Hungary is well known for its textile heritage of colourful embroideries and white lace. When you walk along the Danube, on Pest bank-since Budapest is nothing else than the combination of the old cities of Buda and Pest, you get to the main hall market of the city. Built on hundreds of square meters with its ground floor dedicated to food and its upper floor to handcraft, this is the place to start your craft hunt : secret box, embroideries, dolls wearing traditional costumes, lace and anything else in between.
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But beware of the quality of what you will find, after thousands of tourists flooding the halls and globalized desire of always the same thing turned the crafts of the hall into a never ending copycat of the same products.
But if you look a bit further, along the main shopping street, many small craft shops and hidden hut might allow you to find the crafts of your dreams. That’s where I began searching for the MATYO HAT !
This not so well known hat is however the final touch of the very distinctive traditional Matyo costume, mostly known for its intricate and colourful embroideries. On the list of intangible heritage since 2012 this textile tradition went to posterity, there is no way you can miss it it’s everywhere you go in Budapest. These embroideries are typically bright orange, red and blue hearted flower patterns stitched on a black apron worn both by men and women. Nowadays you can find these type of embroideries pretty much anywhere in Budapest- ranging from very good to middle range quality- but these textile heritage is originally from northern Hungary in region where three villages are known to be the only representative of this technique : Mezokovesd, Tard and Szentistvan.
But the Matyo hat was nowhere to be found. After trying all the craft shops on … street without exception, I was ready to give up. But that’s when the son of an old man owning a folk art shop himself advised me to check on last shop. First right, first left and here I am standing at the door of another folk art shop, half convinced that I can find here what I have been looking for. But I was proven wrong because HERE IT WAS! The Matyo hat of my dreams!
I took the time to have a few words with the tow old ladies in charge of this shop. They explained me the history and characteristic of this design and tried to show me how to tie the hat on my head, which end up in a complete failure since these hat were tailored made for just one head, and this very head was definitely not the same size or shape as mine! Despite having only two pompom the side and one main pompom on the neck when some of these hats might have 6 pompoms sometime altogether, the hat is still unsteady and hard to keep on my head.
I will spare you pictures of me with the hat but would be happy instead I would be happy to share some good addresses from regarding Matyo culture and textile heritage starting with wonderful shop where I found my own hat :
- Folk Art Shop, at the corner of Vaci and Regiposta streets, Budapest. HU
Some nice instagram account on central European textile heritage
Written by Margot