Budapest is a horrible city. However, in its bleak and filthy melancholia, Budapest (unlike, for example, London), is a fantastic city in which to write a novel. Beautifully decayed, gleefully seedy, and the perfect place to contemplate ending a tragic love affair while sitting in tepid hair-infested sweat-water at the Gellert Baths and ruminating on the existential filthiness of mankind, Budapest is filled with the sort of places in which you can scribble away entire novellas of infidelity, moonshine, and man's tendency toward sin at a moment's notice, preferably while eating cake.
I visited Budapest from Vienna in late 2008, perhaps unsurprisingly while stiff-upper-lipping my way through the last days of a tragically doomed Romance (as one does), and reacted all too defensively to the city's raucous despair. However, the art-house Urania Cinema (and Cafe), where my Belarusian friend A. ("I am from Minsk, and even I find this city depressing!") and I ended up after a failed attempt to find a jazz club (predictably, it had been turned into a strip joint), managed to help me transubstantiate my misery into high art (and cake). The cinema programme is highbrow enough for me to forgive the fact that it's no longer a theatre, and the cafe looks like what would have happened if William Morris had taken LSD and stumbled onto the Orient Express.
We watched the excellent Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day and I hatched an idea for a novel...
Urania is located at Rakoczi Utca, 21, near the Astoria Metro Stop