How the various expatriates living in Budapest engage with this city is a source of constant amusement … for me. I know some who rarely venture outside established expat circles. I know others who will go to great lengths to avoid expats altogether. Me? I ebb and flow.
Some friends returned to Budapest earlier this month, having lived here for a year a while ago. Both were taken aback at how even after their 12 months of active exploration, the city as still coughing up new sights. It’s as if it is constantly morphing into something new; circumstances contrive to entice you into an area you’ve never ventured into before; and even old haunts offer up something unexpected.
I was in Jack Doyle’s last week, an Irish pub on the corner of Pilvax and Varoshaz utca. There’s a regular music session on a Thursday night where two of my favourite Hungarian men – Attila and Csaba, collectively known as The Jookers – entertain the punters and create a welcoming space for those who want to sing or play themselves. It’s one of the many times where I find myself wishing I could hold a tune for longer than two seconds.
I’m familiar with the concept of open mic nights and have yet to be disappointed in a Thursday night at JD’s. When I have visitors in town, it’s on my list of places to go. But what I hadn’t fully appreciated is the wealth of talent this town has to offer. There’s no denying that the two boys are brilliant musicians in their own right and that the regulars who get up and entertain are gifted themselves. But the drop-ins, the random acts that pass through – that’s what adds spice to the evening. You never know what you’ll get to hear.
One after the other, they sang their hearts out last Thursday night. Hailing from Ireland, England, Australia, Scotland, America, France, and everywhere in between, they sang covers and their own songs, too. We had it all – from the Mountains to Mourne to La Boheme; from Tracy Chapman to Mary Black. Everything worked. My goose bumps were plumping.
If you’re at a loose end on a Thursday night, you could do worse that popping into Jack Doyle’s after 10pm. There are no guarantees though. I can’t promise that every night will be as good as last Thursday … next week might be even better.
First published in the Budapest Times 29 November 2013