A thin barrage of small flakes, more akin to ice droplets than to big, wet snowflakes kept falling down from the sky for our entire permanence in the city. Had this happened in London, Boris Johnson would’ve been out reading excerpts from the Book of Revelation, whilst the city descended into chaos. But this was Budapest and the locals reacted to the news with a shrug, a handful of grit and by calling out the snowplows to clear up the white stuff.
We arrived in town from Déli rail station, the only one amongst the city’s main terminuses sporting a brutalist, 1960s-style facade and interiors, the classic one having been blown up during the War. From there we marched on, across parks where dogs and children roamed happily, oblivious to the cold and sleet, and went on to climb Buda hill. Around us the slopes of the XII districts’ hills – Istenhegy, Orbánhegy, Kissvábhegy – faded in the distance, lost in the low clouds and falling snow.
On Buda Hill the sacrilegious snow had the impertinence of covering the front half of András Hadik’s statue. The count, standing on horseback at the corner between Szentháromság utca and Úri utca, was known as the “The most Hussar of the Hussars” (which I take as a compliment), served under the Habsburg Empire and, amongst many things, besieged Berlin. With the ransom he also requested 50 pair of gloves for his beloved Empress, Maria Theresa, who however was a little less incensed than one would’ve been allowed to assume when she found out that all the gloves where good only for her left hand. Perhaps this is because he’s ended up over here, in a side street, braving face-first the cold front. (click here for more trivia about Budapest, it’s a brilliant read).
From the other side of the hill the panorama is not much different. Snow falls over the roofs of Buda, on the Danube, over the iconic Széchenyi Lánchíd and in Pest as well. Behind us, the bells of Mátyás templom call the faithful to the first Holy Mass of the day. It’s Sunday.
Below us another intrepid visitor is out and about, braving the snow with a red umbrella.
There are many ways to descend from Buda hill to the banks of the river, including staircases. I was walking down one of such flights of stairs, thinking of the last time I did one such thing at Hong Kong’s Mid Levels, when I saw this cat, oblivious to the snow, looking at me. His inquisitive gaze didn’t leave me until I walked off what surely must’ve been his territory.
Gellért Hill, on the Buda bank of the river, with the statue dedicated to Liberty raising a palm leaf, a somehow religious reference that has always intrigued me, for this statue had been erected by the Soviets in 1947 to commemorate their shoeing off of the Nazi German occupation. And their replacement of yet another oppressive regime, but I digress.
Snow, as I mentioned, doesn’t fuss the Hungarians. Plenty of grit around, coming in two colours (classy black of funky green) and, in general, life went on as normal. The dusting of snow, additionally, showed the otherwise well hidden romantic sense of the locals: on this Lada, now becoming a rarity, somebody wrote “imádlak” , meaning “I adore you”. Was the writer adoring someone, or the Lada?