Forest at the End of Town

In an odd turn of events last Saturday happened to be almost irrationally sunny and pleasant by Budapest weekend standards, which state that fine weather should invariably turn miserable at 6 PM on Friday. Or perhaps at 7 AM on Saturday, so those ridiculous souls who are awake at that ungodly hour will have a glimmer of hope, which will then be trampled underfoot by gigantic storm clouds, making said souls even more irrevocably broken than they already were.  (On the other hand, should Friday have horrible weather, that will stay consistently horrible until Monday 6 AM.)

But as the cycle was broken, we decided it was time to resume the Budapest map bingo which we’d half officially started some time last year (another one of those well outlined and measurable projects, then). It basically consists of looking at the city map, identifying a spot we’ve never been to and which, for any reason, seems intriguing and then visiting it.

This time around the winner was a rather unassuming green spot at the meeting point of the exotically sounding but otherwise rather plain Pestszentimre (Sankt Emmerich in German) and Pestszentlőrinc (Sankt Lorenz), which together make up the similarly exotic (by our standards) and yet still rather plain 18th district. Here I should arguably try to launch into a poetic description of the beauties of the 18th district, but since it is basically a big dormitory plus Ferihegy airport, I am afraid that won’t be possible.

Returning to the green spot itself, it is called Halmi erdő- though calling it a forest might be just a slight exaggeration. We did however consider it to be large enough for an early spring walk, and set off by the rather convoluted way of metro line 3 (mercifully not on fire at the time of our expedition) and then bus 184. We bravely disembarked at the grandly named Observatory (also quite unassuming as far as observatories go) and set off towards what we hoped was the forest.

I am happy to inform you that we are great at recognizing compact groups of trees, and we thus wandered around for a good two hours- the forest would end every now and then and you’d find yourself pretty much in somebody’s back yard, but by constantly veering back towards the centre it’s possible to have a rather pleasant walk. The scenery was still mostly barren, as trees and plants are teetering on that point where it’s not cold enough for it to be winter anymore, but not yet warm enough for spring blooming either.

While all this might sound underwhelming, the final outcome was strangely pleasant: the clean shapes and colours of the forest had a soothing effect underscored by the rustle of the wind and the occasional bird song. As the day went by, the number of runners, walkers and particularly dog walkers increased, but the crowds never reached the alert levels which warm days bring along on Margaret Island or in Városliget. We even spotted what seemed to be a football field zig-zagged by very obvious walking paths- not a glorious implement then, which is quite a pity, since Deák Ferenc ’Bamba’ (intriguing nickname given perhaps to distinguish him from the other Deák Ferenc), sporting the colours of local team Szentlőrinci AC scored 66 goals in the 1945-1946 season of the first division, still considered to be a world record in its category.

This is then a perfect occasion to paraphrase Jeremy Clarkson (the Top Gear edition) and conclude that on this bombshell we must end. And if your time allows it, you might as well go for a hike in Halmi erdő one of these days.

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