I am really sorry for the bad pun, I am even more sorry of it because this article is about Buda, not Pest. But still!
I always thought of myself as a “pesti” – a citizen of Pest, the East side of Budapest, capital of Hungary. And I am, since I have lived here most of my life, it was always the city where my friends were, where I went to school, where I ate and went to parties.
I had a stereotypical vision of the Buda side and the people from there: that’s where the snobs are, the filthy rich who can afford homes by the Buda hills and big SUVs to drive there with.
I was wrong, because when I came to think of it, I realized I knew a lot of people from Buda, and they are not filthy rich nor did they all have cars. Like my brother for example, who gave up the Pest-side life for Buda when he got married, and who has a car, but is not even living in the hills. Or a friend who lives up the hills, but rides a bicycle with her two kids. Amazing, isn’t it? Or this friend of a friend who lived in the Castle District (can we stop here for a moment and savour it? The Castle District, for heaven’s sake!). But it was only because his grandmother received an apartment from the municipality, back in the ‘50s, and it happened to be located at the Castle District.
Okay, so we can agree that I was completely wrong.
Last Friday, we went to Buda to eat. Crazy! I know. I don’t really know what happened. My best friend heard about this fish restaurant which was not really open, but if you reserved a time, you could eat there. We almost opted for a Pest-side restaurant, but I felt that we needed to go to the first place, so we reserved and went, because we really like fish (and it was our birthday!)
Even this is a bit ludicrous for me. A restaurant that is not open, but still offers food if you reserve in advance. They came up with this idea to ensure being able to afford a great service, because they can prepare exactly the amount of food which will be asked by customers who are interested. I liked the place, with its minimalistic design, kind of cheap prices, touches of color here and there.
Then something weird happened: a family came in. Daddy, Mommy and a little girl. They just walked by the place, they liked it. They asked if they could stay and grab a bite. The waitress explained them how the restaurant worked, but proposed to check if they can squeeze them in. And they could, because someone cancelled their reservation.
It was fascinating because it wouldn’t have happened in Pest. I’ve never seen or known families that went to a restaurant just like that, passing by. The people I know (and who are from Pest) go to restaurants to celebrate something. And I want you to note here that we went to that place to celebrate our birthday – which leads exactly back to my point.
So we figured, with my friend, what made Buda what it is: it’s more Western, geographically and habit-wise as well. In Buda, you have the means and the guts to go to a restaurant just like that, because you can. Why not?
That’s a really great and healthy way of thinking, and I understand now that we have a lot to learn from Buda. The main message is: be aware of what you got, and explore your potential and possibilities to the fullest. You can’t be sure that you’ll be able to serve a huge amount of people in one night? Open your restaurant only to those with reservations. You pass by a nice, cosy place where it seems that fish&chips are sold, and you realize you’re hungry? Just go in, and ask if you can stay.
It applies to every aspect of life, and it’s great. I am glad that I overcame my stereotypes about Buda and enjoyed an eye-opening and exquisite dinner at Nemo Fish&Chips bar.
(Disclaimer: This article was written in October, 2013. Nemo is now open for business, just look at what they look like today (image taken from their Facebook page):