The other day, as I was walking through the blunt early evening fog of late autumn in Budapest I had a grand revelation. Before diving straight into it, let me just specify that these days we are having four types of weather around here: milky morning fog, opaque noon fog, blunt early evening fog and dark night fog. So amidst all these instances of fog, walking on Nagymező street and seeing people huddled in the warm belly of cafes and bars, I realized the thing I miss most about summer in a city is the terraces.
Terraces mean freedom, terraces mean endless opportunity. Terraces are social places, there is chatter and friendliness and even heated debates, but on a terraces you can also be alone and not be frowned upon- sure thing, you can sit alone at a table inside in winter as well, but space in winter is limited, cramped, it has precise borders. In winter when you’re alone at a table you’re stealing the opportunity of a group to sit together. Summer terraces are often overflowing, without precise borders, open to improvisation and expandable, like the sea ebbing and flowing.
On terraces you can be fully focused, because you’re somehow on an island, a self sustaining oasis, yet terraces are also open. If you’re bored with the conversation, if your book suddenly hits an unexciting patch, the terrace offers the solace of letting your eyes wander to take in the view, the lives of others rushing by, the small details that come to the forefront for one second and then fade away, temporary illuminations soon to be forgotten.
Terraces are also doors to the unexpected, places where you can meet fascinating strangers, or where you can bump into your friends, even when far from home. What are the chances of sitting somewhere in Montparnasse and having a high school friend, living in a third corner of the world, suddenly show up and greet you as if you were on the oh so familiar main drag at home. I will not meander into statistical analysis here, mostly cause I’m not particularly good at it, but I’d say very small. But there he was, grinning like a Cheshire cat playing an away game, and I was right at the point where I was getting a bit distracted and needed a new amusement. Terraces, then, are the enablers of fate too.
And speaking of Montparnasse, I suddenly remembered taking quite a few pictures of people sitting on terraces while in Paris, partly because I like the idea so much, and partly because Paris is of course the epitome of a city where you might, should, must absolutely sit on a terrace. A most Paris thing for me has always been the fully street facing terrace- all chairs allow for a perfect view of the street, which for my still pretty adolescent mind somehow morphed into the idea that the French, while munching a croissant and discussing Sartre, will suddenly come to a halt and stare into the gilded, pulsating existential nothingness of a Grand Boulevard. So to celebrate all that, and make me feel that for a few minutes I harbour that proverbial eternal summer inside, here are some pictures of people sitting on various terraces in Paris.