The French no longer hold copyright to the croissant. Nor the Turks to thermal baths. And let’s not even talk about buttered noodles and the matriarchy of the Mediterranean. There is a place where softly spun pastry phffffs rather than flakes at the first bite. A place where only a running jump will allow you to catch a speeding escalator to the subway, where palaces are emptied of royalty but full of treasures, and where the socialists that started the process left behind people movers in perpetual motion. Not to mention some very stoic architecture. But what came before and after has been nurtured, and this means Hungary is an absolute feast of magical locations. In the week that Sean and I were dragged open-mouthed from turret to dungeon, we saw ceilings that rival the Sistine Chapel and palaces with more porcelain than the MET but open to the touch rather than walled behind glass. We saw futuristic metro stations with LED flashing platforms signaling the incoming train, and we soaked in a tub of steaming water that has been spurting out of the earth at 42*C for over 100 years. The vision, and the smell, will stay with me for some time.
The Buda side of town is quiet and majestic, fringed with green hills. It’s where you find the castle and the beautiful goddess of Gellert Hill. We saw both from a distance, while zigzagging between palaces in the Pest, searching for the perfect staircase. There were almost too many, spiraling between an overwhelming collection of guilded halls and ballrooms. So how lucky were we to have a guide, a gentle man who maneuvered us between the grand and the gorgeous, and who even took us to the countryside where we counted storks nesting home for the summer, and stopped at a farmer’s gate to buy redder than red sweet watermelon.
Budapest is an amazing city, full of surprises. Like the jazz music center that houses a collection of over 100,000 albums and cds – and the largest archive of Mahler in the world. Or the chocolate bar filled with cottage cheese and sold from the fridge. Then the chance encounter of a talented pianist mid practice in a guilded country castle, the music drawing us through the histrionic halls. Luscious afternoon teas. A car park reserved for the boss lady. Steaming baths with cool relief in just the flip of a bucket. And in a city rebuilt, a reminder of the bullets that once tore it down. But my favorite discovery was the perpetual lift, where in a deserted Blade Runner style building, the indulgent caretaker cranked on the machine just to let us go for a ride. We felt like royalty and not just because of the palaces. People were friendly and generous of spirit. I want to go back! I want to live in the Brody Apartments and ride my bike to the markets. I want to explore, to make a movie and be part of something created entirely from scratch. Location scouting is only the beginning, there is much to do. New York will survive without me. And maybe, just maybe I will survive without it. So let’s see what happens next…!