Barrelled Thoughts #59 – Bye-Bye, Budapest

Thursday, April 14, 2016

I came to Budapest 10 months ago with few suppositions and even fewer ideas of what I was to expect from this mysterious, landlocked nation. If were honest with myself, I’d quickly admit that I wasn’t able to point out the former capital of Austria-Hungary on the map; if I could be any more truthful than that, I’d also say that, until June last year, I wasn’t able to tell Budapest and Bucharest apart.

When I leave this magical city a few days from now, I will have spent all four seasons in a country for the first time outside of South Africa and Taiwan. The only other time I have spent more than a handful of months in a country was between the years 2013 and 2014, while studied in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, for about seven months.

It’s an interesting thought, to call somewhere “home” for a year, while my status is neither a student nor a local citizen. A “nomad”, or more precisely a “digital nomad”, is what they call themselves. Do I fall under this category? Probably. Someone who works online and lives in a foreign country—it is, apparently, that simple.

Continue reading

Hungary – Magyarország

A seasonal gallery of my time in Hungary, spent in Budapest—surely one of the best kept secrets in Europe – Tokaji, Paprika, the Danube, coffee.

An ode to Budapest.

Picture of the Week – February 7, 2016

 

_MG_4234.jpg

The Memorial to the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and War of Independence, located on the edge of Budapest’s City Park and just a few paces from the much visited Heroes’ Square, stands out in the winder snow because of its rusty columns, which represent the gathering of individuals to form a spear of resistance against their communist oppressors.

The monument is a piece of modern art which requires knowledge of its history to appreciate; a quick look into its background is also enough to understand its shape—an arrow or the tip of a spear which is out of shot to the left.

Built in 2005 in time for the 50th anniversary of the War of Independence, it stands on the site of a former Catholic church, demolished by the communists to make way for a statue of Joseph Stalin.

While seemingly imposing when viewing it in person, the site is in fact humble and silent, most noticeable for the lack of a large marble tablet of some sort which might otherwise explain the reason behind its creation.

Barrelled Thoughts #58 – A Different Kind of Autumn

Friday, September 11, 2015

I am lucky enough to have experienced autumn on three continents (sort of), and I must say, Europe is by far the coldest.

Autumn in Johannesburg, which, by the way, is from March to May, I remember by its skin-cracking dryness, despite not being all that cold. That said, had the events of the Bible taken place in the Southern Hemisphere, we wouldn’t have had Easter, because Jesus would’ve just stayed in that cave to stay warm.

Taipei, on the other hand, pierced by the Tropic of Cancer and with its hot-headed island temperament, retrains its moderate temperatures and overwhelming humidity. And let’s not forget about the rain.

Budapest is between the two. And it’s cold. When I was in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, in the autumn of 2013, the season, like here in the Hungarian capital, suddenly pounced on us—there were no warning signs. It just happened. One minutes I was sitting in class, the next minute snow started falling outside the window.

Continue reading

Barrelled Thoughts #57 – Sunday Someday

Sunday, August 2, 2014

I take part in a staring contest with a white and brown Maine Coon who might as well be the shopkeeper and face of the endearing Cat Cafe—one of two coffeehouses in Budapest dedicated to the feline companions loved by so many.

The cafe is home to four cats to whose breeds I am oblivious. As a dog person I get points just for knowing a Maine Coon, but I can see why people like cats—sort of. I mean, what’s not to like about a pet who (sometimes) responds to you with affection, while happily ignoring everyone else in the room?

The Cat Cafe reminds me of a cafe near where I lived in Taipei. It was also a modest establishment that looked like it would never fill up. But that’s the point of a ‘cafe city’—there are always enough coffeehouses to provide everyone with their own private corner.

Continue reading

Photo of the Week – August 2, 2015

Buda–Pest link.

Buda–Pest link.

Another one of Budapest’s worthwhile—and also gratis—nighttime activities is crossing on foot one of the city’s many bridges that connect both sides of the Danube, which, despite Johann Strauss II’s quite marvellous efforts, is in fact not blue. (Sorry.)

If you like strolling around at night as much as I do, Budapest’s Széchenyi Chain Bridge is one of more than half a dozen spots in which to do just that. Opened in 1849, the Chain Bridge was the first of its kind to span the Duna and connect both sides of the river—this was even before Buda, Pest, and nearby Óbuda were joined together to become the fitting dual capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1873.

Taking a leisurely stroll is great, irrespective of the city you find yourself in. Go for a walk; discover something new. I won’t go as far as to say you should get lost—that may be a tad overly cliché. And besides, being lost is no fun.

Picture of the Week – July 19, 2015

Influx

Influx

The Great Market Hall, also known as the Central Market Hall, brims with people; not only tourists, but also locals who look to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables, colourful berries, fine ham, and a good bottle of Tokaji or Villányi for the coming week.

I love the central market because it caters to all. Tourists love it because some of the best local produce can be found there at a good price; locals love it for the same reason. The last thing you want as a tourist is to know that you’re trapped in a tourist-only market full of vendors who are looking to rip you off for your Euro or U.S. Dollar.

Like, I’m sure, other local markets throughout the country, the freshness—and the attractive prices—of the fruits and berries at the Great Market Hall cannot be understated. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to want to visit its cozy aisles at least twice a week for the ultimate dose of fresh.