January 8, 2013

When I Lived in Budapest . . .

I'm now one of those cool kids who can say things like, "Oh, this scarf? Thanks, I bought it when I lived in Budapest for four months".  Everything sounds sexier followed by that line.  "Oh, my aversion to answering the phone?  I developed it when I lived in Budapest for four months". 

For folks new to the townhouse, or for those trying to remember everything I rambled on about when I was there, here are all of my Hungary-themed posts in one spot (plus a few never before seen pics)!

Wondering why the heck I was there?  Research!  I'm studying representations of women without children in this popular Hungarian women's magazine.


I announced my exciting news in this post (and then revealed my Mom was coming for three of the four months in this one).  Thanks again for all of your support and encouragement.  It really meant a lot to me.  It was so fun to still connect with you all while I was abroad, partly because it made me feel less disconnected from the world back home (but mostly just because you're great).

When we arrived in Budapest, it was late and we were exhausted (8 hour layover!) but the landlord was phenomenally sweet and put us at ease right away.  We were relieved to find that the apartment was super cute, with a few retro touches and herringbone floors I would have liked to have pried up and taken with me.  It had a courtyard in the middle, which mean light flooded the place from both ends.

View from the courtyard

I never showed photos of the street.  It was surprisingly busy at night.  We were right beside a hospital so there were ambulances, of course.  But we also witnessed many couples arguing on the street.  Once we awoke to a young woman sobbing on the street before being taken into the hospital.  At first, it was a bit unnerving, but we grew accustomed to the activity (and thankfully none of the arguments turned more serious).  We started to meet and recognize people, and it was comforting to stop for a sidewalk chat with people we knew in this strange city.  Did I mention there was a patisserie the next street over?  Can't be a bad neighbourhood when there's a steady supply of cake!


Although the apartment was cute, it felt so weird to be there at first.  My Mom and I tried a few things to make the space feel comfier, plus we got into a routine, and soon it felt like "home".


Frankly, though, we didn't log a lot of hours in the apartment.  After long days of research, we typically went sight-seeing, shopping or just wandered around.  Public transit would get so packed around 4-6pm that I saw a streetcar door smoosh a guy's nose as it closed because there just wasn't enough room for all of him.  Another day, we were on a bus that was so packed, someone's leg got stuck in the door!  We started walking 10km some days just to avoid public transit (of course, we'd take the longest, most meandery way home)!  Just straight home from the first library (left arrow), no lollygagging, was 4km.  But walking is always fun in a new(ish) city because there's so much to see.


I worked primarily in two libraries, one right behind Parliament (which was gorgeous and decadent).  I never did share photos of the view as promised, but here's what we saw from the windows!


We logged a lot of hours there.


The other library I worked in was the famous Szechenyi Library, housed in a former castle on a hill overlooking the Danube. 


One floor of the library has huge (copper?) doors that are incredibly beautiful.


Leaving the library at night sure was a treat.  I'd work harder at home if the reward was this ethereal, magical experience after a long day of research.


But it wasn't all work!  Of course we went to a flea market (a couple of times!) and also frequented quirky vintage shops.


The flea market wasn't the greatest (okay, I went back three times so it must have been somewhat good), but it was an adventure.  I practiced my people-shoving for the apocalypse AND I found a stellar Kalevala brooch, plus some cute retro Hungarian stamps.


A stamp DIY project (or two) are in the works . . .

We were also lucky enough to be there for Budapest Design Week!  The theme was "Slow Design," and events took place all over the city.  There was so much inspiration.  What made this event really fun for me, was that Budapest Design Week partnered with Fiskars Village, an artist community in Finland.  Although my Mom's family is Hungarian, my Dad's is Finn, so it felt personally inspiring to see the Hungarians and Finns exhibiting slow design together.


We took in quite a few exhibits and toured many galleries and art fairs (dozens, actually, although some were very small), highlighting just our favorites, like this gorgeous little gem of a gallery.


We also really liked WAMP, a design fair that happens monthly in Budapest but expanded for Design Week.  Mom ended up buying one of those gorgeous bags, in a deep grey (and I got a second cell case, like the red and turquoise one below), which was excellent timing because the purses are currently handmade but might be factory produced soon.


Did I mention Hungarian chairs are hard?  I don't know if this is intentional, but it's a thing with them.  Three visits, totaling about 6 months spent in Hungary, and I have never sat in a Hungarian chair that wasn't rock hard.  Even contemporary Hungarian designers are making flat bum chairs (spotted at WAMP):


Kreatim was another beautiful artisan fair, made better by the breathtaking Museum that housed it and the temporary Art Deco exhibit we took in afterward.


Antsy for some kind of craft, we found a craft store in our neighbourhood with beautiful embroidery thread, made in Hungary, and I started an ambitious embroidery project.  Last you saw, I was half ice.  Do you think I finished it before coming home?  Details this week.


Of course we also visited other museums and historical sites like proper tourists, but I'm saving those for another post when I'll round up my favorite things to see and do in Budapest, including a few off the beaten path ideas and a few "just skip 'em" tips, like the fake labyrinth we went to (turns out the real one was raided by police, shut down and then these faux ones started popping up).


On October 23rd, the Anniversary of the 1956 revolution, I shared my grandparents' sad but inspiring story, as well as way too many photos of Budapest (I was enthused).


I had good days and bad days in Budapest, like at home I guess.  I had too much time to think, so I think I over thought things.  But other times, I found everything hilarious.  It was an interesting experience, without so many of my daily distractions from home.


Some days, only Roman ruins and a stray, drooly cat could make me smile.


Here's a photo of my drooly guy making a beeline right for me, shortly before the drool cuddle commenced.


When my Mom left, I was a little blue.  It was so sad to have to send her my Bday wishes virtually (she just missed spending her birthday in Budapest!), but I am so happy for the time we had together.


After more than three months apart, Hubby and I each shared our perspective on the time spent away from the other.  Click here for Hubby's adorable post, and see mine here!


Hubby joined me mid-December!  In addition to stocking up on embroidery floss, I showed him the sights. 


Although I did make him return to the craft shop three times, we also did Hubby-approved things.  I promise!  It was a completely different roster of activities than when my Mom was around. 



The weather was beautiful for September, October and November.  December was colder than expected!  And rainier, too.  Although we did have two very dreary snow covered days:


I would happily travel to Hungary again in the fall - it was gorgeous with the leaves turning, plus the weather was still warm but not too hot and, the best part, far fewer tourists. 


I was ill-prepared for winter.  A wool coat was a bad idea for rainy days (it soaked right through), and I had to buy a few things to keep warm


BUT, winter had the added bonus of an inspiring and comforting Christmas Fair, with delicious treats and sweet finds.  I actually treated myself to quite a few handmade things!


I never showed you what broke my heart to not buy.  I fell hard for a hand woven rug that was only $17 bucks even though it took the artisan (pictured) fours hours to make, can you believe it??  It had a mate, too.  But how could I bring these home without paying through the nose for shipping?  Once they sold, I felt better.  They went to a good home, I reasoned.  Then the seller put out a turquoise pair and I felt that itchy "iwantit" feeling.  By then Hubby was around and just rolled his eyes, which was enough to dissuade me from getting shipping quotes.  But not before I ordered a glass of mulled wine from a nearby booth and just stared at the rugs from afar for about 20 minutes, sipping my wine, looking pathetic.  Vroomvroomvroom.  (It's not working . . .)


Adjusting to home life again has been weird.  It was really different there.  I didn't drive, I didn't have many responsibilities and everything (even getting groceries) was new and exciting.  I also had more time and stamina to do my research.  Progress has really stalled since I came home.  Home always feels good, though, so I know I will adjust soon.  I'm really thankful for the experience.  I'm happy it happened because it really was, in a word, fabulous.


There is so much more I could have shared, but I didn't want Dans le Townhouse to evolve into a travel blog.  To keep things somewhat "normal" for me (and readers), I sandbagged a few DIY projects and tidbits from around the townhouse during the summer and posted a few each month, in addition to continuing to round up inspiration (imported from Hungary) and blogging about random things now and then, like why I don't celebrate Christmas anymore.  In case you missed the townhouse tidbits and projects, here they all are (including my embroidery posts):


9 comments:

  1. Wow your trip sounds like it was amazing!! The sights were beautiful and you're right; Fall leaves are so beautiful there!

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    1. Fall is favorable to most places. Crisp weather, colourful leaves. You can't go wrong!

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  2. Great post, Tanya! And welcome back to Canada! Sounds like you made some memories that will last a lifetime. Your "cool kid" comments are hilarious! I used to think the same thing when I was younger and heard of people's travels.

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    1. A bit lengthy, I know, but I wanted everything in ONE spot because to keep my coolness, I'll have to reference the experience from time to time, lol. Thanks for the warm welcome back. It feels good to be home. I just spent two hours shoveling my way out.

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  3. Tanya this is one great summary of your 4 months away!
    Cheers to you!
    I loved following your journey there and it was so funny, I have been very sick the last few days and while on the couch watching non-stop tv, I keep seeing this getaway vacation ad for budapest and think of you.
    Hope you are back in the swing of things soon
    Amy

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    1. I'm just happy for ONE post to link back to when I mention it from time to time. I'm so happy to have had you along for the journey. I loved reading your comments and dropping in on your blog. You, especially, made me feel more connected to my regular life. You also cheered me up a lot, so I want you to know how appreciative I am. You saying I should be glad to be there made it so.
      So sad to hear you've been really sick!! I hope you're feeling better soon.

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  4. Hi Tanya, I just discovered your blog (I don't remember what led me to it) and was taking the Townhouse Tour when I spotted the Hungarian text on some posters. Our family (me, hubby and two teenage boys) spent 4 years in Budapest, returning to Canada in the summer of 2011. I'm going to read all your Budapest posts and I'm sure I will thoroughly enjoy them.

    We had a different experience than you as we lived in Buda, right at the western edge of the city (near the end of the 61 tram line). My husband worked in Pest and the boys went to the American School in Nagykovacs. We don't have any Hungarian background, so the language was a trial - we had 20 days of language training in Ottawa before we left and once we got there we pretty much gave up and relied on English and, sometimes, German. It wasn't our first time there though - my husband and I had visited twice in the early 90s as friends were teaching at the American School (they are still there, plus 3 kids). To be honest, I feel we didn't really delve deep into Hungarian life - we were very active in school, plus we travelled a lot (I'm from Scotland, so we visited there often). So I'm feeling quite nostalgic and I'm very interested to read your posts (plus your blog looks wonderful anyway). Sorry for the novel! Patricia

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    1. Hi Patricia,

      I LOVE reading comments so this "novel" was much enjoyed! That is so neat to hear you spent four years in Budapest. The Buda side is gorgeous and I am quite envious! Some friends wanted to show me a rougher side of Budapest while I was there and, not knowing were I lived, directed me to Blaha Lujza which was funny because that was my metro stop and a two minute walk from my apartment!

      I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to try and pick up the language from scratch. It's super tricky for me and I've spoken it all my life. What a fabulous experience, though, to have lived there for four years!! I wished I had delved more into Hungary myself. I had been there twice before and although I saw quite a few sights and even many non-touristy things, I did spend a great deal of time with my nose in my research. We didn't eat out a lot, to save money, but we did go to some great local markets and walked a lot in the warmer fall months.

      I miss the city. Sometimes I think about walking back to my apartment there or even just have an image of the local bakery in my mind for a second and I have this tight feeling in my chest. It's so silly but somehow the city works its way into people's hearts and it's hard to forget it. I hope I have another opportunity to go back, especially for a longer stay (but perhaps not four years!).

      I will be posting a tourists guide to the city soon with more photos, so that might be even more nostalgic for you!

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  5. Tanya - how lovely to get a comment back so quickly! (I've signed up for your blog by email.) I understand how you feel about missing the city - I also lived in Germany for a decade when I was younger (met my husband there, he's in the Canadian Army) and that was such an inspiring experience too, I love that feeling of being a foreigner; I always felt like I was on holiday! And how wonderful that your mum could join you for some of the time - it must have been so nice for her. I'm looking forward to reading your grandparents' story.

    Anyway, I am going to catch up on your blog over the next few days and continue to follow along. I love your style! By the way, we lived near Ottawa (Rockland) for 5 years before going to Budapest and my oldest son just finished his first year at Ottawa U. We hope to be posted back next summer. I'm sure I'll be commenting in the future, bye for now! P.

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