Hard Trading

This bank holiday weekend, I find myself in Budapest, where it’s very warm (32 degrees) and very muggy. A quick lunch after touching down left me ready to hit the shops. First stop was Kiraly Utca, where I had been into a truly superb (and also truly tiny) shop specialising in 20th century ceramics and glass last time I was here. Having chatted with the owner then, he told me he had over 3,000 pieces at home and changed his stock regularly. You can imagine my disappointment when I found his shop had been replaced by a building site! Asking around, it seemed he had gone away late last year, and nobody knew where.

My face didn’t stay long for long – wandering back towards my hotel, I spotted this rather sizeable treasure in a shop that sold everything from bicycles to computers and ceramics. The heavily smoking shopkeeper told me the price was 50 euros, or roughly 15,000 Hungarian Forints. Keen not to appear too keen, I browsed some other interesting pieces before asking the price again – 80 euros! Not wanting it to rise any more, I began bartering, offering a grin and a cheeky 9,000 Forints, around 30 euros, to start. I expected some huffiness, of course, but this guy was tough and even enlisted a chap off the street (who I suspect was his business partner) to help him. Backing me into a corner (literally), I felt a little threatened as they countered with 13,000 forints, drawing ever closer to me. Keeping my smile on full beam, and trying not to look intimidated, I clutched my bag and politely offered 11,000 Forints. With a nod, the deal was done amidst much muttering. Asking for a bag was the final straw however, and I think I’m glad I don’t understand Hungarian!

Whatever, £35 isn’t bad at all for a piece of the Rhapsody range, designed by Frantisek Zemek in 1960, and made by the Mstisov, and then the Moser, glassworks. At over 16in (41cm) high, it’s the largest I’ve handled – even better! I’ve shown it here next to the other vase I own. Based on my previous experience of Hungarians, this really was most out of character, and I’m sure it was just the unbearably muggy heat that caused any disgruntlement. Speaking of the heat, I think it’s time for a celebratory and cooling glass of gin and tonic!

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