If I say „I was born and raised in Budapest”, that’s pretty deceptive. Even if it is true, it gives you the illusion that I know this city better than the foreign students or my dear colleges from the Hungarian countryside. As a start of my confession, I have to admit that I if you put me somewhere in the district called Csepel, I would swear to you that I am in Sarajevo or somewhere in Belarus. Still, my role here is that of the “aboriginal”, so I will write about the Budapest which I know, worship and adore: the thirteenth district, especially the part called “Angyalföld” (which means “Angel-land”).
There are some songs about our lovely district, if you are brave enough, you can listen to them… The first one is in the old school style (the title means “I walk my way, my cobblestoned way…”)
To explaine what I mean every time I say “I’m a kid from Angyalföld”, I have to write a little about the history of this district. It is in the north side of Pest, and it became autonomous in 1938. At that time, Angyalföld was called Magdolnaváros (Magdolna city) after the wife of Governor Miklós Horthy (as this is not a lesson in the history of Hungary, you should google him to get the irony). It was a significant industrial part of the city with lots of factories and areas as “Tripolisz”, which were better to avoid. The charming atmosphere of this working class district became legendary: the cheap pubs for the workers, the terrible public security, the sophisticated inhabitants with their fist first philosophy, the cobblestoned streets… So, when I (or any other person with the same patriotic feeling) say the sentence I mentioned above, it means that “I’m a badass, a tough one, I’ve seen a lot, you’d better not screw around with me, and yeah, I’m the one with the dirty mouth, too” (it is pretty much like the eighth district without the whole gangsta thing). All of this comes with the nostalgic feeling for the socialist system: József Tóth, the mayor was elected for the fifth time in 2010. He is in the Hungarian Socialist Party (what else), and I won’t be surprised if he also wins the next elections… or the next five, anyway.
It is time for the next song! A little Hungarian (too)late-rock&roll with the title “Palm trees of Angyalföld”
Here I am, with the second sentence about my roots, and for the second time I have to admit that my words are misleading. Today the thirteenth district shows the biggest and fastest development in Budapest. Újlipótváros is one of the trendiest areas in the city, Vizafogó is quiet and family friendly, and Angyalföld also has a new, solid image. There are some governmental affairs about it, but as long as I live I will say that Margaret Island belongs to us too. You can take a noisy walk in Váci út if you want to catch the old feeling of the “thirteenth”, but today there is little chance to get into a good fight, so it is not the same at all. I grew up in the green belt area of Angyalföld, which is where the disreputable Tripolisz was in the old times. As a child, I woke up every single morning to birdsong, and it took less than thirty minutes to get anywhere in the downtown (with public transport… with the public transport of Budapest).
The last song is some hard core Hungarian rap: “Angyalföld is the place (where the evil gets going)”
You can do your workout on Margaret Island’s running track, participate at some Jewish festival in Újlipótváros, eat the best strudel in the city on Lehel út (I don’t care about the one in Normafa, check out Rétesbolt Anno 1926 on facebook), take a look at the yacht port(!) in Angyalföld’s new, fancy part called “Marina part”, or drink a beer in the closest bar. You will see people from almost every class, race and nationality that you can find in Budapest. This all is pretty interesting already, but the real miracle is that somehow, in this (not so) little part of the city, people get along with each other very well (most of the time). Next to the badass stuff, that is the real magic of the thirteenth district for me. It is not something you will show to tourists but a truly livable place with a characteristic past, which I love to call home.
P.s.: I felt that my confession is a little bit cheesy, so thank God that I was too shy to publish it right after writing! This way I can include an unhappy-ending: some days ago (the council of) the thirteenth district ordered total prohibition of the usage of public places by homeless people. I know that this is a difficult problem but acting like “If I don’t have to see it, it doesn’t exist” is definitely an invalid and unethical solution. Well, nothing (and no place) is perfect.