It all began with the thought that we should have a walk along the stretch of Andrássy which starts at Oktogon and ends at Heroes’ Square- I am completely partial to this bit of the avenue, with its ivy clad villas and stately air, as opposed to the shop and tourist infested half that heads towards Deák. Early spring is perhaps the best time to enjoy it too, as the greenery surrounding the houses bursts into life, and it’s a beautiful, raw green too, a green that lasts only a couple of weeks or so before the heat of the sun starts turning it a shade darker.
I was thus deep into an exploration of this green, walking along the quiet deserted streets of a Sunday afternoon, when suddenly a strange sound lifted from a nearby garden- the sound of an oriental song, both at odds and surprisingly in tune with the nigh Viennese air of this part of town. As it turned out, the Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts was hosting the fourth Hungarian Haiku Day, which was accompanied by a small concert in the back garden. Some of the poems born out of this undertaking were decorating the fence of the museum, but I’ll perhaps keep an elegant poker face regarding their overall quality and move on to the next accidental visit of the day.
The inception of this visit, I’ll admit it in all honestly, was less than elegant- I was simply looking for a clean rest room before entering Városliget, and thought that the one of the Kunsthalle will do the job grandly. But since I happened to be there I thought I could at least pretend to check the list of current exhibitions, but then I did not pretend at all, and suddenly decided to go in and see Alex Webb’s The Suffering of Light, which was closing on that very day. I thought it was a sign, but it also means that much as I will rave about it having been quite wonderful, you will not get a chance to see it in Budapest. If you however bump into it in some other location, by all means do check it out- it’s easy on the eye (in the very best sense of the word) and manages to conjure up a feeling of place that only a special few photographers could ever achieve.
As almost always in museums, I also had a run in with that special subtype of humanity that is the stone-hearted and nigh expressionless Cerberus guarding the halls from possible vandalism such as my leaning in too close- now I do understand that some works need to be preserved and close interaction might do them harm, but I’m not sure how my getting a few centimetres closer to better grasp a hemline is going to overturn the order of the universe.
Nor do I understand why taking a general shot of the room, because it was oh so nicely composed, counts as a crime against humanity, but by the reaction of the Cerberus it most certainly does. To such violently canine reactions one’s best answer is of course the utter zen of a Cheshire cat smile (see illustration on top), plus merrily pretending not to grasp Hungarian, which results in NO PHOTO being screamed at me, and then I could witness a long Hungarian muttering about what an impertinent, impossible, indolent specimen of humanity I was.
Since some of the best shots ever were taken by photographers far more impertinent than I, I moderately impertinently soldiered on towards Városliget, where the sad sight of Petőfi Csarnok being demolished reminded me of that excellent Kasabian concert I’d once seen there and how Beavis and Butthead were quite right, the more things change, the more they suck.
I was also (in)elegantly dodging runners in the process- it was yet another one of those half marathon, 20 kilometres in a group of four, 5 kilometres with a near heart attack days. I know I am bad and just getting worse, but I simply do not get it- I only get it if you train to win the damn marathon, perhaps setting a world record on the way, but just running around at a snail’s pace among the cheers of people panicking whether to call an ambulance for you or not is unfathomable. By all means, do it, but you can do that any day, on any old running track without having half the city’s transportation paralyzed in the process.
Okay, confession time: I might have been more understanding of such behavioural quirks if Pántlika had not been filled to the brim with runners and I could have gotten my legendary Belgrade burger. As this was sadly out of the question, and many other watering holes on the way were also packed, in a case of animals or bad humans veering towards their natural habitat, we ended up at the Zoo’s pastry shop. Those wonderful people there also have beer, and for that I will be forever thankful. I could also inspect another instance of Eszterházy cake for what might in the future become The Extensive and Ultimate Study on the Incidence of Eszterházy Cake in the Hungarian Capital. A bit buttery, but for once, I won’t complain.