Well the heat has gone up to over 30°C every day…. pair that with the 70%+ humidity and it makes each day a sluggish, sweaty affair. I sleep with a fan on and every window and door open in the house… and everybody still wakes up with sticky, hot skin so there’s a little family competition to see who gets to the shower first.
But it also means that the cherry trees are ripe and the Duna riverfront is abound with people. A typical day in the little town I live in consists of biking to the river, snacking on cherries, jumping in – then grabbing an ice cream on the way back home. Pretty idyllic! I’ve lived in places that are brutally hot before but there’s been wind, or cold nights to help with the heat. Here…there’s nothing! and it has taken two weeks to get used to it. But at least we know for sure that summer is here. Well done, June!
These past two weeks have been busy. Really busy. I’ve been prepping for a job coming up in Belgium, spending time with family and friends before I leave, attempting to exercise in the cooler parts of the day, and exploring as much as I can.
I spend most mornings in Kismaros and nearly every afternoon in Pest. At this point I’ve seen most of the tourist sights, delving deeper into the more ‘hidden gems’ of Budapest with most of my new sights coming from word-of-mouth. One place that I heard about and really wanted to check out was the Ervin Szabó Library. It’s a public space but a portion of it used to be a palace – so early one morning Kim and I found ourselves there. And what a sight! Can you imagine studying there?! Every time we walked into a room, we were more surprised than the room before.. and the students were working on computers or using whiteboards like it was nothing. I snapped some shots of the odd mash-up of history and modern age, but walked out with a new study space in mind if I go back to language school in August.
Lots of lunches with friends, discoveries of new coffee places and the creation of a ‘Hungarian Bucket List’ were huge positives but I couldn’t write this post without mentioning the major disaster that occurred in Budapest. On the 29th of May, the Hableány, a boat of 35 people, was hit by a Viking cruise liner (which all the locals despised already but even more now) and only 7 people survived. There are 3 bodies still missing. The collision occurred underneath the Margaret bridge that connects Margaret Island with the mainland, and, as Margaret Island is one of my favourite places to go to in Budapest, I’ve witnessed the change in the air around the site. Now, when I cross the bridge, there’s a somber feeling and hundreds of flowers, candles and a hoard of people quietly observing. It’s a truly heartbreaking sight. The forensic anthropologist in me has been paying close attention to the recovery efforts of the boat and bodies, and, amidst the beautiful summer weather, this has been something major on everyone’s mind.
The boat accident and body recovery has been even worse because of the high water levels of the Duna. As the river flows North to South, all the rain and snow melt from Germany, Slovakia and other northern countries have raised the Duna to about 3 meters higher than normal. Beaches and parks have flooded and in Budapest it’s only about half a meter from overflowing onto the roads. This has limited the recovery efforts and it took about 12 days to finally remove the shipwrecked boat.
Although it started off on a somber note, Hungarians did the best they could to ring in the summer on June 1st: all over the city there were ‘Summer Festivals’ with tents, vendors, and pop-up music stages – a tradition that helped cheer the city up.
The concert I went to on Margaret Island was one of these summer festivals and let me tell you – it was an amazing concert. The venue was beautiful, the music was great and everyone in the audience was singing along to each song. The kids sitting in front of me were dancing in their seats nearly the whole time and it was magical to watch the sun go down and paint the clouds pink as the musicians played. Plus it was the first warm day in a while. There were musical guests like János Bródy (who wrote lyrics for the famous Hungarian musical ‘Istvan, a Király’) and a folk singer named Bea Palya, and with the heat of the summer air, the philharmonic orchestra and dance-able music, it was an ideal start to the summer.
Margaret Island has the wonderful concert venue but it also has so much green space that it’s perfect for picnics, slacklining, football and really any kind of meet up with friends. I’ve spent a lot of time here in the past two weeks and I’ve grown a new appreciation for the ‘drop your location’ option on our phones – trying to find a group of people on a busy island isn’t an easy task! Deák Tér has also become livelier in the sunshine and I’ve spent quite a few days now dipping my feet into the pool or laying out on the grass talking with friends. There was even a Chinese festival there that I went to the other day with Paw, Nora and Alex before we made our way to the typical Margaret Island spot.
Another friend from University dropped in as well (hi Nate!) and he and his friend got the Hungarian treatment as we climbed Gellért hill in the sunshine, ate a homemade Hungarian meal for dinner and then sipped drinks by the Duna as day turned to night. The meal was an interesting one too… Túrós tészta; which is sort of a test of weird Hungarian food. Warm noodles plus sour cream and cottage cheese, topped with bacon bits and (at least for me) sugar… it’s a tasty classic and everyone got full marks.
As Belgium work draws closer it feels like a lot of doors are closing. Kim decided to do a Workaway in Bulgaria at the last second so I was a bit surprised at the sudden having-to-say-goodbye, but she’s got mud houses to build and I can’t wait to hear about it later. Then I had to say goodbye to Alex and Mark… soon Arno and Leslie… it’s difficult! Having a friend group that is constantly fluctuating with people you’re not sure if you’ll see again is a really hard thing and I have asked myself more than once if I want to invest my time and friendship in yet another person who will leave. And the answer is always ‘yes’. I mean, I’m going to be the one leaving one day too but making friends along the way always makes the adventure better. Some of us are even planning on traveling together soon! Adventure in Albania…? Don’t mind if we do.
~ Nagyon, nagyon meleg most … mert itt van a nyár! Sok barátaim találom a Margit-szigeten vagy a Deak téren ahol szeretünk focizni és piknikezni. Nagyszerű koncert láttam a hónapban Zsolttal, és két vár láttam Arnoval. Most olvasok és tanulok a munkát Belgiumban. Faradt vagyok.. mert meleg kintban és bentban. Nem tudok aludni! Belgium hideg lesz szerintem. Meglátjuk! ~