Here is a commuter locale with a “smaller-town” middle- to working-class ambiance in the lesser frequented and not so commercialized District XIV.
Development in this region began in the mid-19th century as Pest expanded, with a heady mix of “Golden Age observances”, such as Art Nouveau, alongside a host of other architectural wonders along the lesser known Hermina road. This finally leads to the number 5 and number 7 bus routes on to central Zugló from the busy Thőköly road.
Once beyond Zugló train station, there is much illustrious architecture to see within the Mexikói, Amerikia, Róna and Erzsébet Királyné promenades. When the leaves are down, these overlooked and perhaps under estimated vintage period gems, often intertwining with contrary 20th century pieces, come out from the shadows as they are clearly as spectacular as elsewhere in the city.
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But like a lot of suburban neighborhoods, there is no escape from the aesthetically bland tower blocks, which need no further introduction, often dominating the skyline. But fortunately not so much in this case, as this particular part of Zugló still has a yesteryear spirit that maintains a leafy suburban elegance. This is similar to the better-known bourgeois Districts II and XII of Buda. Much too can be said for a lot of turn-of-the-19th-20th-century buildings within the Kőbánya-Kispest and Újpest surroundings vicinities.
To some, lower profiled Zugló and its array of more traditional, singular old-style shops and businesses serve at best as a comfortable residential area, and close to all that matters. But to others, Zugló may be considered dull and too sedate. “Blink and you may have missed it” may come to mind whilst in passing, which may be true to a certain point, as easterly Zugló is situated at a crossroads with Central Pest, the motorway and railway lines.
But for those who know better it is a privilege to be in this up-and-coming hub: Zugló, along with its own Philharmonic Orchestra, “plays on” and provides a pleasant environment for young and old alike without excessive congestion.
As the obvious landmarks, such as churches, playgrounds, pizza and ice-cream parlors, provide social rendezvous for children, parents and grandparents after school hours.
My overriding Zugló highlight is the bustling Bosnyák tér market, particularly on Saturdays. It is always a pleasure to go there, as the sense of a community and good cheer always prevails. The stalls are filled with an abundance of fruit and vegetables, and anything else that goes, which are frequently produced by locals or others coming in from out of town.
As the food is often freshly picked or dug up a short while before being delivered and sold with an assuring smile, this is the real thing – certainly when compared to what’s at the supermarkets and modern-day shopping centers elsewhere.
Zugló at large remains off the tourist and ex-pat trails. So much so, I may as well be in Beregszász, or any far-flung Magyar-majority-speaking town when it comes to communicating. Few outsiders, such as me, with distorted Hungarian, such as mine, come this way. But you will soon know once you’re in with the local people: as fewer people ask “How long have you been here?”, “Are you on holiday?”, “When are you leaving?”
Now I am here to stay with my wife Eszter, our three young children Judy, Suzie and Vincent, and Grandma. I have now found my way here in family-friendly Zugló. As I have surpassed much of the transient ex-pat scene and lovely but now over-excessive tourist sightings, such as the Castle District with its ritzy Riviera atmosphere. Need I tell you about pizza and ice-cream “inflation” there? As a visit to any cukrászda/tea shop at the heart of far humbler Zugló will make you blush upon your return.
Feature image by Pelle Zoltán Photography.