Sunday, March 14, 2010

Friday Night in Budapest

From Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, and Slovenia
Friday night proper began at a hole-in-the-wall, rock 'n' roll brick cellar pub called Kőkorsó, the sort of place where I feel most comfortable. It was quite small. Three forms of entertainment intersected there: 1) table football, 2) singing along to Red Hot Chili Peppers songs strummed on a guitar somebody had brought in, and 3) drinking. The bar was frequented mostly by students, though there were a couple of old guys wandering around (a glimpse into my own future—that is, if I live to be that old), one of whom took over guitar-strumming duties at the end of the night accompanied by a chorus of rosy-faced drunk kids.

The table football action was furious. One young woman there was the best table football player I've ever seen (though I haven't exactly studied the sport). She always played offense. Before taking a shot she toyed with the ball a little in order to line it up perfectly. Sometimes she rapped the side of the table gently with her palm in order to shake the ball into precisely the right position. This was usually followed by a quick tap of the ball to one side (no doubt to get around the defender) followed by a thunderous WACK! The ball moved so fast that the shot was invisible to the human eye; only the sound of the ball rolling around inside the table indicated its successful transit to the back of the net.

Nonetheless, I managed to beat her and her teammate twice. Perhaps she let me win.

I got into a great conversation with two students there; only got the name of one of them, Gergo, a typically tall Hungarian fellow. At last I got to ask questions about Hungary and being Hungarian. Gergo and his friend, a blond college girl, made music recommendations. They even produced a list of folk artists I should check out. They raved about a great summer music festival on Lake Balaton; I would love to check this out, especially as it has a heavy emphasis on electronic music.

They acknowledged that the Hungarian pop music scene is not that developed, something I had thought might be the case after studying their music charts for a year or two (though I am fond of Zséda's "És megindul a föld").

Gergo's friend recommended a sort of cider-like drink that had a wine-like quality to it; the result was served in a pint glass and looked and tasted like a berry cider. They could not explain to me what this was in English (maybe half cider, half white wine?), so I must leave things this vague. In any case it was tasty, but all sweet drinks invite disaster later, so I am glad the bar ran out of the stuff, forcing me to switch to four or five beers instead.

The three of us headed to a disco bar across from the Nyugati Train Station. The DJ stuck to a party theme. Songs played included:

ABBA - Dancing Queen
Bryan Adams - Summer of 69
The Doors - Break on Through (to the Other Side)
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - I Love Rock and Roll
John Paul Young - Love is in the Air (I love this little-known [in America] song and was surprised to hear it there)
Katrina and the Waves - Walking on Sunshine

Gergo's friend, who earlier had warned us of the dangers of switching from wine to beer (before she indulged in wine followed by beer), ran off to get some McDonald's food to absorb some of the alcohol. After a while it was clear she had vanished. A concerned Gergo checked up on her via his cell phone and found out she was safe with her friends, who were keeping a watchful eye over her while she threw up on the streets of Budapest.

With Gergo's help I found my way back to the hostel. And that was my Friday night in Budapest.

Saturday I spent half the day recovering, though I did manage to check out the charming Ethnographic Museum.

From Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, and Slovenia

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