I am in the Jewish quarter, the old Budapest ghetto in Erzsebetvaros (Elizabeth Town), near Klauzal Square, its epicenter. There is a little antique shop on the square that’s always closed when I walk by but doesn’t look abandoned, and when it finally was open one day, I found out why. The owner was about to close up again for the day. He was an old man with a heavy gait. “I’m very sick,” he said, and lifted up his pant leg to show a massive gash on his calf. It looked awful, but it also looked from long ago. I looked unconvinced, so he went on with: “I need medicine,” and gestured to a bar next door, sheepishly smiling at his own nonsense.
“No, it’s not true!” I protested. “You don’t need that!” But I quickly took a look at his stuff because I knew he meant it.
The street names around here are great. There’s Drum St, Whistle St, Tobacco St, Raven St, Big Walnut Tree St, Little Walnut Tree St and Acacia Tree St.There is a huge synagogue, the second biggest in the world, down the street. I was once inside long ago after an epic renovation. It is predictably beautiful and I thought I’d pay another visit but the entrance fee now is…(ready?) 2400 forint—US$11. That’s tough to swallow. It’s a working synagogue, not a museum. I’m boycotting it.