BASK­ING IN BU­DAPEST

With fam­ily his­tory rooted in Bu­dapest, Hun­gary, Suzanne Rogers has an in­ti­mate con­nec­tion to the cen­tral Euro­pean na­tion.

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holds a very spe­cial place in my heart. As the child of Hun­gar­ian im­mi­grant par­ents, I spent all of my sum­mer va­ca­tions in the coun­try’s cap­i­tal, vis­it­ing fam­ily. It be­came my sec­ond home, and by age 12 I could nav­i­gate the city on my own.

Now, when­ever I re­turn, I feel more Hun­gar­ian than Cana­dian.

I care­fully fol­low lo­cal cul­ture and pol­i­tics, and have enor­mous re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion for [the city’s] peo­ple; one rea­son be­ing for their brav­ery. More than a half-cen­tury has passed since the Hun­gar­ian Rev­o­lu­tion of 1956, and amid tremen­dous strug­gles and hard-won vic­to­ries, these peo­ple have re­mained strong and uni­fied, with a tremen­dous joie de vivre that has never wa­vered. You can feel it strolling through the cob­ble­stone streets, savour­ing the won­der­ful gypsy mu­sic as it wafts through side­walk café win­dows.

And there are many cafés to be ex­plored. One of the best-known spots, is Café Ger­beaud, which pre­dates the rev­o­lu­tion by a cen­tury, and back in the 1940s and ’50s, at­tracted Europe’s most fa­mous artists, writ­ers, and philoso­phers. Upon en­ter­ing the Ger­beaud, with its Art Deco fur­nish­ings, deep red car­pets, and thick vel­vet drapes, you’re im­me­di­ately trans­ported to Bu­dapest’s glo­ri­ous past.

Other itin­er­ary es­sen­tials for me in­clude the iconic Széchenyi Chain Bridge, the seven other mag­nif­i­cent bridges that di­vide Buda (the west­ern side) and Pest (the east), Fish­er­man’s Bas­tion, the stately Par­lia­ment build­ings dot­ted along the Danube River, and, of course, ex­quis­ite ther­mal spas (the best in Europe). My favourite, the Gel­lért Ther­mal Baths, are nes­tled inside of the stately Danu­bius Ho­tel Gel­lért—a trea­sured site for me, as my par­ents were wed here.

The other thing about Hun­gar­i­ans that I ad­mire, is their beauty. The women are known for hav­ing ex­cep­tional skin, and de­vot­ing a re­mark­able amount of en­ergy to their health, well­be­ing, and ap­pear­ance (which I learned first­hand from my grand­mother). For her, a weekly fa­cial was just as essen­tial as gro­cery shop­ping, they were easy to in­dulge in reg­u­larly, with “cozmet­i­cas” of­fer­ing quick fa­cial treat­ments on nearly ev­ery street cor­ner. Re­mark­ably, fa­cials at these lit­tle shops still only cost around $30 today.

Fash­ion here has al­ways fas­ci­nated me, too. Hun­gar­ian women were not ex­posed to Parisian or Amer­i­can style dur­ing the Cold War. Un­der com­mu­nism, fash­ion mag­a­zines were deemed cor­rup­tive and banned from news­stands, so lo­cal women de­vel­oped their own style. In­flu­enced by what lit­tle they gleaned from Western­ers, the looks these women cre­ated were unique, charm­ing and el­e­gant.

Now, it’s in­ter­est­ing to watch how clas­sic Hun­gar­ian folk dress is be­ing revived in mod­ern- day fash­ion de­sign. Thick and colour­ful in­tri­cate em­broi­dery, head­dresses, and vi­brant pat­tern mix­ing in tra­di­tional Hun­gar­ian style are ev­i­dent in Valentino’s lat­est run­way col­lec­tion. Folk em­broi­dery also re­mains in­te­gral to the ever-pop­u­lar boho look, par­tic­u­larly in blouses and hand­bags. Such em­broi­dery also shows up in the col­lec­tions of lead­ing East­ern Euro­pean de­sign­ers like Olga Vil­shenko, Vika Gazin­skaya, and Yuliya Magdych. These gifted young artists are bril­liantly adding mod­ern twists to grand, tra­di­tional looks. True to my Hun­gar­ian roots, I ap­plaud their stun­ning in­ge­nu­ity, as I do with all of the cul­tural el­e­ments in this beau­ti­ful coun­try. Visit sstylemag.com for photos of Suzanne’s favourite Hun­gar­ian places.

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