Budapest’s “invisible host” greets guests with a new book edition
Photo : Budapest: A Critical Guide
08/10/2014, 7:51 AM●3-minute article
The omnipresent charm of Budapest is impossible to completely capture in a single book, but if anyone has ever come close to accomplishing this feat, it is Budapest native András Török. In his storied career spanning more than four decades, András performed duties as an author, lecturer, teacher, translator, director of a nonprofit organization promoting the arts, deputy minister for the Hungarian government, and occasional contributor to this website – however, his most widely appreciated accomplishment is writing a Budapest guidebook cherished by visitors and locals alike for its captivating combination of city history, tour suggestions, and personal anecdotes.
In the newly released eighth edition of Budapest: A Critical Guide, András Török once again updates his idiosyncratic opus originally published in 1989, just as Hungary’s era under communism came to an end. Through this continually refreshed guide loaded with entertaining tales from almost every corner, András Török provides the Magyar metropolis with a crucial link between its past and present, all the while leading readers on interesting routes that encompass major Budapest landmarks, giving background to these while pointing out myriad obscure sights that provide revealing context to the city’s real character.
For the central pages of his book, András Török assumes the role of an “invisible host” while leading his readers through five comprehensive walking tours, all illustrated with easy-to-follow maps that feature carefully rendered images of significant buildings, statues, bridges, and even shady little trees in the parks. All along the way, while giving detailed history and descriptions of the monumental locales, András Török includes numerous narratives about the people who are inseparable from the places mentioned, whether they were notable figures in Hungarian history or anonymous locals that made an indelible impression in the author’s memory. Occasionally (actually, quite frequently), András Török relates his own reminiscences about funny incidents at the places featured, making the reading experience much more amusing than what is typically provided by impersonal guidebooks.
In addition to the walking tours, the book includes delightfully random recommendations, and dedicates chapters to “That Awful Hungarian Language”, “Eating Well and Not Too Much”, “Running Amok in Budapest Egghead Society”, and other quirky-yet-informative sections like an entirely new segment about Budapest’s famed ruin pubs (although András Török readily professes that “I go to bed very early”). Other favorite features of the guide include destination lists for obscure demographics, such as “7 ideas for an evening out if you are over 50 years old, and plan to start your life all over again with a lady just a little younger”, “7 ideas for entertaining a visiting CEO from Portland, Oregon”, and “7 residential buildings in Pest in which to consider buying a home, in case of a substantial lottery win”.
Unlike most guidebook writers, András Török is eager to receive feedback to his work – which may even inspire him to include new details in the next edition – and encourages this by including his personal e-mail address on the final page. Another reason to contact András Török is to hire him for his unrivaled services as a Budapest tour guide – his past clients include Paul Newman and President Jimmy Carter.
Budapest: A Critical Guide is available at any of Budapest’s Libri bookstores, Bestsellers, and the Írók Boltja on Andrássy Avenue at Liszt Ferenc Square – written about with admiration on page 38 as “The single most important egghead bookshop”; check out www.budapest-criticalguide.hu for more details.