When people ask me how long I’ve lived in Budapest, I usually have to think quite a lot before giving an answer, and strangely, it’s not always accurate. I got stuck at round anniversaries, like I would say five years for ages, and then ten- I’m still in the ten phase, actually, and I was counting on my fingers just now to figure out whether I’d made it to fifteen, or would do so next year. But no, ten it will still be for some time.
Ten is still a lot, I guess, and this last year in particular I kept thinking of how much the city changed since I arrived. The changes have been mostly positive, though I cannot help but feel sad whenever I see a place that used to be something else- though, of course, I have changed as well. I have moved through several neighbourhoods, and found the one I really love- I do sometimes feel the call of the neighbouring Újlipótváros, with its shabby Paris aura, but then I remember that my Terézváros is here and there a shabby Vienna, and I will forever remain partial to the latter.
I do occasionally feel grumpy when I return to Budapest after a longer trip, she seems dusty, desolate and frankly, a bit grumpy too. Then again, maybe it’s karma, and I just got the city I deserved. These feelings are fleeting, though, because I then remember the million things why she’s actually the best place to call a home.
And because the end of the year calls for lists and the likes, here’s ten totally random reasons why I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else:
- the way the light descends onto the 6th and the 7th districts early in the morning, a lottery of sunshine breaking through unevenly, little old ladies walking their dogs on Andrássy, the clatter of random conversations filling the first corner shops to open for the day.
- Anker köz, with its weird slightly labyrinthine shape, reflecting any light so beautifully no matter what time of the day it is, being a light trap of sorts: there is a weird brightness to it even when the skies are overcast.
- summer lunches turning into dinners in Pántlika, weird electro buzz mingling with the sharp smells of spritzers and wheat beers, no regrets over the size of the meal, since you’ll be rambling around Városliget afterwards anyways
- people watching on the stairs of St Stephen’s, munching on the weirdest flavours of the best ice cream in town, with an added touch of excitement when all of this is done unseasonably early in spring or late in autumn.
- concerts on A38, not just because they bring the best bands, but because it’s a boat, on the Danube, and when the act is really great, you feel the sway of the crowd moving to the rhythm of the music, which becomes the rhythm of the river. Or the other way around.
- soaking in the hot pool of Rudas, particularly in winter, particularly ridiculously early in the morning, getting slightly but pleasantly sleepy while watching the light filtered by the coloured glass windows on the top of the dome.
- making a weekend escape to Normafa, either by the cog wheel train, the children’s railway or the chairlift, like some alternative amusement park that’s not corny or loud, wandering around the forest and ending the day watching the sunset from Jánoshegy.
- running on Margit Island in late spring and early summer- the place is great in any season, actually, and not only for running, but I just get a particular kick from seeing as many blooming lilac bushes and linden trees as I can.
- going to any of the city’s many amazing specialty coffee shops for an espresso and a good talk or a good book, with special mentions going to My Little Melbourne for being on my way to work and having pretzels and Espresso Embassy for having the best random overheard snippets of conversation in town.
- Guinness in Becketts, whiskey sour in Boutiq bar and Campari orange on the terrace of Akvárium. Not necessarily on the same day, I would say, and not only for the sake of the drink.