City of what?

I still do ask this question myself, even after the two years I’ve spent here, and I always have different answers. So at the end I may not have any. They say it’s the City of Bridges, but for me, it’s the city of what.

Coming from a small town situated on the coast of Lake Balaton, where everyone speaks German to be able to serve the tourists from Austria and Germany, but no one speaks Russian anymore, because finally we don’t have to. We were quite glad about that, and now Russian tourist are coming: irony, I guess. It’s like the West and the East are playing a kind of tennis, where this country is the ball.

Anyway, it’s a town, where streets are completely empty on workday nights, and during the whole winter. So every time I’ve been to Budapest before, it was the capital, the city of unknown. Then I moved here, and it became the city of crowd. And excitement. And the feeling of being lost. The city which had so many places to go, but no places to be.

Since then, anytime I travel across or in a hurry, it is the city of frustration, impossible traffic and annoying people. When I go on foot, it’s the city where stinky buses are running under beautiful buildings. I just need to remind myself sometimes to look up. At night I always think that this is the city of light pollution, when the sky is glowing in orange, ruin bars are full and loud, and I feel timeless. When I go on my favorite trip in town, which is a long walk from my flat up to the Citadel, the city feels endless too. Then there is the Homeless in the underpass, and hookers on the corners, both trying to get some money, even in heavy rain. It must be a city of persistence then.

The late night walks to the nearest non-stop tobacco shop, the drunk foreigners asking for information, the potholes and the dogshit covering the streets every morning, the beautiful girls passing by, and me who will never have the chance to see them again because it’s the city of all of these things at the same time. And I like it, just like the annoying grandma who always used to pinch your face and said how much you’ve grown, but despite this bad habit, you still liked her.

Well, if I change my point of view, this must be the center of Hungary, you know, where hussars and betyars are riding horses on the streets, drinking pálinka from grey cattle’s horns, while puli dogs shepherd racka sheep flocks on Heroes’ Square and the national water polo team does some folkdance while cooking goulash. And where Freddy Mercury sings „Virágom, virágom”. Just like everyone is high in Amsterdam. I’ve been there in the summer, and I’m sure it is also a city of what, if you live there. Budapest remains the city of what, but a different kind of it, and after I finish my coffee here, in the center, I’ll take the bus back to the Eastern Railway Station, in this city of duality.

This city’s a ball indeed. Try to catch it.

Bertalan Balázs


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