Complaining about the Hungarian railway company is a hobby I like to indulge in every now and then, well, basically almost each time I happen to board one of their trains, which is pretty often. The list of their vile endeavours, from trains going suspiciously missing in the countryside to double selling tickets and half sparking international diplomatic conflicts is diverse and entertaining, particularly when none of them happen to you or when you reminisce about them over a pint of chilled beer to the boundless amusement of the audience.
The lengthy introduction above is there to basically set the base line- if there are reasons to complain, I very well will. Nevertheless, opposed to many of Budapest’s inhabitants, I am quite fond of the local transportation company, BKK. It is of course not perfect, nothing human made ever is, and some buses are old -and will occasionally catch fire, some drivers are rude, winter always takes them by surprise and sometimes the bus just doesn’t come at all.
But even this last incident is very rare compared to other places I’ve been to- I remember clearly how positively shocked I was when, in my first weeks in Budapest I discovered that when trams break down, there are replacement buses, and you’re not simply kept waiting for an elusive vehicle which might never come. The network of overground lines is comprehensive and well connected, and it is pretty easy to efficiently navigate the city, be it day, or night.
In retrospect, I was nothing but a spoiled brat when, about two weeks ago, I spent five minutes waiting for replacement bus 48 and cataloging how the refurbishment work done on the tram line is making my life a living hell. It isn’t- once you get used to the frequency of the buses you don’t have to wait more than a couple of minutes and as a splendid bonus, Freedom bridge is closed to traffic.
As soon as cars and trams were sent into temporary exile, Freedom bridge became a promenade and an urban picnic spot. And as such- it looked pretty garbage infested in the first days. But that changed too- there came the online campaigns, and most people understood that having the bridge as our summer playground does not mean we should use it as a trash can too.
There’s something exhilarating too about climbing the metal structure- previously mostly forbidden (people sitting on the central bit were a part of the city landscape every summer), now you can explore most of it, to the extent your fear of heights allows it. It’s also reassuring to see that people can be reasonable even if allowed to trespass some regulations- very few venture over their comfort zone, and when someone shrieks out after having done so, there’s someone there to help them back safely. Mostly though, it’s all about having a chat and drinks perched on the lower parts of the bridge- radlers and ciders are apparently the go to flavour for Budapest’s summer. (And yes, there’s selfie action too. Often with radlers and ciders in hand.)
So these days if you stroll to the bridge, particularly in the evening, as Freedom bridge was always best suited for spectacular sunsets, you are going to meet a city enjoying itself in a carefree way that is very similar to the familiar summer festival feeling- a city which has it’s own island of freedom, now has it’s very real bridge of freedom too.