Summer’s End in Városliget

The other day it dawned on me that the Budapest exploration project faded a little into the background with the advent of summer. It’s the season I enjoy the most, but also the one I find borderline tiring in its relentless excitement: the travels, the long days when you feel compelled to stay out with the sun, the open air concerts, the festivals. Suddenly it’s autumn again, with plenty of things left undone, like rusty leaves whirling in the cooling air after the last real storm of the summer.

We haven’t even gone to our traditional spots that much, so on the last weekend of August we felt it was time for a season closing burger fest in Pántlika. Come to think of it, there was one extra reason for our having avoided some usual green areas as well: the FINA puddle wrestling world competition (swimming it was, and water polo, plus all sorts of fancy diving), which spread its tentacles to Margit Island and Városliget, among others places. I totally love sports and a major competition is definitely a fine thing, but why waste so much money on many temporary facilities which make the lives of long suffering Budapesters small, hot, summery hells?

The answer is blowing in the wind, perhaps, along the answer to what will become of Városliget in general, the city park being slowly eviscerated, Petőfi csarnok lying in asbestos filled ruins, asphalt slabs showing up everywhere, the last Liget defenders camping among the glitzy paraphernalia of Budapestman, probably some sort of Ironman, though all we saw were women running in electric pink. Because women, obviously, even when made of iron, can only run in pink.

There is a sadness to the place, maybe seasonal too, but also fundamentally there in the changing landscape- it felt a bit as if Városliget was not ours anymore, but a concept, a hot potato being thrown from one side to other in an arid battle for God knows what, but most likely money and power. It is everything but not a park, at least not a peaceful one, metal structures are piercing its calm, the sunbathers have retreated, there seem to be less dogs too- I have never thought I would say this, but yes, I miss the dogs almost biting your ankles on the grass next to Pecsa. And I miss Pecsa too, its flea market, its concerts, its little bar with cheap beers.

Of course, there is a point when buildings, infrastructures become obsolete and they need to be renewed, but why tamper with the entirety of a microcosm that used to work? Touch it up where it really needs it, but otherwise let it be. The Városliget we had might have been uglier than the showy plans they advertise for it, but it was ours, it felt like home. The one upside I discovered to my outing is that the burgers in Pántlika are still delicious. But who knows for how long.


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