I have spent time living in Hungary since 1994, months here, a few years there, more years again. But I can count the days spent in Budapest on my fingers; if you add the arrival and departure drive-thrus to and from the airport, I might need to use fingers and toes. Southern Hungary has always been my ‘home’ here, living mostly in Szeged and some time in Baja. I know the southern county names, the weather, and the nearby cities. I’m used to Serbian influences in the cuisine (Szeged sits at the southern border with Serbia). Budapest has never impressed me much. My general impressions have been more along the lines of big, dirty, crowded, expensive, and noisy. Did I mention dirty? Szeged’s buildings are light colors, usually plaster painted in pastels. Most of what I’d seen in Budapest was grey. It’s hard to top Szeged, it’s a beautiful city and I’ve been spoiled and slightly biased by it.
So when we first began discussing the possibility of moving from Szeged to Budapest, I was actually rather amazed that was I okay with the idea. I’d been feeling for a while that God would be moving us on, and I knew Budapest could offer a lot to our kids. It took Norbert a while to finally broach the subject with me, as he knew how I’ve always felts about Budapest. And it’s how he’s always felt too. Szeged is his hometown, born and raised. But God’s guidance has been clear, and these past months the excitement level has remained high – even while I wondered where we could find a ‘pretty’ place to live in such a ‘dirty’ city. It’s been helpful to consider that many people, close friends even, consider it a beautiful city and love living there. And it is called the Jewel of the Danube, that can’t be for nothing, right?
We just got home from a long weekend exploring Budapest. And there really are beautiful parts of the city! We also saw up close those neighborhoods we really do not want to live in; which are helpful too, process of elimination at work. It was beyond helpful to also just spend days in the city, to experience the ebb and flow of neighborhood movement, the quiet down times and the busy peak hours. We went up hoping to narrow down our house hunting from ‘the Buda side’, to maybe only a district or two – instead I fell in love with an actual neighborhood. Not sure if we’ll find our home exactly within the parameters I’m hoping for, but I’m sure praying, and there’s time. Oh, and we also figured out the whole layout of the city much better – for those confused by that previous sentence – Budapest is actually two cities, one on each side of the Danube river, that were combined. Pest is sprawling and flat, Buda is in the hills and is greener. It is also divided into Districts – and for those who’ve read The Hunger Games, we’re sort of thrilled to get to discuss ‘living in District such and such’ someday. Within those districts you can also have named neighborhoods, and I’m praying for a home in the Szentimreváros neighborhood of District 11 – Szent (Saint) Imre Város (City).
Though, we’re still open to other possibilities. Basically we’re looking for something that will keep us within easy walking distance of public transportation, so we’re not pursuing outlying suburban type neighborhoods – places I had been considering before. Joshua has wanted a yard, but this weekend helped us all weigh some pros and cons, and not having to drive has won out over a yard. But we are looking for as large a patio or terrace area as we can find. Joshi and I are also the types who love the residential, suburban neighborhoods in general; it is Norbert and Anna who are the city-life lovers. They’d both be happy smack downtown in the middle of everything. That’s a bit too much city for Joshi and I – but Szentimreváros has areas that are sort of a happy medium with smaller apartment houses (4-6 per large house, not huge complexes) and single family houses on some quiet streets just off the busier areas. And all still close to several tram lines and the new Metro (subway) line being built. It is also in the shadow of Gellért Hill with the beautiful Citadella on top and the Castle of Buda nearby. If I’m going to live in a big European city, I’m going to have a Castle, dag-nabbit! (Yes, the discovered loss of the Castle in Szeged is still a serious sore point – I dearly miss something I never saw and that has not been standing since 1879)
Some other fun gems we discovered in and about Budapest –
They have dog parks all over the place.
Joshi’s favorite Fornetti pastry/bakery shops are basically on every corner, if not several within a block radius.
There is a real Mexican Restaurant, really.
The trams run amazingly often.
There are Roman ruins just lying around in the middle of the 3rd District, stumbling upon some for the first time gave me an odd urge to become an archeologist – and yell to everyone that they were just walking past history, Hello! Pay attention. But I didn’t accost any strangers, honest. I just annoyed my own children, and that’s perfectly acceptable.
All in all it was an educational weekend, and I’m ready to admit Budapest isn’t all that bad.