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Artists, WIne, Cafes, Bars in Budapest

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Artists, Wine, Cafes, Bars in Budapest

Friends. Yes, I fell into the glorious mucky brim of a big pool of mad friends here in Budapest. The artists. I was walking back to the Bubble after a somewhat stale feeling bar-night which consisted of shot-gunning cheap tall boy beers in the streets with two affable young Manchester brothers and dude from Texas, and running straight into three Finnish icebergs (though it was good fun watching the Brisher boys trying to warm the hearts of these frigid women).

I shrugged my shoulders as I was walking home with the Brits, laughing, joking, and feeling quite satisfied with myself for not having drank away too much of my travel funds. I then heard the chimes of a group of people singing a Pink Floyd song coming from a street-side cafe and stopped short.
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Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Budapest, Hungary- August 9, 2008
Travelogue Travel Photos
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I began to sing too.

A kid with dark features, long hair, and a skinny face was playing the guitar with a two girl choir. They all waved with smiles on their singing faces and invited us to sit down. We took up the invitation and I bought a really cheap beer. The musicians played as we all sang. When the song came to a close they introduced themselves and the rest of the wild-eyed kids who were sitting around the tables of the cafe.

The Manchester brothers soon went back to the hostel, but I stayed at the cafe smiling into my beer.

I knew right then that these wild kids could potentially be friends worthy of exploits and many, many written words. After two weeks of romping with this bunch, my initial suspicions proved correct. Stories came and stories have been written. Therefore, I will offer you, dear readers, an introduction to them, just in case you find yourselves lone and bored on a Budapest night you will know who to stay away from.

The man with the guitar was named Nilo, a Pakistani/ Irish Brit who ended up – somehow – in Budapest eight years ago and made his home in the Gypsy quarter. He was a musician and extremely charismatic, though his body build was slight, he was not very tall – maybe five foot seven or eight – and had an amazingly slinky body frame that seemed to always be slightly bending and churning as he spoke. He reminded me of an antagonistic cartoon gutter rat. But Nilo possessed a special quality of social directness that showed his pure confidence. His words came out clean and without a tint of self doubt or indecision. He was a prime example of a deliberate man. The rest of the group seemed to listen to his words and respected his opinions. The girls also liked him, and they always seemed to be sitting upon his lap with arms flung around his shoulders.

Befitting of the confident way that he spoke, his words were often ingenious as they flowed out of him with flowery hand gestures, well accentuated head movements, and slightly exaggerated facial expressions. When he spoke, his skinny face would jet around in starts and well orchestrated stops, as if he was putting on a show and sought to keep us all in suspense. And his audience could not help but to listen to his verbal sea of hilarious drunken dead-pan English logic. He made sense. He carried himself with roguish degree of class. Nilo had something of the pirate in him.

Though to the despair of whoever was in ear-shout, our humor just so happens to blend together well, and we would match each other bad joke for bad joke until our audience could bear our bad jokes no longer. Thus given, the barroom was Nilo’s theatre, a long table full of beer his stage, and drunks his audience. This man, with his long, silky black hair tied back in a pigtail, his sharp little goatee that framed the sharp contours of his face, his large and expressive eyebrows, and his almost scripted eloquence of speech was the heart of this little group of late night drunken artists.

Sitting upon Nilo’s lap at the cafe was Etta – or at least that is what I have named her – who was another Brit who carried herself in a rather dry sauce sort of British way. She was very pretty by any man’s standard, had thick black hair, a light facial complexion, and would playfully churned her face up cynically like a feminine manner of bulldog. She seemed to know what to do, and how to do it. I know nothing more about her other than I enjoy her company.

Paired up in a womanly duo with Etta was Viv. Viv was a Hungarian stage director, and, from the way that she spent money in the bar, I must conclude that she obtained a good deal of success. Viv was 28 years old, was around five foot five, shaped in waves, possessed a pair of bright eyes, and a magnetic pair of feet that seemed to be everywhere at once. I have no idea how one woman had the ability to draw so much attention to her feet. Or, perhaps, it was only my attention that was being drawn (but as the narrator of this tale, that which takes my fancy becomes the fancy of the entire story). But regardless, Viv had a good energy about her that unfortunately seemed to attract every Frenchman within a fifty mile radius. Viv would appear in a room, brighten it with her smile, and then be set upon by an entire pond of Frenchies. I have seen this. It is seriously distressing. But Viv does not seem to mind and laps up the French attention like a thirsty kitten. When one Frenchman seemed to bore her she simply moved on to the next, and so on until she completed a flirting circle back to the first – just to start over again. But I do not think that there is a man alive – French or otherwise – who could repel the charm of this woman. She moved gracefully, had little blue eyes that shine bright, was perfectly plump, and seemed to know how to make men fall before her oddly attractive feet.

Sitting next to Viv at the cafe was Harry. Harry was born in Madagascar, was a young thirty, looked startlingly like Lenny Kraviz, had a kind face, a light brown skin tone, and gave off an energy that was a testament to honest sincerity. Befitting of a man who resembles Lenny Kraviz, he was also a very fancy dresser, and adorned himself with tight knee length stretch pants, a necklace replete with big wooden beads, a menagerie of bracelets flowing over his wrists and hands, a pair of slick buckle up leather shoes, and topped this all off with a short poofy afro. Harry simply looked cool. He was also a linguistic genius, and spoke Hungarian, English, French, Spanish, and whatever language they speak in Madagascar with native fluency. To listen to him talk was like hearing the voice of Babel’s tower, and he often transitioned between multiple tongues during the course of making a single statement.

This man was a genius. “Harry, you could be a lawyer!” his mother would tell him. He could. But I think that he would rather live his life well.

Next to Harry was a Hungarian woman who I will just call Poison. I have not seen her since this first meeting at the cafe. She was probably around 32 years old and was an archaeology professor at the university. She was long, thin, and had brunette colored hair that was cut into a flapper bob. She also wore a short cut black dress, and obviously knew how to move, speak, and, essentially, make herself attractive to the opposite sex. I initially thought that she was Harry’s girlfriend, as they would give each other little kisses every once in a while and rub each other’s legs. But then she began getting a little closer to me as we talked about archaeology. I was sitting in a chair on the opposite side of her as Harry, and I soon began to doubt if she had any relationship ties to anyone present at the cafe. Like most men, I really did not mind a woman giving me some very innocent attention.

Soon enough though, perhaps after realizing what was going on and becoming a little jealous, the man on the other side of me leaned over and whispered into my ear, “She is my favorite girl.” I just nodded my head and said that I could see why. He then leaned back into his chair and thought of another way to buck me out of my seat and away from his favorite girl. “Would it be OK if we switched seats?” he asked. I, of course, complied.

I forget this man’s name, but he had a curly mass of red hair upon his head. So I will just call him Curly Red. Well, Curly Red quickly switched seats with me and began getting on the poisonous lady that was once sitting at my side. Curly Red liked to laugh a lot, and he did so by opening his mouth really widely and letting out hilarious laugh sounds that were almost more funny than that which he was laughing at. I do not know where he was from, but he was definitely of Irish decent. He had a very white face, lots of freckles, was tall and skinny, and, of course, had that mass of curly red hair.

From his new vantage point, Curly Red dived into the pit of Poison, and provoked a slight competition with Harry. Curly Red would give Poison little kisses and touches, and Harry would look dejected, and then Harry would give Poison little kisses and touches, and Curly Red would look dejected. And so it went back and forth. Poison did not mind the little kisses and touches of either man.

“You are poison,” I laughing told her as I got out of my seat and passed by on my way to another vantage point at the table. She looked at me blankly for a second and then laughed as she acknowledged my statement. She knew what she was doing, and did so with absolute eloquence.

The night quickly passed into day with these kids. Poison soon disappeared with Curly Red, Harry went elsewhere, and Nilo, Viv, Etta, and I moved to another table. I got a 6AM glass of wine, and we continued talking about something. Soon it was time to be moving on, and I suggested that we go out to the island that sits plop in the center of the Danube between Buda and Pest. Etta was up for anything, Viv was willing, but Nilo had to be at work in a few hours and did not want to go that far away. So we went up to where he lives in the Gypsy district and met a couple of pigeon hunters with a slingshot in a park. (Read about this at Budapest Skid Row Pigeon Hunters.)

For a few weeks before meeting these Budapest artists I had been feeling rather estranged and socially awkward. Hostel living comes with a severe lack of alone time, and I had been feeling deep urges to abscond while in the constant presence of people. I was beginning to think myself socially unfit for general human conversation, but what I really needed was to talk to people who I had some common bond with. I found these people in the dawn of day at a little street side cafe, and I have come to call them my friends.

Only fate can say if I will ever meet this bunch of international misfit artists again, or if our times will be left to a few weeks of music, fun nights, laughter, and magic.

Links to previous travelogue entries:

  • Global College LIU Graduation Requirements
  • Hostel Work in Budapest
  • Slovakia Photos

Artists in Budapest
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Filed under: Eastern Europe, Europe, Hungary

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3054 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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