Loathe as I am to leave the comfort of Hill Towers, I do enjoy travelling. Particularly when it allows me to spend time touring the antiques, collectables and junk shops of my destination. Today I find myself in the 30 degree warmth of the Hungarian capital of Budapest, celebrating a friend's pre-wedding jaunt. While I'll spare you the details of the revelry that occurred, I will let you know where to go and what to do if you're 'tiquin', as they say across the pond.
First stop should be a visit to the network of 'BAV' stores that are dotted around the city. Effectively a chain of state-owned pawn brokers, they stock everything from jewellery to furniture, and ceramics to glass. It's worth bearing in mind that anything over 50 years old needs an official export permit to leave the country, and I'm told that quite a bit of their stock comes from pieces seized by Customs! Although most branches carry a selection of pieces, some specialise in certain items. You can find a full and up-to-date list at www.bav.hu.
I spent considerable time at the branch in the centre of the city at 1-3 Bécsi Utca, on the corner, which has good and varied range of stock. Only metres up the road a branch specialises in jewellery, watches and fine art. I then crossed the river using the 'Chain Bridge' to visit the branch on Frankel Leó Utca in Buda. There're also three or four other antiques shops nearby that are worth checking out.
I found my first bargain in the BAV there - a great 1960s Czech Zelezny Brod vase, with an elegant applied spiralling trail, in Alexandrit (or Neodymium) glass. This glass changes from violet in natural light to ice blue in fluorescent light. The kind gentleman who helped me spoke different parts of our conversation in four languages, but we got there in the end. One tip - don't bother haggling in a BAV store as it's just not the done thing. Believe me, I tried! Still I was happy as I walked away with it for the princely sum of 4,500 florints - or a bargainous £14.75. A good start, me thinks.