Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Street Walker in Budapest

Up one street and down another, but mostly in the Vaci utca area, the area most notoriously known for the Budapest working ladies, was my beat today. I was not hustler hunting, but store window shopping with no intentions of ever making a purchase. My goal was to update my SHOPPING section for the next edition of my book. This section of the city does not normally draw my attention unless it is for the Christmas market, being mostly tourist attraction, I have no real reason to venture here. When you return to a section of the city with a specific goal in mind, there are differences in what stimulates your senses. I became acutely aware of the tourist activity; how many were just strolling, how many were working their way into shops, how many were carrying shopping bags of newly acquired purchases. With my current book in hand, a pen, and a notebook, I started at the lowest end of the street. Checking my book for addresses, I stopped at each address along the way, while perusing what is new and different to see if something should be added this time around. What was interesting or disheartening was the number of places that are in the current edition that no longer exist. Even some shops that have been around since before our first trip here in 1998 are now vacant shells with "For Rent" signs plastered on the windows. In my book, I drew lines through the submission; in the notebook, I made notes on the page and the result. Those that were still doing business as usual, I went in to speak to them about their hours, any changes in credit cards, or other information of value to my readers. Most were so enthused about my having listed them, sharing how many people have wandered into their shop specifically because of my book. I thought one designer was going to hug me, she was so thrilled. She said she was listed for years, then was dropped, so was especially excited to see she has made a come back like a long lost silent screen actress returning the silver screen. Feedback such as this motivates me to move onward to the next shop. What chuckles me is when I tell them that I will return with a "Recommended by Frommer's 2010" sticker to put in their window, telling them this will draw people who have not seen the book, but know Frommer's. The perpetual question is "How much will it cost me?" Unfortuately, the stickers have not been printed yet, so when my publisher sends them, I will have to backtrack to distribute them, not a time saving system.

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