What would constitute a perfect evening for you?” the question asks. I’ve heard a plethora of answers to this question, ranging from quiet evenings at home with a good
book to an exciting evening on the town. My answer has always been the
same over the years – to leave mid-afternoon with from my home in Santa Rosa
California and to drive to a spot on the coast called McClure’s Beach with
someone I would care very much about. Once there, I’d spend the better part of an hour scouring the vast stretch of beach bordered on one side of course by the
sparkling blue Pacific ocean and on the other by cliffs that look right out
of a science fiction novel about Mars. Having gathered enough wood, I
would build a small fire and begin a barbecue consisting of various
delicacies such as kebabs and followed by a dessert of strawberries and
wine. As the sun would set over the ocean, and the beach would become
deserted, I would gradually add wood to the fire so as to make it a roaring
inferno that would keep us warm until the morning light if we so desired.
Then, to the sound of some pleasant music, we’d hold each other all night, all the while listening to the waves pounding the shoreline ever so close by.
Now, being on the other side of the world and so far away from the California shoreline I love so much, if you were to simply add two words to the end of that question, those
being “in Budapest”, my answer could only be one – an evening at
Restaurant Karpatia, located at Ferenciek tere 7-8, with a beautiful woman followed by a midnight stroll on the bank of the Danube. And if you care to continue reading,
that is exactly what I will share with you in this journal entry, “A perfect
evening in Budapest Hungary.”
Leading up to today,
there had been several exchanges of emails between Balázs
Váradi-Szabó and me. He is in charge of marketing for perhaps one of
the more famous and perhaps finest restaurant in Budapest -
“Mr. Hall, of course we would love to have you once again be our guest at
was his reply to my earlier email informing him that I was once again in
town and would like to inquire of exchanging a listing on my web site’s “I
Suggest” page for a nice meal. This would be my second visit in as
many years, and if only half as nice as last year’s meal, it would be quite
an evening I thought. Unfortunately I had not had the opportunity to
meet him personally last year and I hoped that this year that would not be
the case. I arranged to meet him at 2 o’clock at the restaurant,
between the lunch and dinner rushes, so I could shoot some panoramas for
him. I have found that the nicer the people are to me that I deal
with, the more I will go out of my way to please them. I had told Balázs
(ba-loz (as in lozenger)) that in addition to reciprocating with continuous
exposure on my site, I would like to come and give him some nice panoramas
for his marketing purposes, free of charge of course.
The day began with the usual breakfast at Cafe Raday Etkezde
of a four egg omelet with three eggs being whites only and juice and coffee.
I needed to find a place to shine my shoes I told the gal there who speaks
English. And to my delight, just a few doors down was such a place.
My date for the evening had indicated that she would wear a very nice – and
sexy – dress and I felt somewhat obligated to look nice as well, both for
her benefit as well as the mere fact of the venue where we would be eating
this evening. I then did some other chores which included picking up a
letter from the director of the Fine Arts Museum near my home and checking
my emails at my office, known to the locals as the public library. It
was near 1:30 when I finally began the short journey to the restaurant to
meet Balázs. As I sat on the Blue Line
metro, I wondered if he would like the Van Morrison CD I would give him.
As mentioned, I had never met him though we had emailed quite extensively.
To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect but for some silly reason I
envisioned an older Hungarian man, large in stature with perhaps a balding
head but plenty of hair in both his nostrils and ears. Much to my
surprise, when I was introduced to him, he was a very young and handsome
man, very well dressed and spoke English perfectly.
Often times when I have such a meeting, I am the type who will plan every
detail or at least attempt to. As I had earlier sat on the metro, I
kept planning over and over in my head. “Ok, first I will give him the
Van cd and tell him how many people I have shared it with only to receive an
email back saying how much they had enjoyed it. Then, I will show him
the panoramas I have already taken to show him my abilities and alleviate
any doubts he may have as to my ability to “produce”. After that, I’d
whip out my portfolio to show him my previous works in case he’d want to use
my services for a web site. Finally, I’d show him some food photos
from the various places I have visited, name dropping all the while. ”
Fortunately, I was able to do all of this things as we were not interrupted.
Before I knew it, there we were in private dining room which was adjoined by
a fantastic sitting room with furnishings dating back to the 19th century
when the restaurant was built. If only these walls could talk as I set
up my equipment. Perhaps there had been conversations within these
very walls about such things as the invention of the airplane, luxurious
ships that could now sail the world offering comfort all the while, and yes
of course, about the various wars that have affected this country over the
was quite pleased that Balázs
stayed with me during the whole shoot. It gave me an opportunity to
get to know him much better than I had hoped. It was obvious why he
held the position which he does of marketing director. He seemed sharp
as a tack if you will. Perhaps the best advice I have gotten in all of
my visits came from his lips that afternoon. In the time I have been
here, I have been very curious about life under a communist government and
will often find myself asking people one question after another about it or
1956 in particular. He told me that although people may speak matter
of factly about these subjects, I would be hard pressed to have someone give
me an opinion one way or another about them. “It has not been such a
long time since those days Tom, and I might suggest you refrain from such
discussions with just anyone” he said to me. His words were those of
wisdom I thought and will heed them as I continue my presence in this once
Soviet satellite country.
Anyway, the photos came out perfect I must say, and I think Balázs
would agree. What a feather in my cap I thought as I watched one image
merge into the other to complete the panoramic digital image. I told
Balázs how often times I was frustrated at my
inability to access such venues as the baths and museums in Budapest.
Much to my delight, he told me his mother works for the Budapest Tourist
office AND he knows the two girls in charge of PR and marketing for the
same. “You’ve got to be kidding I kept telling myself. You just
got to be kidding….” What a fortunate relationship I was developing.
We finished shooting at 4:30 which hopefully was enough time to get back for
my shoes and then to my flat to iron an outfit for the night. How
would I look with my neatly pressed shirt and khaki pants and a pair of
sandals or sneakers I thought. (the latter called “trainers” in
England) I wouldn’t come find this out as I arrived at the shoe shop
just as the older lady was locking up. “Aaaaah!” I let out as she
smiled at me and motioned me in. “Köszönöm, Köszönöm ” I kept saying
over and over – thank you, thank you. She charged me HUF 800 Forints,
but I gave her 1,000 and was on my way.
There is not much to say about the rest of my preparation except to say that
there I was ironing away all the while watching the evening news on CNN.
I chose to wear a nice short sleeved white shirt with my brown khakis.
What would she be wearing I kept thinking. Other than telling me that
it would be a red dress, I knew little else. Would she remember my
telling her that when I go out with a woman, an outfit which might ever so
slightly reveal some lace lingerie underneath is a HUGE turn on.
Perhaps, but her mere beauty alone would be enough of a turn on for me I
jumped on either the #4 or #6 tram and was on her doorstep, flowers in hand,
at 7:00 sharp. I buzzed her flat, #89 on the panel, and within a
minute I was standing inside the building entry was just marveling at her
beauty as she stood on the staircase waiting for me. Her dress was not
only stunning, but extremely classy and tasteful as well. “What a
woman!” I thought. We chatted only long enough for me to share with
her the fruits of my labor from the afternoon so she could see just where
we’d be having dinner this evening. I couldn’t tell whether the smile
upon her countenance was inspired by the thought of the evening ahead or by
my presence or both, but just as it has every time I have seen it since we
met nearly two weeks ago, it melted my heart.
Much to the stares of the locals on the tram, we began our short trip to the
We of course jumped on the same tram which brought me to her home and then
to the underground where we’d catch the Blue Line for one short stop to the Ferenciek tere.
(tere meaning square I think) She could only laugh as the others in
the underground could as well as I sang Van Morrisons “Brown Eyed Girl” to
her as it played on my headset. “Dance with me” I said, twirling her
around. You are a crazy man she said in her ever so cute accented
English. The train arrived and within a matter of minutes we were at
the front door of the
The same gentleman who greeted me last year was standing there. Seeing
my camera and all of it’s wires and gadgets, he quickly remembered me.
He was so kind to offer to take our picture, and I of course returned the
favor and took his as well. He was as kind as he was handsome.
Without hesitation, he showed us to our table, near the back of the terrace
and away from the rush of the staff waiting on the other diners that
evening. “Tom”, she said ever so softly, “we should begin with a
Hungarian drink called Pálinka.”
Oh yes, Balázs had earlier in the day asked me
if on the English version of the menu he could reference this as a Schapps.
After tasting it, I said no, as Schapps has more of a bite to it
Balázs, I told him. And so the evening
began in earnest. One delectable dish after another arrived, all
accompanied by the marvelous wine my date had chosen from one of Hungary’s
world famous wine regions. For a starter, I chose large tiger prawns
which were as messy as they were delicious. She chose a more simple
starter of tomatoes and mozzarella. I then had some soup before our
entrees arrived, mine being deer with a potato side dish and vegetables,
hers being a nice chicken dish with a rice dish. “Tom, look at the
little shrimp in my rice” she commented and I laughed. The staff
waiting on us couldn’t of been more professional and kind. I kept
teasing my date and our waiter that although they may think I was a silly
American who couldn’t understand a word they were saying, I was certain
the translated equivalent might of been something like this: “Oh no,
he is not my boyfriend, just some crazy American I met on a train. You
are very, very cute. I will give you my mobile number and after he
takes me home, I will meet you on the Danube by the chain bridge. He
thinks we are talking about the menu that silly, silly man…”
The evening went on and on, all the while the restaurant’s gypsie musicians
playing one song after another, often times right at our table. At one
point, I asked my date to please translate the following to the fiddler who
had so kindly given me a CD of their music last year. “Please tell him
that last year he gave me his music on a cd. And that many, many times
I have sat under the stars, often in my garden, smoking a cigar while
listening to his music. And tell him that often times, his music has
caused tears to come to my eyes and that his music would be seemingly
calling me to return to this city on the Danube, as if it were calling me
home.” I am not sure if it was translated as I wished, but he gave me
a humble “Köszönöm”
and through her, inquired as to my favorite piece. Oh that was easy I
told her to tell him, “If I were a rich man”. And within seconds, the
four of them began to play the same. It was as beautiful as the lady
whom sat across from me I thought. Just beautiful.
Unlike most evening out, this one ended void of any check or bill.
I tipped our waiter HUF 3,000 Forint even though I was sure he had been
collaborating behind my back with my date to meet up at the Danbue later
that evening (I’m only joking) and we were off. I wanted
the night to end with a glass of champagne followed by kisses at her flat.
As we sat on the metro, she asked me if we could walk along the Danube and
to my delight I said but of course. We had champagne and then strolled
to the Danube, only minutes away from Raday ut.
It was during that stroll I thought, that the rest of the world could just
fade away for all I cared. She was all I needed, or wanted for that
matter. Pointing to the heavens above, I asked her if she could make
out the constellation Ursa Major, aka the big dipper. She recognized
it. I told her that in America when we unfortunately had slavery, the
colored people were taught this constellation and that using it’s bottom two
most stars, one could find the North Star Polaris and thus the direction
north and freedom. I think she was impressed. We strolled
further along and I occasionally would find my hand slip inside the opening
in her dress on her back and ever so slowly, caressing her soft skin.
“I love when you touch me” she would say over and over. And I love to
touch you would be my reply. Little could she know that I wanted to
tear that dress off that had been teasing me all night and to make love to
her right there, for all the heavens to see.
When the lights on the Castle and bridges went out, we decided to begin our
walk home. Neither of us wanted this “perfect evening” to end.
The walk was a long one to the tram line which would take us to her flat.
It gave us an opportunity to talk about many things and in doing so, I came
to appreciate and respect her more and more. What a Lady I
The night ended at her flat where it began, with a pleasant kiss goodnight. And with this, I will end this story of a perfect evening in Budapest. In doing so
though, I invite you to return next week for the description of a perfect
four-day weekend along the shore of another body of water in Hungary, that
being the largest fresh-water lake in Europe known as Lake Balaton.
And yes, with the same lovely lady…
PS. In reference to a “Perfect Evening – in Budapest” for yourself,
finding the Danube and the
will be quite simple for you, but as for the lovely lady in the ever sexy
red dress, you will have to find your own, for she is mine and only mine!