Living in a small mountain town in Colorado, I tended to measure the seasons to the whims of nature: the bugle of rutting elk; snow blanketing the mountains; hummingbirds flitting past my window; a piping hot sun beaming down from the most vibrantly blue sky. Living in a city, a tourist city, I measure the seasons differently.
The cafes on Pozsonyi are starting to empty. The summer swarms are gone as I sip my coffee in peace. Some days, I grab one of the small flannel blankets piled in the corner or folded on each chair. Initially, I imagined the person who used the blanket before me – perhaps a passing vagrant or other ne’er do well with questionable hygiene. Now, I wrap up for an hour immersed in my book oblivious to potential health hazards.
Soon, the city will be dark, cold. All my life, I have hated the short, bitter days of winter. Now, winter heralds the height of the symphony and ballet season – an opera house of magnificent glory in a neighborhood peppered with smaller, yet still stately, venues. The Viennese coffee culture is as alive here as in its namesake city. The best of coffee houses maintain an ambiance fitting of the Trotsky era intelligentsia: dark cherry wood, floor to ceiling crackled mirrors, black and cream tiled floors. Outside the snow falls illuminated by cast iron street lamps adorned with crowns and shields, curlicues and creatures.
The Christmas markets return. Locals congregate for sausage or langos or a glass of mulled wine. Tourists scavenge for the best gifts to take home, trinkets which will never be quite as alluring once distanced from the magic of the old square. The world goes into hibernation during January and February. Last year we lived in Bratislava. I drank my coffee alone every morning on the old town square. The trappings of festivals now removed, the square reverts to the centuries old meeting spot of emperors and an empress – timeless, continuous, an oasis which keeps the crazy, changing world at bay.
With the dragging of chairs and tables back onto the pedestrian streets, spring returns. Warm weekends pop in just frequently enough to kindle my optimism yet seldom enough to retain a special significance. After months of cold and damp, life begins anew. We plan vacations to cities yet unexplored.
Come summer, tourists run rip shod through the city core; our favorite restaurants require reservations and planning. Invariably a few weeks of inescapable heat envelopes the city. We talk about spending next August in Ireland or someplace, anyplace, where the heat is less oppressive.
The world turns and tilts as days morph to months morph to seasons. Just as I tire of one, the next steps forward – a dance scene from a Jane Austin inspired film. I realize what I love most is not so much an expat life. Simply I’ve become a city dweller. As we start to frame the next phase of our lives, we both agree that this city life suits us.
Categories: Insiders Budapest