Having been to Budapest before and therefore being less interested in the tourist attractions I decided to see if I could find some traditional Hungarian knives to buy.
Searching on the internet I found several makers, but one name, Szankovits (Serbian sounding) stood out and they had a shop in Budapest.
Here is a link to their site: http://keseshaz.hu/index.php?plang=en
For non-Hungarian speakers, shopping in Budapest can be a problem as most shop staff, outside the touristy city centre will only speak Hungarian and, surprisingly, will make no effort to communicate with you (using a picture, a map, asking someone else) if you do not speak Hungarian. This is surprising, in a city full of tourists, but most of the shops customers are not tourists.
Bartering is also very limited, as sellers would rather not sell than lower a price. I asked a seller if he would give me a better price if I bought three identical items and he said no, saying the profit margins were too small; he then asked his wife and she also said no and gave me a funny look. So they sold nothing and made no profit… their choice.
Also note that you get a better rate if you pay in their currency instead of Euros. At the time 1000 Florins were 3.5 euro, but if you paid in Euro they cost 4.
The transport system is very good and you can get a weekly card covering Metro, bus, tram, train in the city centre for about 20 Euro. You can also walk, as the area is pretty flat.Interesting part: So, where to buy knives from?
First of all, if you want to buy a cheap souvenir knife
saying “I love Budapest” then there are plenty of tourist shops in the city centre.
In the main city (Pest region) high street (Vorosmartyter Metro station, last of the orange line), apart from the aforementioned shops there are some underground craft shops
(accessed by escalator and easy to spot by the girls dressed in traditional uniforms standing at the entrance) that sell knives.
I asked for Hungarian knives and was presented with several slipjoints marked as having 440C steel, with several Hungarian makers’ names
on them. They cost about 20 euro, but their finish was really bad, on par with really low quality Chinese knives (see Schrade). Rough movement, bad centering, huge gaps etc., you get the picture. They were OK to look at, but not worth the money. For 5 Euro maybe…
The Szankovits stall was in the old market, (Nagyvasarcsarnok) on the 1st floor. It is within walking distance to the city centre, or you can take the Kalvin ter stop on the Blue metro line. The shop shuts at 18:00.
I went there and there was a decent selection of knives from the maker, as well as some displays about the history of the maker.
You can buy kitchen knives from around 20 Euro but slipjoints start at around 70.
There are two main styles of slipjoints; with a straight handle and blade (usually described as melon testers on the internet) or with a more ergonomic handle with a bulbous front bolster, which to my eyes looked more traditional and more beautiful. They come with beautifully decorated wooden handles or nice looking Stag, all with 440C steel. I really should have bought the wooden one but I like stag too much.
At the shop I was able to look through several knives and find one that I liked, with no pressure or funny looks from the lady that sold them. The quality is good, but there were several with finish problems like rough pins and small cracks, so I would not buy their products unseen. Also note that although the stall accepts credit cards they can not charge more than around 70 Euros per card per day, so for anything over that bring cash.
I ended up with a 7.5 cm blade stag handled slipjoint, costing around 90 Euro.
The knife fits well in my hand (three fingers underneath, thumb on top), because of its shape. I do think that, for that knife from a not extremely well known maker, that was a bit on the expensive side but the seller would not (as per usual in Budapest…) lower the price. I understand, from talking to the lady there, that they sell several kitchen knives mainly to tourists, but very few slipjoints.
Another shop that I would recommend is right on the entrance of the West End Mall
(Nyugati paiyaudvar stop on the Blue line of the Metro). (bad quality picture)
You can access the mall straight from the metro station and the shop is on the ground floor on the left. The selection of Hungarian knives there was more limited but they seemed to be of equal quality and similar price to the one I got (I bought a Laguiole knife there). The seller was quite happy to chat and mentioned that there were several good Hungarian makers, but that he has not aware of Szankovits. The shop was well stocked with victorinox, spyderco etc. There is also another knife shop at the other end of the mall (ground floor again) but the selection is limited to modern knives.
Finally there is a large knife shop in the “Euro” Inetrspar mall, last stop in the Buda region of the “No 1” tram line. Unfortunately the seller there only spoke Hungarian, so I could not get him to show me any Hungarian knives (he was not interested
Here is some of his stock (bad quality pictures)