A guide to better living through cured pork products

Monday, June 16, 2008

Egy francia krémes kérek szépen...

There are many fine cakes to be eaten in Hungary. Pastry shops offer many delicious deserts, treats and ice cream cones. But nothing compares to the francia krémes. Essentially it is a wonderful vanilla custard sandwiched between crispy sheets of flaky pastry dough. If there is one thing I would like to learn how to bake, it is the francia krémes from Auguszt cukrászda.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Remembering WWI in Budapest

Over Memorial Day weekend, I read a post over at Crooked Timber called, "The Great and Unremembered War,"about the different ways World War One is remembered in the United States and Europe. I think the World War One memorial around the corner from Yusaf's flat is a pretty good example of the way war is remembered here. So here are a couple of pictures and I'll post more on the flickr site later.

The history of Hungary in the twentieth century is pretty traumatic. Between 1867 and 1914, the Kingdom of Hungary had achieved a notable measure of political autonomy and economic growth, but things went down hill with WWI. The war itself was brutal, with over 2 million casualties out of 3.6 million Hungarian soldiers. After the war, between October 1918 and November 1919, the country underwent two revolutions, Romanian occupation and a right-wing counterrevolution. In the course of the peace negotiations Hungary lost significant territory to its neighbor Romania and the newly created Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.

The trauma of the First World War is reflected in local monuments all around Hungary. This one, near the corner of Baross utca and József körút, is a pretty typical example. It both shows the heroic, yet generic stern-faced Hungarian soldier advancing on the enemy trench, but the pedestal has a frieze showing the soldiers marching off to war and leaving behind loved ones. I am not sure about the exact history of this monument, but from what I understand some of these monuments were erected in the Horthy era and others were built under the Socialists, but I need to do more research on this.

After the 1989 Revolution, lots of monuments, especially those associated with World War Two and State Socialism were removed or repurposed (The Gellert Hill Freedom monument is a great example of this kind of landmark recycling). But the World War One monuments have remained, perhaps because there is some consensus on this part of twentieth century Hungarian history. It was downright awful and there is no political capital to be gained from removing or redecorating them, unlike say some of the commemorations of the 1956 Revolutions or World War Two.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

One last Vienna post

hmm. Its been a while since I posted and I probably should be putting more stuff up about Budapest, since I leave in a week...

But I wanted to put up one last picture from Vienna. This is a place called Cafe Drexler and its across the street from the Nashmarkt, a open air food market during the week plus a flea market on the weekends. Last time I visited Vienna (seven years ago!) I had the afore mentioned Marillen Knödeln at the Drexler. It was the kind of place where the truck drivers would eat their breakfast after making the 4am delivery at the Nashmarkt. When I poked my head in this time, it looked like it had been refurbished and now the menu is kind of yuppiefied. Or at least they did not have any doughy-deep-fried-apricot-powdered-sugar goodness.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Obama has a posse in Vienna

I saw this poster on a street in Vienna near my hotel. It looks like a straight black and white copy of a poster Shepard Fairey did for Obama before Super Tuesday. He is the graffiti/street artist who created the "obey giant" stickers and posters that have been floating around the North American streetscape since the late 1990s.

When I first saw the Obama poster, I was kind of startled. I know people around the world follow US elections, especially Presidential elections with great interest. I was surprised that anyone would feel like they had to go put up posters in support of a candidate that they will never get a chance to vote for and not many American voters will see. I suppose this could be the work of American expats in Vienna, but I doubt it. Covering the hoardings with posters isn't typical expat political activity. Also, considering that the Neubau and Mariahilfer districts are near the Museums Quartier and the Art School I am guessing its the work of some of the art students.

This election means a lot to people both inside and outside the US. There are a lot of expectations for the next president of the United States to repair the failures of the last eight years. People in Europe and elsewhere expect a lot of the American voter, Obama and the Democratic Party in November 2008. I think those hopes are justified, but Obama and his supporters in the Democratic Party will not be able to deliver on everything. For example, ending the war in Iraq might very well destroy whatever chance we have of fixing health care and social security. It will be interesting to see if Obama can still be inspiring after he has lost a couple battles and made some tough compromises. I know he can do these things, he is a politician after all. But we'll see how long he will retain his status as a pop icon.