It’s comforting to know that some things stay the same.
As we wandered the streets of Budapest after a long absence, we wondered if we’d see any of the charming elements of daily life that endeared us to the Hungarian capital years ago.
We headed to the market and were thrilled to see the iconic strings of peppers and garlic that had captivated us in 1990.
And finally, when we reached Fisherman’s Bastion we saw what we were looking for – the Lace Ladies! They were still here.
When Hungary finally shed the yoke of Communism in 1989, we were there to watch Budapest take its first baby steps transitioning to a free market economy. Private enterprise was booming. Nowhere was this endeavor more evident than in the rows of women and girls who lined the sidewalks selling their beautiful handiwork – delicate lace panels and richly embroidered tablecloths.
We dubbed them “The Lace Ladies.”
But they had to be wary. The police still frowned upon such enterprise, so when a spotter saw the cops, the women would quickly stash their wares in shopping bags, sit down, and act nonchalant. It was really cute to watch.
According to travel-savvy Frommers.com, many of these women are from Transylvania (formerly part of Hungary) whose population is still mostly ethnic Hungarians.
“Women come to Budapest with bags full of handmade craftwork selling their goods to Hungarians and tourists alike. Their prices are generally quite reasonable, and bargaining is customary … If they spot the police, they may disappear fast, but often return when the coast is clear again.”
Last week I finally spotted the Lace Ladies outside the Matthias Church, mingling casually with the tourists, discreetly displaying lace panels, embroidered tablecloths, and hand-knit sweaters. I was determined to get a photo.
But this wary woman was on to me … even stepping behind a convenient bush.
It turns out that the government is cracking down on any unlicensed street vendors, so she probably thought I was spying for “The Man.”
Personally, I think it’s a charming tradition and I hope it continues … until we return again.
Charmed in Budapest,