You say it “Booda Pesht”. Live with it.
(Another hint: go to the bottom of this post and click on the YouTube music link and enjoy the Hungarian Rhapsody while viewing this post!)
A phenomenon that occurs quite regularly with me when I’m traveling is one that I might call “the last is first” syndrome: the last city I visited becomes my favorite. It doesn’t always happen but it does happen with regularity.
Budapest is one of my favorite cities. But so is London and Paris and San Francisco and Mexico City and Stockholm and Jaipur and Boise. And a bunch of others too.
But now I’m going to sing the paeans of Hungary’s capital, Budapest.
Like many, or even most of Europe’s capitals, it was devastated by World War II. And like many cities in Eastern Europe, this one wasn’t really given the chance to rebuild itself, to express itself, until communism was pushed back into what we had hoped was history’s trash can. But it has rebuilt itself and is truly an expression of the best of the Hungarian people.
A while ago I landed one of those “plum” assignments that photographers like me live for. I was given the opportunity to photograph the itinerary of a Danube River cruise for Viking River Cruises. The cruise started in Budapest and followed the Danube to the Black Sea.
It just so happened that we arrived in Budapest on August 17th, just three days before my birthday. It was also three days before St. Stephen’s birthday, the first King of Hungary, so the weekend was taken up by endless celebration on the most important holiday in Hungary. There was a lot going on and we were very fortunate to have caught it.
The beginnings of this trip were not that auspicious, however. The night before we left Boise, I fell out of our attic over the garage and fractured my right heel. I forewent seeing a doctor (how could I?) and just lived with it, hobbling to the airport about six hours later.
The excitement of being in a city I had wanted to visit for so many years was incentive enough, and I was able to keep off my feet for the next ten hours or so in the air. In any case, I spent the next three days limping around as much of the city as I could. As most photographers will tell you, the pain goes away when there are photos to be taken. It is in between the photos when the cursing comes back.
Being in this romantic and classic old-world capital was a dream come true for me and being there during such an exciting time made it even more of a blessing.
How does one even begin to do a portrait of a big city in just three days? Well, in my case, I just limped down every street I could and took everything that tickled my fancy.
Naturally there were plenty of people to shoot and most were in a festive mood. It was after all, a very important holiday.
View of Parliament in Pest taken from the Buda side
Is this not the classiest manhole cover you’ve ever seen?
A toast to Budapest!