An Italian friend once told me, “the piazza is my living room!” I envied him. My living room languished in the dark recesses of my house; formal and unused – a world disconnected from daily life. His living room reeked of history and dark roasted coffee all splashed with wild Italian overtones. In my dreams, we switched spaces.
Szent Istvan Park awaits just outside my front door. For the families living in the 13th district of Budapest, it serves the role of a living room – a practical extension to an overly small home. A place to entertain and be entertained.
On weekends, families throw birthday parties in the park – children huddle around the picnic table with all the accoutrements I expect; balloons, silly hats, gifts and a decorated cake. Couples walk hand in hand on the gravel path around the perimeter. Young lovers sit entwined on benches and sprawled on the grass. An older disheveled man on bended knee raised his hands beseeching a woman (his wife? sister?) to do something. “Marry me?” “Make me dinner!” “Just come home.” “Please, shut up!” I have no idea.
Stretching the entire length of the park is a narrow dog run. Whippets and hounds and other racing breeds race back and forth accompanied by their trotting work dog companions. Their yips break the silence of a near quiet summer evening.
On Friday and Saturday evenings, music is performed – jazz, classical, Hungarian. Last year we ventured upon a group of local folk dancers competing in front of friends and family. We settled in to watch and took a slew of photographs. One of them, the Hungarian Dancers, became my favorite photo of last year.
The park changes to the seasons. Lime green buds welcome the return of spring. Rose gardens decorate the dog days of summer. Red leaves usher out warm weather – a gentle reminder that the time has come to return indoors.
I like the concept that my home is not constrained by windows and walls. It wraps through our neighborhood snaking through coffee shops and into the park. We no longer own all the space required to live. Some piece we share – augmenting our meager home.
To peek into the window of a Hungarian home, I need venture no further than the park just outside my door. As I peer through the iron fence bars, what stares back is nothing more than quotidian life.
Categories: Insiders Budapest