I find being in the city very stressful. Shop assistants seem to fall into one of two camps: those who are extremely helpful and lovely, and those who would rather see me dead than help me. No, it’s not a language thing. Yes, it could well be a bias against foreigners, but to be fair, I didn’t stick around to see if the nasties were any nicer to Hungarians than they were to me. In any event, it left me in bad humour and all too ready to get on the train back to the village. But I had one last stop to make.
In January, I introduced you to Ákos Pozsgai, him of 7scents, what was then a web-shop specialising in high-quality smells. I ended the piece by saying:
If he can bottle the restorative sense of goodness that surrounds him, he’ll do well. I’m hoping his online presence will morph into a bricks-and-mortar experience. Then you’ll know where to find me.
A few months back, despite the COVID pandemic and the general trend of businesses closing rather than opening, Ákos and his partner Mark opened the real glass-panelled wooden doors to their shop 7scents in Budapest’s iconic Vth district, Belváros. Magyar utca 18 is a small oasis in what has sadly become one of many rather despondent COVID cities.
I was, as usual, pushed for time. But I was there bang on 10 am when they opened and had Ákos’s undivided attention for a good half-hour. And we were only getting started.
When I smell something, I get an image in my head. It can be tied to an experience, or a colour, or a thing. I react. But I’m useless in describing what I want as I don’t have the lingo. I said I was after something citrusy, but I wasn’t. I said I was after something clean and sharp, but I wasn’t. Turns out what I was really after was rosewater infused with jasmine. I couldn’t remember the names/brands of two smells that I love* so I had nothing much to offer Ákos by way of guidance. And there was so much choice.
Nothing is random. The shelves are artistically arranged with an array of well-curated scents developed by niche perfumeries from around the world. Imagine everything the airport duty free isn’t and then some. Ireland is ably represented by a lovely selection of Max Benjamin’s all-natural candles and diffusers. And everything they stock is exclusive to Hungary.
As he sprayed and I sniffed, Ákos described the smells with an enthusiasm that made the whole experience positively rejuvenating. [Be warned – he’s currently in a honey phase.] I could feel the stresses of the city absorbed over the previous 48 hours simply melt away. Those 30 minutes had all the restorative powers of an expensive spa treatment without any of the effort. It was more than shopping for a Christmas gift; it was a sublime experience. One that I am grateful for.
A visit to 7scents has officially made it onto my list of things to do with visitors once the visitors reappear. Consider yourselves warned.
But to those of you in Budapest:
Treat yourselves. You’ll love the lads. You’ll love the smells. You’ll love the experience. Give yourself some time though – don’t rush it. If you’re shopping blindly this Christmas, get advice from the experts. If you’re not brave enough to choose (or have no clue what she or he would like), give a gift voucher. I can’t think of anyone I know who wouldn’t appreciate one.
But don’t take my word for it. Follow 7Scents on Facebook. Or drop by. They’re open from 10 to 6 Monday to Saturday and on the occasional Sunday.
*Those scents I was trying to think of are the Terre body lotion/shower gel I discovered when staying at the Kreinbacher Estate made for them by The Quint Essence in Hove, UK. And Terre d’Agrumes by Esteban, Paris, a gift that I’ve since bought repeatedly for myself. Must be something in the Terre alright.