What better start to the day exploring a new city than popping into a church, the first of many no doubt on this architectural and cultural (but not especially religious) tour.
Churches are cool and quiet and often a surprise inside… some plain, some ornate, some marble and rich, some painted faux- marble but usually all have a couple of old ladies bent over and focused on prayer – presumably. What they have in common is the effort, money talent, skill and faith, that they took to build, and the link they have to the past when lives were tougher and harsher and religions had more power.
So I was musing – (or connecting as my friend Jan would say) and a miraculous idea popped into my head? Well I decided that they (the church) should just face reality and change with the times. Like cricket….. tests take too long and people want the short sharp and more interesting events – like 20/20? – anyway shorter has to be better.
Given that there is a large line up of short term rental bicycles outside why doesn’t the church try meditation ‘5 minute pop-in’ events before work; for chilling out, breathing, with binaural beats murmuring out from the organ pipes – even stretching. No lycra though, that doesn’t seem to work…. and not sure about changing the pews to mats (although mosques are already half way there). Maybe (I thought) the old men that have been in charge of the churches for the last 2000 years should l just hand them over to women for a re-branding.
Anyway after this brainwave, I decided to move on, but as I was getting up I tripped on the ‘kneeling thing’ and nearly fell right over, badly bruised my knee and made a huge noise. The old ladies did not look up (but may have whispered….bloody tourists) and I limped out. Maybe the universe/god didn’t like my ideas, maybe I’m not fully tuned in. Jet-lag may be interfering with my transmission. Maybe the yoga was just a step too far. Keep working on it, I thought.
Early in the morning the streets are nearly empty, a few dog walkers are out, delivery drivers, people washing down doors, street-people still sleeping, and construction workers already in action. It’s a good time to see the city and get a feel for it.
How does the city feel?
It is very European, and very modern in a traditional setting. It is also very multicultural with a wide mixture of food and bar options: Thai wok houses, gyros, chinese, italian, vegan, juice, irish bars and of course with a few Hungarian options thrown in. Even a hard rock cafe (who knew they still existed) and who goes there? Ah yes – Americans. Perhaps they would be happier at home? …. and don’t start me on Starbucks!
Does this city still have the remnants of the hardships they have lived through? Certainly the traces of communism have pretty much gone. The metro and transport systems seem efficient, public places are in reasonable condition and the pre-communist architecture including a huge array of Art Nouveau/Liberty architecture has been restored back to its glory. Shopping and hotels are sophisticated, signs are bi-lingual, and waiters are relaxed about speaking English.
I passed a memorial statue to the war and loss of life dated 1914-18. Exactly 100 years ago, what would it felt like to have been walking the streets then? Much stranger and more insular no doubt, and with many years more hardship and loss ahead. It is only a short time ago in the history of this city, and now they are in a period of prosperity. They are European; as they always were, they have just arrived there via the hard road.
On Day 2, I chose a very Parisian cafe for my croissant and coffee. This is modern day Budapest.