Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Budapest Wine Cellar

Posted by M. C. on December 8, 2022

Daytime drinking…

Daniel McAdams

I was deep diving not long ago among actual physical photos for an old shot to be scanned and included in the print edition of a magazine interview with me about my old days in Budapest and I wanted to offer it up. Perhaps showing a life lived. The desperation of desolation. Maybe even a cautionary tale.

And the deep, slumbering wells of memory re-populated the active cells of the brain.

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I am in front of the Hungarian Parliament in 1993-4, when the winter froze to the bone. We were sixthousandmiles from home and no way back for Christmas. We were broke.

There was a rustic tavern on the southeast side of Castle Hill near the bank of the Danube where you could drop in from the arctic during Christmas shopping for some fried pork and cold beer. It was almost hewn into the hill, as I recall. On the outer edge beyond the tourist zone. There were no Americans there. On the poor side. The smoke in the windowless establishment was Cancer itself rubbing his hands together in anticipation of the coming bounty, but the warmth was a rescue from the deep cold.

Unlike the tidy European and American tourists on the Castle Hill, these were working class Hungarians who liked to drink and liked to smoke. I felt at home among them and I spoke to them in their language (with a strange Miscolc accent – which is another story) as I ordered a soup and a dish of fried pork and deep, dark Hungarian beer, Dreher Bak. It is likely that I began with a large Hungarian szilva palinka – plum brandy – as it was normally the first thing a sensible person turned to when partially frozen. But it well could have been an herbal liquor like Unicum, which softened the mind as it brought one steadily back from the grip of the snow devil. The lusty plates of fried pork arrived as I dabbed it all with bread that moved in a basket from table to table, acquiring, among other things, cigarette ashes as it passed from customer to customer. Most Americans would not accept this. It did not bother me at all.


On Vörösmarty tér in the old part of Budapest there was always the Karácsonyi Vásár – the Christmas market. As we anticipated our yearly trip “home” to US, we also punctuated our shopping with stops for forralt bor – hot spiced wine – to keep warm in a world where the ice air crystalized the night. The cold was shocking, breaking through all manner of preparation. Hot red wine, sweetened and steeped in cinnamon and cloves, was available for a dollar a pour. It was an infusion of Christmas, deep into the soul as it burned from the inside. The warmth was anticipation of the arrival of our Lord Jesus Christ. Dicsőség az Istennek. Glory to God.

Our gifts to family in California in those days were brown homespun beeswax candles and tinned pork liver pate. I don’t think, in retrospect, they were very well-received.

See the rest here

Be seeing you

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