Like Milan, Budapest has been reputed as a city of endless charm. During the summer, I randomly met an Hungarian girl called Gabriella in a museum workshop and we instantly became best friends. Now that she is back in Budapest, I decided to spend a weekend with her and take the chance to visit this long-dreamed-about city. After four days of devouring delicious homemade Hungarian food and marveling at the Central European architectural wonder, I did notice some differences between the Budapest-style weekend and the Milanese weekend. Here are some insights from me, a casual tourist who observes seriously:
- Breakfast. Hungarian weekend breakfast is long, sumptuous, and conversation-friendly. The Milanese breakfast, instead, is …? Wait what? Does that even exist? It did baffle me many times that a country obsessive with food does not have an extensive breakfast menu. Breakfast in Milan and northern Italy usually consists of only a few biscuits and a cup of cappuccino. At the most, you add a brioche and some orange juice. The breakfast I had in Budapest, however, is probably the type of big meal you will eat in your grandma’s country kitchen when you go back once a year. Locally-produced ham, hummus, whole wheat bread, fresh butter, cheese platters, pastries, milk and coffee…etc. “A great weekend always starts with a satisfying long breakfast,” said my Hungarian friend.
- Cafe Culture. There is no need to re-emphasize how a cafe functions as a semi-religious institution in Italy. Yes, there is a certain ritual and drinking pattern that you are forced to respect and follow. In Hungary, everything about coffee is much more casual. An even more casual and relaxing atmosphere dominates the cafes in Budapest. The former Jewish quarter, now turning into a hip, “ruined” pub district, hides a collection of gem-like cafe bars.
- People and Style. The Milanese fashion style is hard to miss even when you are visiting the city for just one day. Take a look of this street fashion blog which generates a sense of how the Milanese dress themselves. “La bella figura” (the beautiful figure), said by Italians, defines their attitude toward everyday elegance. Fashionistas in Budapest, are relatively more reserved. It’s hard to spot flashy color and revealing jewelry in the fanciest neighborhood of Budapest, while even the shop cashier in Milan wears a pair of Valentino-labeled shoes. In the subway, most people prefer to wear darker colors and their coats are more conservatively designed. For me, this is rather a difference of personality than a difference of taste.