So the semester has come to an end, classes are finished, exams are done, all assignments are handed in and I’ve somehow become busier than before. Maybe this is the motivation of having a finite amount of time left that seems to be flying by. I’m just starting to realise that I’m actually going to have to leave Budapest at some point in the near future.
This realisation has invigorated me into making the most of the time I have left here. One thing I’ve been intending to do since arriving in Budapest is to go to Lake Balaton (the largest freshwater lake in Europe), so finally I went. Fran, Kuba and I picked a beautiful sunny Sunday to catch a morning train to Zambardi, one of the many holiday towns that line the entire perimeter of the lake. Emerging from the town to get our first glimpse of the lake, the sheer vastness of this body of water challenged the schema in my head of what a lake is. My brain was saying ‘sea’ but then there was no waves ‘so maybe lake’, but look how big it is ‘must be sea’, but there’s ducks and swans ‘must be a lake’. After this initial shock we found a quiet spot away from all the fisherman to picnic, laid in the sun and even had a swim in the surprisingly empty and manageably cold water. This was a day that I was glad to have invested in a waterproof camera; the water wasn’t quite clear enough for underwater photoshoots but that didn’t stop me from trying. It feels a long time since I’ve flailed about in open water and I had forgotten how enjoyable it is. Finally the day came to an end, we got back on the train back to the city, revived from this short getaway.
In the midst of the final push towards the end of the semester, Lily came to visit for the second time. They roamed around all of Budapest that they missed on their first visit while I attended my final classes. In between we could meet up to get vegan ice-cream and chill by the river. Summer had hit Budapest by this time and Lily was ill-prepared with their jumpers and raincoat that would only be appropriate during the British summer. Anyway, we still marched around the national cemetery, visited Szent Istvan Bazilika and went to both the Great Synagogue, with the Holocaust Memorial Garden, and the Kazinczy Synagogue which was arguably more impressive inside than the Great Synagogue was. That’s the one I would recommend for people to visit anyway.
Avid readers may recall my expressed intention to ride all of the suburban railways to their end stops to see what’s there. Unfortunately I’m running out of time and to do them all is unrealistic so I revised my plan to involve just one more, which turned out to end up in Gödöllő. After previous experiences in the Hungarian suburbs I was not expecting very much and so was quite surprised to turn up and find that Gödöllő is a really lovely place, public spaces maintained really well with many plants and trees around the town. There was even a pretty big park area for us to picnic in. This experience has given me a much more well rounded image of the Hungary outside of Budapest.
You may also remember from previous blogs the situation with the Central European University and how the Hungarian government are fast tracking new legislation that would drive it out of the country. The situation is still unclear and from what I can tell there isn’t any consensus on whether the university will be able to stay in Budapest or if it will move to one of the cities in nearby countries that have offered to host the institution. However, regular protests are still going strong in Budapest, still garnering ten of thousands of people. Another one I managed to attend marched across Szabadsag hid (Freedom bridge), which you may also recall as the best bridge across the Danube.
This semester I managed to pick courses that involved more coursework throughout the classes rather than being exam based, this meant the I was done with both my exams a couple of weeks ago and I got to focus on a final project for my ‘Gender Studies & Feminism’ course, of which I enjoyed very much. We had a class on the involvement of men in feminism and after this I was inspired to ask a lot of the male identified people that I know whether they are feminists, realising that it’s not been a topic I’ve really discussed with many of them. This lead to many varied responses and resultant interesting conversations about what feminism is, who can call themselves a feminist, what makes a “good” or “bad” feminist, etc. After this I decided to formulate this into a video and asked many of those I’d spoken to put their answer and thoughts on feminism into a video for me to cut together and present in my class. I can’t link the video here because many participants agreed on the basis that it would only be shown inning class, but I would urge that this is a great thing to do with the people around you in your own life, if you’re willing to give it a little time (although you don’t have to make a video out of it at the end).
Due to the lack of exams I had to take this semester, I had the time to dog sit for a friend during their exams and there is very little story to this; I’m just excited to have had a playdate with Ronja and wanted to share a beautiful picture of them:
Among all these goings on, I’d been practicing my speech giving skills because the day after giving my final presentation I was to fly to Scotland to attend my aunt’s wedding, in which I had been asked to open the ceremony with a reading they had chosen for me to do. I have practice giving academic presentations but speaking specific words with the intention of eliciting emotion was not something I’d ever attempted before, but of course I agreed and got to rehearsing until I knew the timing by heart and could give them the best that I could do. The wedding was at a special built complex made for weddings in Kirkpatrick-Fleming, near Gretna Green (for anybody unawares of Scottish geography, this is a tiny little village near the English border), it was a scenic spot and made for a beautiful backdrop for their wedding celebrations. The whole family came up for it, even my uncle came over from Australia to be there, it was really great to see everybody come together and enjoy themselves (with minimal family drama occurring).
The reception involved a pretty delicious meal before the evening disco was set up and I think that activities on the dance floor have gained me a wee bit of a reputation, thankfully there seems to be limited photographic evidence available of this. However, there is an abundance of photos take on a drunken escapade with my sisters in the romantic gardens. Enjoy:
Before the wedding my dad, Callum and I managed to get out the the “seaside”, or rather the estuary, only a few miles away from the village. Clambering along the rocky shore, making friends with cows and skimming rocks on the water was a brilliant way to start the day.
I seem to be working in a chronologically backwards order here so let’s cut to before seaside walks and weddings to the day I got to spend in Edinburgh before catching the train into the Scottish countryside for the wedding. After landing at Edinburgh airport at midnight, spending two hours searching for my hotel and getting a short but deep nights sleep, I had just enough time the next day to deposit my luggage at the bag drop in the train station and go on a free walking tour. This was possibly one of the best free tours I’ve ever been on. The guide was an extremely enthusiastic, extremely knowledgeable young man with an affinity for theatrics. I learnt more about my Scottish heritage during these three hours than I have from my entire upbringing. Limited pictures were taken but here’s one of the many bagpipers found throughout the city and a monument to Bobby the dog. Bobby was cared for by the community after the death of his owner; he stayed by their graveside for 15 years until eventually reaching his own demise. His owner being buried in a Catholic cemetery, it was not allowed for Bobby to be buried with him and so the Scottish Dog Lover’s Association was formed to erect a tombstone for Bobby within the cemetery grounds.
I managed to write the majority of this post on the plane back to Budapest and as we flew over Budapest I looked out of the window down at the familiar shape of the Danube snaking through the city with distinct bridges dotted along it. At this I had the feeling of arriving home. Now with no university obligations, I have one month before checking out of my flat to fill with making the most of opportunities to see the friends I’ve made here and make travel plans. However, despite now having a concrete date for leaving, this does not mean returning to the UK; this shock is yet to come. At the end of June I’ll be hoping embarking on a 16 hour train journey to get me to Cologne where I will reside for an indefinite amount of time because I’m lucky enough to know a wonderfully generous person there that’s willing to house me for an extended period of time. More imminently I am leaving for Prague today, so I should stop blogging and start packing. The semester is over but this is so far from the end; there’s still so much left to do. Blogs will come when possible!