Local Stories: Why Budapest?
There used to be an after-hours night club on the outer edge of the Blaha Lujza Ter metro station between Budapest’s ramshackle district VII and VIII. The club went by the name of Corvintető and it occupied the top two floors of the dishevelled, communist-era Corvin department store. Tető means rooftop in Hungarian and it was on the rooftop of this techno-rave den, below the lilac tremors of an early morning sky, where our tale begins in earnest.
The year was 2016, the month was April and I was 25 years old. I found myself on this particular rooftop at the tail end of a 48-hour no-sleep bender and I turned to face my partner in crime, a 6’4 Iowan by the name of Tom Bean. Tom had been studying abroad in Budapest that spring and though I don’t remember who said it first we both agreed that: yes, it would be an excellent fucking idea to move back to this incredible city one day. And just about a year and a half later in January of 2018, we did exactly that. Tom, to take a computer programming job at Prezi – one of the top technology startups in all of Central Europe – and myself to pursue the next rung on a career progression of peddling incoherent babble and gobbledygook to anyone willing to listen.
Tom and I pictured at the start of a said bender at Andersen Pub // April, 2016
We’ve been roommates in Budapest for the past 18 months now – coincidentally living in an apartment that is only a 5 minute walk from the now closed down Corvintető – and though I won’t speak for the young chap, I am of the opinion that following through on this particular vow was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Despite its rapidly deteriorating and now utterly neglected appearance, the shuttered up night club still holds a dear place in my heart. Not least because I met my girlfriend Alexa there just about two years to the very day of our original trip. That final foray took place only a few weeks before the club closed for good. It’s a funny old life, isn’t it?
If I came to Budapest in the first place in order to follow through on the haphazardly considered and utterly indulgent romanticism of my younger impulsive self – well, the question remains: why have I stayed?
Is it for the mustard coloured streaks that flash across powder green Bridge of Liberty?
Is it to wander alone in my thoughts along the tree-laden paradise park of Margit Island – smack in the middle of Buda and Pest – lost amongst scattered ruins and musical fountains? To watch loungers and lovers on the grass with cold Soproni cans in multicoloured hands?
Is it for the cold metal ribbons that stitch our city together? Bridges of chains – suspended connectors of worlds? To admire their resilient beauty rebuilt in the ruinous wake of war? To wander over the Danube: triumphantly gleaming on a spring day, glistening against the pale luminescence of winter’s heart?
For the coffee shops and bars? So many of them – bustling with life and vibrancy: eclectically decorative remnants clashing together previous eras on this hidden jewel city like so many symbols and drums?
Is it for the celebration of hidden optimism that lurks behind the stoic glare of misfortune? Alive in jubilation on a hot summers day – in the countless festivals and outbursts of reverie and nihilism in the heat?
Is it for the Parliament building? That magnificent capstone of a city filled with surreal architecture you won’t find anywhere else? A cacophony of swords jutting up into the sky like the fantastical machinations of a Tolkien novel come to life? How this image is reflected once more upon the hill – fisherman’s bastion and Mattias Church – all of these idiosyncratic buildings – their roofs coated in Zsonlay tiles, edifices littered with the slowly decaying beauty of beaten old pastels. Pinks and oranges and purples and greens?
Is it for the spectacle of the night? As Budapest comes alive with electricity and the hedonistic parade of lost souls collects together until the missing hours of the morning?
To lose myself beneath the mythical waters of our countless bathhouses, soaking in the thermal medicinal bounty mother earth has provided?
To admire these Magyars? Their perseverance? These proud Hungarians and all of their lost history – an ancient, mysterious race – linguistically alone, tempered by the tragedy of time – perseverant and proud?
It’s for all of these reasons and many more as well. It’s because my creative soul comes alive in this city and I’ve fallen in love with her many times over. It’s because there’s no other place in the world I’d rather be doing what I am doing, whatever I am doing may be. It is because I want to share her beauty for the world to see.
That is why I am still in Budapest and for other reasons too – most of which I have not yet discovered. And as I search for their elusive meaning I promise to share it all with you.