There are up sides to utterly gloomy autumn days with non-stop rain, yes there are. It’s like they simply take the pressure of you- no need to go out, plan several outdoorsy-basking-in-the-sunsy activities, decide which cute summer dress to wear, make sure not to miss any newly opened terraces and such.
You can either simply stay at home and binge watch whatever comes to your mind (I went for Tom Hardy movies, a safe bet if there ever was one) or put on an indefinitely coloured trench coat and quickly transition the curtain of rain to another indoor haven, like a cinema or an exhibition hall. Or a pub, where you can just sit like a grumpy pigeon sipping on a stout- or maybe a Pilsner Urquell disguised as a Staropramen- and discuss the harsh realities of life in the rain with your friends.
Like how, in the middle of Budapest’s party district you can suddenly find yourself at a loss for places to go, because you kind of felt like food but strangely all the establishments coming your way are bars serving a meagre snack or too.(This issue is of course a non-issue: with a bit of patience you can find pretty much anything in Budapest these days.)
Due to a long stretch of such fine meteorological phenomena, I can even volunteer useful indoor activity tips, such as the Pop Art exhibition at the Ludwig Museum and the World Press Photo one at the Ethnological Museum.
The second is a strange pairing, frankly, I always get this odd feeling when visiting the yearly outing of the exhibition, a bit like when going to the Nyugati square McDonald’s: something quite old and pretty over decorated meeting something new and almost minimalist. (It’s very pop art of me to compare a Big Mac menu to a press photo, I’d say.) This year’s edition closes on the 25th of October, so most probably it will be even more crowded this weekend than it was during the last.
In a way it’s encouraging to see people still going to an actual photo exhibition in the era of easy online access to anything. On the other hand, most of those who made my day a bit of a via crucis were there because, to get back to my majestic simile above, they do regard the World Press Photo exhibition as the McDonald’s of photography: shots that should be easily made sense of even for those not overly familiar with the medium in general.
But amidst the pushing and shoving to get (Capa style…) as close to the image as possible while blocking out everyone else’s view, I hardly heard one remark that made any sense. Though some did open strange new overtures onto modern life: while quickly rushing through the series related to the downing of the Malaysian Airlines plane in the Ukraine, a young girl excitedly blurted out that, oh, she did hear about this crash, but she did not know it was real, she though it was a film. In a nice random touch, quite close to the plane crash series there was another one, about China’s booming film industry. You decide what’s real.
The Ludwig goes Pop! Exhibition sounds mercifully too abstract to most and can thus be visited relatively undisturbed. It’s also most definitely one of those things about which most people would indignantly postulate that they could have done that as well. Only they did not think about it, and that’s the hard part, isn’t it. As an added delight, there is strong focus on the contrast between pop art in the West and in the (communist) East.
There are many small epiphanies, such as the one about the strange attraction of Eastern Europeans to matchboxes, but the most striking element is probably how the West was bursting into vivid Technicolor shades while the East stayed, well, black and white, grey, and especially brown. Strangely enough, all my memories of communist Romania are indeed brown. In one particularly poignant set of memories, I remember seeing my mother’s brown robe on a chair, and rushing into a street of brown mud to listen to the distant rumble of shots being fired into the centre of our provincial town. Then the revolution came and my memories went Technicolor.