Budapest, Hungary — Yesterday was New York burger, New York salad, New York sausage at the New York Café. Bagels they didn’t have. Waiters with thumbs in the soup bowl they also didn’t have. But they did have live musicians accompanying my wiener schnitzel with beetroot.
Dinner was at Bistro Déryné, where a combo oom-pahd over the New York rib-eye.
The night before on Fortunato Street in the medieval Castle District in a 13th-century building near the 19th-century basilica and where a wall photo of George Pataki hung — an in-house pianist plinked “New York, New York.” Not exactly like maybe they get The Post every day. More like my escort was Ambassador to Hungary David Cornstein — whose US address is on Park Avenue.
Europe often means Paris, Rome, London. Paris is burning, Rome is demonstrating and England’s got handy Prince Andy. The new go-to is Budapest. Even Polish Airline LOT, 7 ¹/₂ hours nonstop, advertises “Brooklyn House: The Best American Food in Warsaw.”
Bisected by bridges across the Danube — Buda is the residential side, Pest is commercial. Neither has any problem celebrating womanhood. Its Minister of Justice, a mom with two kids, is Ms. Judit Varga.
The city has no homeless. No peddlers. No unemployment. It’s clean. No trash anywhere. And not expensive. And everyone’s punctual. Invite for 7:15. Guests show 7:14. Drinkers who drive lose their license forever.
Shopping’s plentiful. Their outdoor Christmas market’s the world’s largest. Their multistory indoor market — vendors, bags, gloves, dresses, tchotchkes — is the planet’s largest.
Great for filmmaking
From weathered facades of communist concrete architecture, Hungary jumped to five-star hotels, designers, a movie-making industry that flourished in the Orson Welles 1950s era and more recently shot films with Angelina Jolie, Tom Hanks, Ryan Gosling, Jennifer Lawrence, Harrison Ford. Another new Disney epic might even be heading that way.
Once the city where László Bíró discovered the ballpoint pen, now so high-tech that it boasts Müpa, the combination museum, theater, moviehouse, concert hall, which goes from Beethoven to Gershwin and just featured Zubin Mehta. It’s plush 21st-century and makes Lincoln Center look like a rehearsal studio.
Cars pay for coats
Automobile manufacturing is a big business. Hungary’s President János Áder, over tea at his residence, told me there aren’t even enough workers for all the jobs. He also presented me with the traditional countryside big big thick thick sheepskin coat. A suba. Worn even in an igloo, you’d feel like it’s Palm Beach.
Never, ever forget
A monument to history, the city lived through the communists and died with the Nazis. Alongside the Danube, cemented down for eternity, are children’s shoes and pitiful small items that fell from the masses of bodies Hitler’s soldiers tied together, lined up and machine-gunned. They fell into the icy water.
Let nobody say it didn’t happen. Let nobody forget.
Having survived two world wars is the Dohány Street Synagogue, circa 1854, Europe’s largest Jewish prayer house, second in the world only to our own Temple Emanu-El. In its garden a monument paid for by Bernie Schwartz. Fans knew him as Tony Curtis.
Ambassador Cornstein: “With Washington’s current administration, US-Hungary relations have newly taken a more positive tone. Hungary is the world’s best kept secret.”
It felt good to visit a country so welcoming. It also feels good to be back because home is only in New York, kids, only in New York.
Article Credit Pagesix