Interview with Emma Szőnyi, Kaffeehaus Szimpla’s bar manager
I am the kind of person who doesn’t like any place she sees for the first time. I arrived to Berlin in January, to its creepy greyness – so I despised it even more. This something that resembles winter happened to last until May that year, so when I was asked if I liked it here, I had a hard time saying yes. At first I hated Budapest as well – but I know it’s my fault, I like to close the door on myself and retreat to watching a film. This is not the easiest way to bring myself to like any place. I grew to like Budapest by the time I had to leave – and it was first of all because it’s so „foodie”. I favored this little soup-place next to Astoria. That was when the street-food mania started in Budapest, and then my friends went on to open a pasta place next to it. And there was the Sonkaarcok (Hamfaces) at Kecskeméti street. Next to it here was a burgerplace where the daily menu offered 3 miniburgers with different meats.
To understand all the jokes
What I really miss since I came to Berlin is my friends at home, and the comfort of life, meaning everything is easier at home. Like the language: here I speak a nice, soft studied German language, which has its boundaries – for example it’s much easier to talk to a telephone company and send them to hell in Hungarian. To feel at home linguistically would be to understand all the jokes in German and that is not the case yet.
Harry Potter in Chinese
In Budapest first I attended a half-year stylist course which was a total rip-off but I was living in a beautiful neighbourhood in Buda, near Krisztina Blvd – so I didn’t ever have to use Metro 3, which meant a great comfort. I actually loved these months. We worked at numerous fashion shows as dressers. And then came Eötvös Lóránd University of Sciences. You can imagine all the young, freshly graduated busybodies with maximum scores from high-school – while I was 24 already – it was funny to sit among 18 year old Hermione Grangers. But that time I lived in a college near Campona – the mall in south-Buda. Commuting was horroristic but at least I could walk over to the cinema in slippers. A few years back there was even a report about that college, about the awful circumstances, how rundown it was. This place didn’t help me to like Budapest. But I loved the cinema, and I still love it. I watch series on small screen at home, but the cinematic experience is what I really love. I often go to watch something alone. My record was three movies – six hours in a row. Sometimes I even sat through trilogies – like Back to the Future – I actually watched the whole trilogy in one sitting two times. I am not very proud of that, but managed to sit through all the episodes of Twilight before the new episode’s premier at midnight. The truth is I even dress up for Harry Potter movies, but not as Hermione. To dress up like Hermione or Weasley would have been really easy, so I dyed my hair blonde and dressed up as Draco Malfoy! I had to dye it blonde in one day, so that basically ruined my hair. I actually read all the seven Harry Potters every year. I have read them in Hungarian, in German, in English, in French, I even started in Chinese, but I gave that up. I learned French with Harry Potter. I applied for Erasmus and bluffed that I speak French, and when I got the scholarship I was thinking how could I learn French in 3 months? Since I knew this story by heart, I decided to learn by audio-book.
The extra seat
So my first words were broom and caldron and owl post. But it was useful, when I had to clean up at the French college in the first week. I was really proud of myself to know how they say broom in French. I love the way the book sucks me in even for the eighth time, and I don’t even have to think while reading. If a novel is screened I make sure I read the book before the premiere, so I can tell people that the book was better, or it wasn’t like this or that. When my sister joined me in the cinema she made sure to have an extra seat between us, to prevent me from whispering into her ears.
Do whatever you want
It took me a while to find what I like in Berlin in my private life, because I worked so much. For example: Sundays – I love them. Not only because of the fleamarkets. In Maurerpark there is an open-air theatre where sometimes they do open karaoke parties. There is a Thai park full of Thai grannies cooking and you can eat for2-3 euros. For me it was a revelation when I discovered, you can buy tickets for the Berilanale if you are clever enough. There are the thematic weeks of cinemas from Hitchcock to Kubrick which is very important for my life. The only thing missing is I haven’t been to a theatre since I moved here – but that is just a question of deliberation. You can practically find anything in such a big city – it’s just a question of time. This whole city doesn’t feel to belong to Germany. Everybody is liberal, everything is multicultural, you can go out on the street wearing anything and basically you do whatever you want.
I also love that in Berlin everybody likes to dress up. I was in a Harry Potter themed house party like that. The host girl was so fanatic she hand manufactured every magic wand for the party. She must have prepared more than a week for that one night. The door was a curtain with brick motifs, and signed Platform 9¾. In Berlin you don’t have to say twice to people to make a fo