On Saturday night the French Institute of Budapest (Francia Intézet) hosted a big bang on Bem rakpart, which is the main drag on the Buda side of the Danube. The French Institute is sort of a cultural institution here, though I’m not totally sure what goes on there. They have music performances, fashion shows, gallery exhibitions, literary conferences, etc., and on Saturday they closed down the street and had a big party with French wine, cheese, and food vendors, including other frenchy things like lavender artisan soaps, perfumes and fashion baskets.
The street was mega packed and really cutely decorated. In addition, there was a great lineup of French DJs who were spinning for around five hours. The atmosphere was totally rad and accompanied by the best thing about street fairs—lots of relaxed people having fun, drinking good wine and beer and the permeating smell of grilling meats.
And I have to admit that the event organizers were really quite helpful. Györgyi had loaned her car to András a few days ago and he parked it on Bem Rakpart when he was finished with it. Since most people don’t drive their cars around here (as you wouldn’t in New York City except for an extreme emergency taking you into the country, i.e., Brooklyn, or a trip to Whole Foods) it’s common to not check on your car for a few days. As Györgyi, Buba and I were on our way toward the festival, we realized that the car had been moved, as there were no cars at all parked on the street. With András’ quick phone calling and the help of the cute and slightly drunk event organizers, we learned that the car had been moved somewhere by someone and should be in the city and probably in Buda. Luckily it only took about twenty minutes to find the little darling and we were able to get back to the fête with plenty of time to celebrate.
At 10 pm (as seems to be quite normal here this time of year) a little riverboat pulled up alongside the bank and started shooting off a 20-minute fireworks show. The whole thing was choreographed by the DJs and rivaled the best of American July fireworks (though granted, in America, I never saw nearby passing riverboats almost burst into flames from the offshooting embers). Afterward we had some wheat beers and strolled down the road toward the Lánchíd where there was another festival in full swing.
It’s amazing to be on the bridge when it’s totally shut down to cars and trains. With everyone walking around, you feel almost part of the glowing ions that can be seen from people walking along the banks of the river or from the hilly districts of Buda. There is a certain light that is cast from the bridge and it’s almost eerie to be inside of it, especially at night.
Unlike the French party, this was a kind of artisan street fair with traditional Hungarian music, Hungarian artists, and Hungarian food. Now every country has some kind of fried dough doused in sugar that always makes an appearance at fairs. In Hungary it’s called kürtös kalács. They’re coiled up in a cylinder, fried, and then sugar and cinnamon are fired onto them as they roll on a rotisserie to harden the sugar. Being that it was nearly midnight and we hadn’t eaten dinner, we went for classic Hungarian fare: sült kolbász. This is a particular treat for me, as I only ever eat it at Christmas time and sometimes Easter. (and the one time my mom accidently shipped me some in Indiana that had been in her freezer for two years–so it’s a miracle I can eat it at all, really, and still love it). Seriously, if you haven’t eaten Hungarian sausage, close your internet browser, turn of your computer, drive to your nearest Hungarian butcher and try it. And then tomorrow, run ten miles.