August 25, 2005

End of Innocence

During our three days in Prague, I mostly bored Pete with anecdotes about the two times I had been there before, over ten years ago, before it became the stag capital of Europe. In fact the stags weren’t too much in evidence, but that might be because it was the beginning of the week, and it rained quite a lot. My main conclusion is that, contrary to what I have been believing for years, Budapest is much more beautiful.
At heart, they are very similar looking cities; they each have the big wide streets lined with hefty grey old buildings; the wide river bangled with bridges; the castle district rising on the far side. They both have a smattering of english; cheap, stodgy meat dishes; better beer than the UK. They both have efficient public transport and a lot of shoe shops.
The differences are in the superficial bits, the tourist honeypot at the centre. Prague has more sugar coating concentrated in the heart of town, whereas Budapest is less obviously pretty, but opens into tree-lined squares and views of the river just when you least expect it.
Prague also has the Jewish quarter, preserved despite the holocaust as a “museum of an extinct race.” A few threads of low-rise cobbled streets clustered within the elbow of the Vlatva river, which should be so pretty and so accessible; but in fact are subject to high entry fees, and impossible to get near because of the crowds of third-generation americans rediscovering their european roots at the tops of their voices.
Budapest has the advantage that I know my way around, I know where to eat, I know how to say thank you in the right language. It has the allure of the place I nearly lived once, and the mystique of not yet being everyone’s favourite european capital. So don’t tell anyone that it’s better than Prague.


19 thoughts on “End of Innocence

  1. Seeing your photos of the Ossuary at Sedlec, you might be interested in John Connolly’s “The Black Angel”, which features the ossuary and its history quite heavily.
    Glad you had a good time though – be interested to hear more about it sometime, as we’re thinking of going there for Christmas this year…

  2. I take it you mean you’re going to Budapest for Christmas, Lyle? I couldn’t recommend it more strongly.

    karen on August 25, 2005
  3. No, Prague for Christmas. For some bizarre reason I actually really fancy going – but then, I’m strange like that…
    Then again, could do Prague this year and Budapest next. You know, comparison exercise and so on. *grin*

  4. Apologies, Doctor Pockless. My, um, ‘homework’ has rather slipped to the back of my inbox. I shall cast an intelligent eye (just the one intelligent eye, mind) over it this weekend …

  5. It seems I’ve come full circle. I started out assisting the kids with their homework in the comments boxes of The Clock, and now I’m chivvying the kids to complete their summer assignments.
    I like to think that somewhere, on a remote forum far far away (as is the nature of remote forums) somebody is begging for help with their Summer Assignment and a benign old gentleman and scholar will assist them in a similar manner. I will receive several assignements studded with a peculiar brand of off-the-cuff nonsense, and this new benefactor will start his own site in which he rambles at length on nothing in particular for the entertainment of a small but hardy group of enthusiasts.
    This is precisely as it should be.

  6. * Mr.D. staggers into The Kape cocktail bar, for all the world looking like Johnnie Mills in “Ice cold in Alex” *
    “I’ve come from a dry and dusty place” he muttered hoarsely, “where they ain’t even allowed to use hosepipes.”
    “Gimme a Smirnoff Blue, no ice” he pleaded.
    The lovely barmaid looked pityingly at him, and said ”

  7. Kate and I are planning a trip to Budapest for next year, and we (OK, I) also want to spend some time somewhere else that’s accessible from Hungary, a little farther off the beaten path and in the mountains… Slovakia? Romania? Not sure yet. Suggestions?

  8. Ooh, Kate’n’Clap, now you’re asking.
    Firstly, please remember to ask me for tips about Budapest nearer the time – I have so much to tell you that you won’t be able to do it all.
    Secondly, we are considering a trip to Hungary next summer, to coincide with Pepsi Sziget, but it depends on certain unknowable things at present, so we should compare dates.
    Thirdly, for trips to nearby places, you could actually stay within Hungary and visit some of the outlying towns such as Eger (where Bulls Blood wine comes from), or Pecs, which is down near the border with Croatia. After all, once you’ve picked up a smattering of the world’s most difficult language, why take it to any other country, where it won’t be understood?
    Croatia is supposed to be nice, but quite a long trip to get to the good bits (ie. Dubrovnik, Zagreb or the Istrian coast). I have never been, but it’s on my list.

    karen on August 29, 2005
  9. p.s. you might also want to check out The Hungary Years, a really good little blog written by an expat based in Budapest. Lots of useful notes about good restaurants, local colour, and funny photos.

    karen on August 29, 2005
  10. ooh, thanks, karen! naturally we’ll be in touch to extort for information. 🙂

  11. I’m please to report that they’ve long since taken the Pepsi out of Pepsi Sziget, and now it’s the plain old Sziget – what’s more, its main sponsors appear to be home grown.

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