Inside a steel drum, hundreds of goose feathers twirl. This turbine like machine was built in the 1940s and used to run on steam until the 1970s. There’s a hose-like appendage at one end, and Szántó Tamás takes it, inserts it into an empty cotton pillow case and begins to siphon the feathers to fill the bespoke pillow he is creating for me.
After my first night’s sleep in Budapest, I find my pillows a bit too foamy and insubstantial (yes, I know: First World Issues). I have a wander around the shops of Váci utca (the main shopping street), but I still haven’t found anything suitable, so return home to do a web search. “Where to buy good pillows in Budapest?” directs me to the website of Elfenbein which looks, from the website, like a pretty standard bedding store.
I set off to the address on Teréz krt. But when I get to the street, the shop is nowhere to be found. A few back and forth passes and I still can’t spot it. I check the number and then look a little closer. There’s a tiny sign beside an arched doorway that leads into a large courtyard, and there’s another sign pointing down some rickety wooden steps into a basement... Where I find this guy:
|Putting the finishing touches to my bespoke pillows at Elfenbein|
Elfenbein turns out to be a three person outfit, making amazing quality pillows and duvets by hand. In 15 minutes, they measure out and cut the fabric, stitch up three sides, then fill it with goose feathers from the steel drum you can see in the background.
So I get two bespoke pillows for the equivalent of £27 – and they are the comfiest my head has ever rested on! Plus, on my very first day, I get a glimpse of a hidden Budapest tourists will probably never see.