Letter from Budapest

Do you ever meet someone, go somewhere, discover or learn about something, and all you want to do is champion that person, place or thing? You want to pick it up, lift it high, and sing out what is so special and interesting about it so that everyone will see just what you see?

I have. And most recently, this happened to me with the city of

I was just there for a week through my student union, on an International Week program, where I was the participant instead of an organizer like I'd been for the one in Lund.

Here is the macro-level summary of my observations of this place...

It is a city, a country, of great beauty. Photos hint at it, and being there confirms it. The buildings are gorgeous and historic and I felt like I couldn't quite grasp just how grand they were. It was that feeling that I either needed to sit and stare at them for awhile, or... I don't know, climb on them to get the full effect of their grandeur. Neither of which the schedule allowed time for :) The landscape impressed me as well... parts of the countryside reminded me of Tuscany, and the greenery we came across in the city and parks drew me in.

The people are also beautiful. In spirit, which I will elaborate on later, but also physically so many of them are striking. So many with lovely brown hair and light eyes, and many with just a general uniqueness to their looks, which I saw everywhere I went and with the people I met.

They are a motivated people, driven to push the status of Budapest and their country to a more prominent position in Europe and beyond. They've been persistent in pulling themselves out from under communism's shadow, then cautious and emerging relatively strongly after the recent global recession. They are hardworking and unafraid to share their achievements. They value family deeply and often seem to be closely connected to any parents or siblings and live nearby them. They are generous beyond belief.

Budapest is a city of eclectic, modern, creative, luxurious and alternative culture all at the same time. From pubs with swings in them to the Louis Vitton store to the John Mayer playing in the cafes to the various electronic or rock music festivals, the place is dynamic and endlessly interesting. It's layered to no end.

Now for some of my micro level experiences...

Bianka was one of the main organizers, and my host during the week. I've hardly ever had someone be so attentive and generous to me in my whole life. She continuously refused to let me even rinse a dish, or pay for a cab, and as I was a bit sick over the week she always made me tea and went out of her way to secure medicine for me. She is endlessly kind and pretty and motivated. As we got home so late every night and had so much going on, we never got to just sit down and watch Gossip Girl together, as we discussed doing. But I think, one day we will.

We stayed at a house by lake Balaton, just over an hour outside the city. The area was lined by idyllic and tree lined streets, and the lake, which is the biggest in central Europe and looks more like a sea, stretched out forever in some directions. We lounged in the yard, talked about our various home countries, a girl played the guitar, we played games by the harbor... and then the night came with our country presentations and the international dinner. I felt so far away from my homes; my Swedish home and my California home. But it didn't feel so foreign, it felt, just, lovely, I suppose. I didn't want to leave.

The food we were treated to was thoroughly delicious, hearty, carb-rich, and plentiful. Often the Hungarians would be making sure we were all fed and then later, we weren't sure if they themselves ever got the chance to partake in the meals. One delicious dish was Lángos, a flatbread thing that could be compared to pizza but isn't that at all. When I ate it I was in a hurry, but next time I'm there, I will not be and I will sit in the sun and enjoy it with a beer, which it is designed for, so it is said.

We attended a museum that is called the Invisible Exhibition. I haven't heard of anything like it, but I guess there are a couple of these in other countries. You are basically led through several constructed life settings but in total darkness inside a building, for an hour, to emulate being blind. A blind guide leads and talks you through it. It was strange at first, and unexpected. We felt our way through a farm, a field, a city street, and a kitchen. You couldn't even see a hint of your hand in front of your face. Most of us in the group got bolder and bolder and more excited as we could feel and determine what we were touching. And it ended in a room with couches and a bar, where our guide cheerfully took our orders, "Coffee, soda, or beer? Dark chocolate or chocolate with nuts?" and after hearing your voice across the room and preparing the stuff swiftly, would come deposit it confidently right into your hands. In the pitch black. She asked us to discuss our feelings and impressions. I thought about how what I'd been missing was to look into people's eyes and to see them as deeply that way as they could see me, and that, and I mentioned this, and she acknowledged that since she hadn't been born blind but became so as a child, she knew about this and did miss it deeply. She said this without self-pity, but just a mature tone of understanding and sorrow. Then I strangely started weeping, and actually did so without being able to completely stop for about 20 minutes, which was inconvenient and a bit embarrassing once we stepped back into the light to see everyone right after that bar. The place really had an impact on me, and I'm still not quite sure why.

Some of the organizers tried to explain "Gödör" to me before I went there, but you have to really be there to understand it. Nevertheless, I want to tell of it as well... It's a former ditch created for a transportation thing that never came to fruition, so it became a massive rectangular hole in the ground that in the bottom houses a large music club and bar and rises up to ground level with terraces full of patio seating, reaching surface level to an area in the very heart of the city that is framed by grass and a shallow pool. All kinds of young people gather here, day and night, to meet up here as either a final destination or one of many. It's where you go, if you live in Budapest, to see your friends. Lay in the sun with a drink where the action is. Sip wine on the terraces under the stars. It's fantastic, and everything they were trying to express that went beyond the words and photos that often fail to convey our experiences.

Much like now, as I try to express my time in Budapest. You must know that I believe my words are not reaching as far as I want them to and my photos are not enough. Please visit.


  1. Corinne, it sounds like you're having an amazing adventure. You have made me add Budapest to my "someday" list. I love the pictures. You look great~ such a European!


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