Your Ruins to the Right of Me- Discovering Népsziget

Since it transpired that we’ve summited almost all of Buda’s many hills we decided it was time to turn our attention to other places of interest such as, let’s say, islands. Though, as previously specified, of those there are only three in Budapest and we’ve been to all of them, although Csepel has sadly gone undocumented- a horrible oversight to be corrected in the hopefully near future.

If, however, one feels slightly industrial and moderately decrepit on a Saturday morning (and we’ve all been there, haven’t we), there is always the option of Népsziget- don’t let the Hungarian name fool you, Népsziget is an island no longer. It used to be one up to the 1830s, when it was connected to Újpest with a narrow strip of land, thus becoming a peninsula. Occasionally it is also known as Újpesti-sziget, while historical names of it include Saban-sziget (by which it was first attested in the early 17th Century), Szunyog-sziget and Csigás-sziget.

We assumed the latter two names would be foreboding, but were’t really- perhaps the heat is not yet sweltering enough for mosquitoes, nor did we have any rain to draw out the snails. Upon approaching it from its southern end, we were faced with an odd construction which turned out to be the temporary bridge connecting the fancy housing estate of Marina Part to the peninsula, where we were greeted by one of the most typical and occasionally scary sights of the Budapest summer: an elderly gentleman sunbathing in a speedo.

As our forays led us deep into the thicket, the presence of the gentleman was suddenly placed in a new context, as we discovered camping area after camping area- most of them derelict, sad or perhaps nostalgic mementoes of foregone Socialist summers. A few seemed functional still, enveloped in the smoke of fires grilling meats and cooking gulyás pots, the silence punctuated by insolent radio music, children screaming and the occasional click of a beer can being opened.

The next discovery took us even further into the past, all the way to the times of the monarchy, when the island harboured a branch of the Pest and Trieste Shipping Factory- today none of it stands any longer, but one can still inspect the remnants of the Ganz Danubius Boat and Crane Factory, which seems like the perfect setting for a post-apocalyptic Hollywood blockbuster.

Next on the menu, naturally, a goat farm lying right at the foot of the Újpest rail bridge which crosses Népsziget connecting Nyugati station to the towns of the Danube bend. In all honesty, the farm contained not only dogs, but geese, ducks and chickens as well, plus a shaggy dog and a black cat looking rather displeased with the whole arrangement. But since the goats outnumbered the rest of the population, we called it a goat farm and moved on to what we hoped would be a refreshing beer in Colorbar. Sadly though, in spite of an opening event which took place during the previous weekend, the bar seemed closed. As it is located in the belly of yet another decrepit shipyard, we were let in by a sad looking guard who informed us we may proceed further, but he does not assume anyone’s there.

This remark proved incorrect, as there were some people cutting metal, and someone, seemingly in charge, consented to us checking out the bit of Colorbar which is apparently a second-hand décor store. We shortly flirted with the idea of purchasing a chair, but then imagined the logistics of hauling it back to the city and decided it was time to depart towards places which involve food and beer. We are however looking forward to returning to the island when and if Colorbar lives up to its name and caters drinks as well,  and would also warmly recommend Népsziget to rusty boat enthusiasts, collectors of Socialist lamps and be-speedoed sunbathers, and particularly to anyone who fits all three categories.

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