We can start with one of the most popular hiking destinations: Hűvösvölgy. Even at the end of the 18th century, an inn existed here in order to provide the tired merchants and carriers going to Buda and Pest or the pilgrims and repenting visitors of Máriaremete with a resting and dining place. The Balázs Inn was transformed in 1838, after that hiking – as a free-time activity – became increasingly popular among the middle classes, and thus the turnover of the inn also increased. They were upgraded: not only simple bites but also cooked food was available with great wines of Buda. The family Balázs was running the extremely popular restaurant during six generations until the nationalisation in 1949. The former family business was operating as Népkert (Folk Garden) Restaurant during the socialism. The building burnt down twice: first in 1979, but it was re-opened after renovation. The fate of the restaurant was sealed by privatisation and the chaotic years and ownership conditions afterwards. It was closed for good in 2004 and the former listed monument building was pulled down five years ago – a parking place might be built on its place.
There was another terraced place in Hűvösvölgy that is worth mentioning: Éden-Park Coffee House next to Park Pension. It is not known if poet Endre Ady was sitting on its terrace, writing poems at its tables, but we know that he was living in the pension from the end of October to 10 December in 1913, mainly alone, just as he had asked it for his younger brother Lajos. He wrote like this ‘In the fall of 1913 (…) after some wild, orgiastic and overworked weeks he realised suddenly and hurried me nervously at the end of October to find him a calm, solitary apartment not far from Pest. (…) I thought of the quiet Hűvösvölgy that is deserted in the middle of fall, the Park Pension that had no lodgers then.’ This was the place, where Ady was introduced to Zsófia Dénes, who remembered those few weeks that the poet spent here, in her book ‘Élet helyett órák’ (Hours Instead Of Life). ‘Ady takes a fancy to his hideaway, this Bakony of Buda, and the new romantic form of recluse life, the almost village-like quietness of solitude. Like a misanthrope eccentric castle lord, he is living alone in the last downstairs room of the huge empty wing of the building. No one other than a housekeeper-cook and a young man-servant live in there and take care of him. He is quite his own master (…) But if he feels like it, he takes a ride into a habitual inn or feasts his friends out there for happy evenings, and his female admirers also visit him.’
Szépjuhászné on Budakeszi Road was also a renowned garden-restaurant in the 2nd district of Buda. In 1770, the restaurant built from the stones of the former Pauline monastery received its guests with a wonderful view. Painter József Borsos loved it so much that he bought it in 1860 and ran it until his death. Besides many celebrities of the period, Ferenc Deák was also a frequent guest there. Queen Sissy also came round in 1882, as well as to the Disznófő (Boar Head) Restaurant of Zugliget on the other side of János Hill. The restaurant did not get its name after a dish, but after the nearby Boar Spring, whose cool water eased even King Matthias’ thirst during his hunts. The garden of the inn – opened in 1837 – was already thronged with hikers at weekends so much that it had to be extended. By 1860, 600 persons could have lunch here comfortably.
Unlike the restaurants listed above, the Kéhli Restaurant of Óbuda is still working, at the same place in Mókus Street. The family opened the wine tavern in 1899. In the beginning they offered cold pork dishes later hot dishes as well. Actress Hanna Honthy and actor Kálmán Latabár were common guests here, but their biggest habitu was author Gyula Krúdy. The famous rollicking hedonist adored wine, gastronomy and women, and all at the same time most of all; two wives and who knows how many lovers, Krúdy ‘fröccs’ (9:1 wine mixed with soda water) and a table piled with home-made dishes, from stuffed cabbage to Hot Pot. When he died, Mom Kéhli indicated the place of his regular table with a memorial tablet. Even the table was considered as a sacred object until it was destroyed in the war. Fortunately, the restaurant survived, even the large demolitions and block house constructions later, which wiped hundreds of inns off the map.
Now, let’s go a bit souther. The Fehér Galamb (White Dove) Inn that operated since 1856 on the corner of Úri Street and Szentháromság Street in the Castle District, was one of the Swabians’ favourite places. Nine kinds of wine, the best pork rind cake in town and poets Árpád Tóth and Dezső Kosztolányi could be often found there. The building was hit by a bomb in the WWII, then owner János Buchinger rebuilt it after having returned from the front. Later it was nationalised and the story is the same as in most of the cases: lower quality.
The old Tabán – which was not like the presently known shady park – had cobbled serpentine streets and rural atmosphere. The following lines depict it well:
‘The summer of people from Pest starts when they can have dinner in the green, over the Danube in Buda, in taverns, at tables with red cloth, under the leaves of droopy staghorn sumac trees, to the sound of the chirring zither. (…) we are running in the green, ambling up the zigzag alleys of Tabán, undressing all our urban superiority and enjoying with naive faith the authentic rural milieu of taverns.’ Magazine Élet (Life), 1913
Wrecking work began here in 1933, in order to build a modern district on its place, but it did not realise due to the war. Before that, a great deal of pubs and taverns stood here: the Albecker (1 and 2), the first fisher tavern of Buda, the chestnut-tree garden was the artists’ favourite, the Mély Pince (Deep Cellar), the Rácz, the Major (Croft) restaurant, the Golden Lamb, - Star, - Duck, - Goose, - Sun, - Pretzel, - Louse, - Stag, the old Cuckoo, and then the new Cuckoo that was considered more elegant because opera singers and crown princes went there too. The Three Sevens, - Ducks, - Hussars, the Small Axe and the Old Summer all disappeared. Each of them must have had their own exciting stories about their famous clientage, their habits and allures – books could have been written about them. The party district of the era could be an amazingly exciting place.
And the line of garden restaurants, taverns and pubs of Buda could be continued in many pages with the Zöld Fa (Green Tree) of Krisztinaváros, the Öreg Diófa (Old Walnut Tree), or the Márványmenyasszony (Marble Bride) that was opened in 1793 and it still runs. Another example is the Ifjúsági Park (Youth Park) on the other side of Castle Hill, which was one of the most popular outdoor amusement places during socialism and whose history has been written in many articles. Moreover, the side of Pest has not been mentioned yet; that’s what our next virtual tour is about.
Translated by Zita Aknai