Budapest: Café Culture
In another photo post, I wrote about why Budapest is one of my favourite cities in the world. There are few cities that can match Budapest for shear beauty, culture, good food and of course, its amazing cafés. The best part, is that Budapest and Hungary in general remain very affordable. Paris is nice, but it can easily be four times the cost.
My wife and I are huge coffee people and Budapest cafés don’t disappoint. Most are still one-off, privately owned restaurants with huge amounts of character and charm. In virtually every café, you can get great food, decent wines and alcohol, all with full service. They are not the generic chain stores that have proliferated the North America.
Most cafés have are adorned with interesting art and furniture and attract a very diverse audience. Even the way that Europeans drink coffee is so different. People go to cafés to talk and socialize, not just get some work done or pick up an over-sized dose of caffeine on the way to work. I just shake my head every time I see cars lining up to buy coffee through a drive-through in North America.
Where is the Culture in North America?
This cultural difference is very difficult to explain to people who haven’t been to cities like Budapest, Prague, Montreal or Paris. Many people ask me what I think of my home city of Calgary. Geographically its very beautiful, but it doesn’t have any real culture compared to so many other cities around the world. Every festival or event seems focused on promoting corporate sponsors, most restaurants serve processed or pre-cooked food, and far too many people seem preoccupied with their giant house in the suburbs or new SUV. I just don’t fit in there.
All the big box stores and chain coffee shops are over-whelming. There is no equivalent of a European central square where old people gather to meet and young people go to be seen. It’s just a big jungle of generic buildings, over-manicured parks and consumerism.The worst part is that the large corporate stores are expanding all over the world. We are exporting the worst parts of our culture, to countries that don’t need any help in that department.
I feel more at home in places like Budapest.