Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the Eastern Bloc, it might be thought that all those countries that had been satellite states of the Soviet Union would by now have wiped away the traces of their former régimes, becoming good western facing states. But it isn’t so.
Last year, it was still possible to ride a Tatra tram along Berlin’s Allee der Kosmonauten (Cosmonaut Avenue), past lines of middle rise apartment blocks from the 50s and 60s. The Czech built Tatra, ubiquitous east of the Iron Curtain, also rumbles on in Budapest, where the monument in tribute to Soviet forces survives, though fenced off and permanently guarded.
This approach to the former ruling orthodoxy has produced interesting spin-offs, and one fun reminder of the past is provided by the excellent Marxim pub and pizzeria, situated just off Margit Körút in Buda. Here, almost every item on the menu has a Soviet era name – I particularly liked the Red Commissar, but the garlic might not be to everyone’s taste – and there are symbols of Communism and Soviet “Realism” everywhere.
Normally, I avoid pizza, but here it’s done very well – well enough to stand favourable comparison with anywhere in Rome, for instance. And it’s not expensive: a large pizza and an equally large beer will set you back less than 2000 forint, so that’s well under seven quid. And the staff speak English.
I did say that almost every menu item had a Soviet era name: the unforgettable exception on the list of pizzas was the “Pussy-pussy Monica and Bill”. I kid you not. From memory it had mushroom, cheese, salami and hot paprika.
Food fit for a President. That’s a hell of a recommendation.