult, nor ever watched The Brady Bunch. You are Ricky Ricardo to her Lucille Ball. Exotissimo!

That doesn't mean that meeting the Hungarian girl of your dreams is going to be easy. You can't tell a Hungarian girl that you are a tourist. You have to come up with something more permanent, like environmental protection engineer or journalist (a perennial favorite around our office.) You will also need a suit of clothes that could not possibly have ever seen the inside of a backpack, and a real pair of shoes.

And yes, you will have to start taking showers. Lots of showers. And buying flowers. And taking her out to nice restaurants that normally cost you an arm and a leg, but now leave you a financial quadripelegic. And while the local Joe gets to home after two dates, you will have to wait longer.

The waiting period is to see if you are "serious." That means that you are either staying in Hungary long term, or you are really, really rich. After all, Lucy wasn't just "living" with Ricky. They were married.

You will have to compose yourself with a lot more chilvalry and charm than Western girls demand. You will open doors for your date, but you will always enter a restaurant or bar first. You pay the bill. You pay for taxis. You compliment her looks, her clothes, ask attentively about her day at work. You call her, she does not call you.

At the same time, all this hoopla is designed to get you a few old fashioned rewards. You are expected to be a gentleman, and gentlemen are not expected to do their own laundry. Hungarian women are not attracted to new-age sensitive guys. They want A Man, not a companion who knows how to parboil brown rice and cries at the end of movies.

Having followed this advice, you should now be the proud owner of a Hungarian girlfriend. Stay the helm. There is still much to learn.

Rick E. Bruner | Budapest Nostalgia, Expat Philosophy | Apr 2, 2004 | Comments (101)

Budapest Is Best When It's Balmy

And yet another essay:

Budapest Is Best When It's Balmy

By Peter Vincent

Dave Rimmer and I are in a rickshaw riding along the embankment of the Danube. The full moon paints a white sheen over the surface of the river, wide enough that it's taken us fifteen minutes to walk across the steel bridge to the Buda side of the city.

"Budapest is the only city the Danube cuts in half," he tells me along the way.

It's the third time I've crossed the Danube today.

Pest rises up across the river, modern hotels set against the Parliament buildings, a Neo-Gothic sandcastle distilled from dreams, three blocks long, the old city a backdrop of architectural statuary (angels, heroes, saints) embedded in the facades of the buildings, the buildings themselves designed by a hand with a bent for arabesques, curlicues, pear-like domes, often dotting several corners of the same building, their grilled balconies stacked one above the other, then arrowed spires, long thin spikes, another attempt at ascendancy, and finally the occasional addition of just a shell facade, above the very roof itself, the stepped sides reaching a squared peak, an art nouveau afterthought, as if the architect couldn't stop building beauty.

All this says nothing of the broad boulevards and traffic below, teeming with outdoor cafes and restaurants, a flotilla of umbrellas picking up the slight breeze, where people eat and drink, night and day, some long-lost Paris we all might imagine, still thriving in Budapest.

Hadley, Marjo and Sebe follow the rickshaw on foot, Hadley having secured the rickshaw for Dave and I after a heated argument with a drunk Hungarian woman outside an outdoor club who insisted she was first in line when she wasn't.

Hadley's a slight thing, a natural beauty and charmer, a photographer who's worked with Dave on numerous projects, Dave having edited most of the popular guidebooks in this part of the world, from Berlin to Budapest. Her Mainline origins long forgotten, she lives with a Hungarian DJ and speaks the language perfectly.

Then Hadley turns the argument over to Sebe, a tattoo artist with a ponytail and sleek goatee and the rickshaw's assigned to us.

Hadley, the organizer, insists that Dave and I hop on board while the rest of the gang follows on foot because the second rickshaw is presently having a bad wheel fixed by its young Hungarian driver.

As we all move off to party at West Balkan, the drunken Hungarian woman shouts epithets regarding Hadley's American accent, along with a few choice words for foreigners in general

But on this soft summer night, a stillness shimmers across the surface of the river a hundred feet below, the lights of the long lazy riverboats adding to the cumulative glow, everything adrift in an easy floating way on this soft summer night, as if we might still live in a world where peace presided.

Dave and I are bouncing off the slatted seats as the driver charges forward, both of us laughing about the drunken Hungarian woman.

Dave's a heavy-set guy, at east with himself, a confident man who lived here for five years, now back in London at a steady job. He wears a thin lace skullcap pulled tight across his dome, something he picked up in Marrakech, his strong features sculpted beneath it.

"I've made forty moves in fifteen years," he tells me. "I just wanted to get back to my roots and a proper job for a while."

He's only here for the long weekend, an old friend of Rick Bruner who started Budapest Week, an English language weekly, and I was lucky enough to meet him with the rest of Rick's gang at the Rudas Baths, a genuine Turkish Bath with rich mineral waters pouring in from the limestone foundation, the men in their section, the women in theirs, a simple loincloth concealing all displays, the central hot pool surrounded by four smaller ones in various degrees of hot and cold, beneath a domed ceiling, its pinpoint holes letting rays of sun pour through, the occasion being a weekly meeting of English speakers, among the unusual assortment of oddly overweight Hungarian men who strut proudly from pool to pool, their bellies the size of aspiring Sumo wrestlers.

Later, we all have a long lunch, another weekly ritual, at a Cyprian restaurant, sitting outside over bottles of mineral water and Hungarian wine while endless plates of food are passed.

That evening some of us meet at Castro Bistro, a mix of expats and Hungarians and a trip to West Balkan becomes a must.

While Pest is the heart of the urban pulse, the Buda side of the river is all green hills, thick with trees, the small clusters of red-tiled roofs peeking out from the tops of the hills where the richest people in Hungary live. The awesome Royal Palace is perched on its rocky ridge further up the river.

Then the road fades into a wooded area and the rickshaw takes the bumpy road through a gravel pit site and finally stops outside West Balkan. Giving the driver 500 forints, we head into the outdoor club and Dave goes right to the long open bar while I grave an empty table. The table is one of many strewn across the pebbled patio beneath the overhanging trees, a string of Chinese lanterns leading the way to the dance floor where the DJ spins vinyl rap. While Prague is all slit skirts and six-inch heels, here it's small slinky tops, toreadors and espadrilles.

If Prague is relaxed, Budapest is downright reclining. The rest of the crowd sits in pleasant circles on the grassy section next to the patio, still beneath the hanging trees, twenty yards from the Danube. By the time, Hadley and the others arrive, Dave's all set with beers and we gather around the table to talk and watch the dancers, content to dance in our seats, each of us improvising our own jerky movements.

After a while, Dave and I share a joint by the fence between the grassy area and the river, admiring its bridges, an alternating mix of modern and antique.

"I never get tired of crossing the Danube," he says in a sentimental moment, reflecting on five years on living here.

Seal's "Crazy" starts playing as the buzz comes on and the two of us start moving to the music in our own light reverie.

"You've got to be a little bit crazy sometimes, if you want to live a little."

As the night moves on, and the DJ segues into disco and Detroit, I get the feeling Dave, a former music journalist, knows the opening bars and lyrics to every song ever written.

We continue to drink at the white plastic table, all enthused about our new acquaintance.

"I have the name of a boy," Marjo (mario), the Finnish woman tells us, "and I look like a boy, but I'm a girl," and cute she is, the thick black glasses, the light gray eyes, the dark tousled hair falling over her forehead, the creamy skin. She passes around her travel diary which begins in Berlin so everyone can make a personal entry. By now Sebe has neatly placed his forehead on the table for an extensive break, if only to save himself from death by intoxication.

Then an electric blue-black appears through the trees, the moon still high above them, the Danube blue for a fleeting moment, more an illusion of light than reality.

The crowd has thinned and the rickshaw's are waiting, the bad wheel now fixed on the second, and we get ourselves a deal so the five of us can ride for the price of two, and we're off to the bridge again, bumping butts so hard on the wooden slats that I tuck my fingers between them trying to hold myself down.

"I've got a bony ass," I tell Dave beside me.

"I've got a fat one," he replies. "It doesn't bother me."

As the bridge appears before us, I think of the lines I've written in Marjo's diary:

I saw the moon across the Danube. I saw lanterns across West Balkan. Budapest is best when it's balmy. It's always dawn before you want it to be here. You've got to be a little bit crazy sometimes. The planet's armed for extinction. Live the best of it while you can. The castle still stands.

Hard to believe, but that same afternoon we're all back in the Buda hills for the Castro Bistro picnic, off a meadow in a cluster of trees, two goats turning over wood coals, goulash cooking in a large traditional bucket, three Senegal drummers with a Hungarian lesbian with buzzcut blowing riffs on trumpet, bottles of beer in big ice buckets, men and women going off to the woods, half of us in chatty circles in the high grass, two women taking turns dancing in front of the drummers, feeling the primal beat, then the American woman jumps up and throws off her little leather backpack in the meadow to confront a Brit who apparently has been hassling some women, and she says come on let's go, challenging him to come fuck her out in the field, and the guy is stunned into silence as she continues to challenge him, come on, you fucking pussy, let's go, and all he can do is murmur weak replies and then something lame about her being a veggie, as she throws up her skirt in front and back, comically revealing her long yellow drawers, continuing to insist he accompany her and calling him a pussy again and again, then she starts a comical shadow-boxing, challenging him even further - she's a looker to and me wishing I could act as surrogate, but you don't want to get into the middle of this - it's him she wants - and when it's over Dave goes off to get some goodies in the village because the goulash and goats are taking so long, then some of the men go off to play soccer on a field farther down the meadow, me and Marjo settling for an afternoon flat on our backs in the grass looking up at the clear blue sky, the size of an ocean, until Dave comes back and we all share the treats until the goulash and goats are finally ready at twilight, the final touch on a magical day, the sunset a broad smear of orange and violent and crimson against the dimming blue sky, until we trek through the woods in the dark toward the tram in the village where some still talk of a late night drink at Castro Bistro, but I'm getting off near Kings Hotel, an oasis for Orthodox Jews in the middle of the old Jewish quarter with a kosher dining room and men in black hats, black coats, long beards, everyone glad Sabbath is over, feasting in the dining room when I got in for a cup of coffee and drag myself up to my room for a sleep that lasts fifteen hours.

Sure, Budapest is best on a balmy night, but you've got to be a little bit too.

+ + +

Peter Vincent is a published novelist who lives in San Francisco. He can be reached at vincentpeter65 - at - hotmail - dot - com

Rick E. Bruner | Budapest Nostalgia | Mar 11, 2004 | Comments (1)

Budapest Week Reunion Party! January 2, Csiga Bar, 7pm

If you had anything to do with the late, great Budapest Week newspaper and you will be in Budapest on Jaunary 2, 2004, the place to be at 7pm is the Csiga Bar (address to come shortly).

Please spread the word!

Tom, Steve, anyone -- is there such a thing as a mapping utility for Budapest that would provide a map of where the Csiga is located? How about the address, anyway?


Rick E. Bruner | Budapest Nostalgia, Gen Expat Life Updates, Social Announcements | Dec 18, 2003 | Comments (2)

About This Site

Welcome to

This site is devoted to those who came from elsewhere to live in Budapest, Prague and other areas of Eastern Europe in the 1990s. The purposes of this site, such that they are, are to reminisce about those heady days of early '90s in Eastern Europe, keep in touch with old friends, let folks know what you're up to these days, post important/interesting/funny/pointless news of the Eastern Europe, and otherwise bullshit with friends.

The site is intended to serve first and foremost the extended group of friends of the site's creator, Rick E. Bruner, namely those who worked at or who were part of the greater social circles orbiting around Budapest Week and Prognosis newspapers. Rick has invited a few dozen folks from that era to join in posting to this web site.

If you were also part of the Generation Expat scene and would like to post to the site, contact Rick. If Rick doesn't know or remember you personally, your chances of being invited to post to the site are much improved by a reference from someone else whose name you see on this site.

Rick E. Bruner | Budapest Nostalgia, Prague Nostalgia, Site Admin | Dec 17, 2003 | Comments (5)