Lesser-known charms of Budapest – desserts and storytelling
Budapest has lots of things to offer to tourists and citizens alike. An important aspect is gastronomy and the culinary experiences you can enjoy in the Hungarian capital. Even though goulash and other savoury dishes usually enjoy the limelight, desserts and the Hungarian café experience should not be downplayed, either.
Thrillist wrote about the charming cafés and confectionaries you seem to bump into on every corner in Budapest. Even though the reputation of the city as a party capital still holds, and numerous ruin bars and overnight spa parties enjoy maximum popularity, learning about the history of the city while munching on a piece of cake and sipping a nice cup of coffee also has its charms.
According to Gábor Bánfalvi, the co-owner of Taste Hungary,
“Back in the turn of the century, which we consider the height of Hungarian coffeehouse culture, Budapest was home to around 600 coffeehouses.”
He also added that the coffeehouses served not only as meeting points but rather as the scenes of where people lived their lives.
In the last century, coffeehouses served as a safe haven for writers, poets, artists and intellectuals. Many of them spent their days there, writing and having educational conversations. These were supportive environments that even provided ink and paper if needed. According to Bánfalvi,
“In many cases they would also provide [creatives] a line of credit, and patiently wait with the bill until the sometimes poor writers would get their money for their pieces. Waiters would take messages for them and also collect mail for their writer clientele, providing extra services for writers who otherwise were on their own as freelancers.”
On the other hand, pastries were also gaining popularity in Hungary at the time, partly due to the rise of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Amy Emberling, who is the managing partner of Zingerman’s Bakehouse which specialises in Hungarian food and is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, talked about the major economic and industrial development and growth that Budapest went through after 1850.
“During the second half of the 1800s, as wealth grew in the general public, they wanted to enjoy great desserts, [which] became available to them in cafés and bakeries.
(Restaurateur) George Lang referred to Hungary as ‘the land of 10 million pastry lovers’. This is referring to the great breadth and depth of the Hungarian dessert repertoire.”
Unfortunately, there were times coffeehouse culture in Hungary took hits because of the sad turn of events in history. Considering about half of the coffeehouses were Jewish-owned, the Second World War and the Holocaust caused damages in this area, too.
“Regimes did not want the conversation, freedom of speech, journalism, and literature that was the essence of coffeehouses until then. Today many of the old places are back and serving coffee again, and Budapest is proud of this part of its past.”
Nowadays, visiting New York Café or Centrál Coffee House, two of the most spectacular and significant cafés, is a must when visiting the Hungarian capital. Both of these promise excellent experiences while New York Café also offers “The Writer’s Dish”, a meat and cheese plate that commemorates this lovely part of Hungarian history.
Featured image: Daily News Hungary