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Of a Chantress and Bulls Blood

[A special treat: After the Edith Piaf item the other day, one of the A-blog editors, Michael Corones, wrote up this guest kit about his favorite Hungarian hangout.]

By Michael Corones

I spent my first year out of college in a small city in southeastern Hungary, convalescing from my famous blue period and teaching English at a vocational school. By the end of the school year, ten years ago this spring, a close college friend had joined me and we'd discovered a delightful group of Hungarian friends in my city, Bekescsaba. About once a month we'd stay with one of the friends, Zsolt, at his flat in Budapest, and our nights would always end at the Piaf.

"With the entry policy and decor of a brothel, Piaf remains open and lively long after its rivals have closed." -*

Who couldn't love such a place? What the Magyar boodle calls a brothel, I call a speakeasy; the kind of joint that's nestled down a dingy alley, knowable only to those who know it. Zsolt rang the bell, a small door slid open, and a Hungarian voice would ask how many. We let Zsolt reply -- doe-eyed confusion is uncool in any language -- and we'd be granted admission.

Inside, it was magnificent: black tables and red booths surrounded by blood red walls hung with long, red velvet drapes, evoking my favorite Unicum poster and catering to the legend that vampires frequented the establishment (check out the comments in the Bizarro Boodle). Behind the bar was an enormous photograph of a doleful Edith Piaf.

We'd shuffle downstairs, past the DJ and the dance floor, to the dark, furtive tables that lined the walls. There, we drank Bulls Blood and Unicum with Latvian Lestats and Dutch Draculas 'till dawn. Even now, I have a soft spot for blood red bars and when I hear La Vie En Rose I taste Le Vin Rouge.

* There's a Hungarian boodle! Who knew?


OK, with that as a role model, post a couple of grafs about your favorite dive bar, exotic cafe, hoagie hut, windswept lighthouse, or other such place forever burned into your inner Frommer's. (At some point remind me to write up a description of the Gran Caffe Garibaldi, in Vicenza.) (And "The Big Fish" on the Miami River.) (And Joe's Deli in Hogtown -- but I just heard that it closed!)

By Joel Achenbach  |  June 22, 2007; 12:51 PM ET
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