Okay so as I write this I’m on a train going through the desert somewhere in Morocco, and Budapest was a month ago. Buuut I don’t want to not write about it because it was a lot of fun, so I will remember what I can and wang it together into a nice summary.
I’ve been to Budapest before, in Jan or Feb 2016. It was snowing that time, and it was interesting to see the same city years later, now in summer. I found I broadly knew my way around, and recognised several building and attractions from old photos. It was strange to see it again. I was a very different person back then; a hell of a lot has happened since.
Budapest wasn’t a part of my plan. Originally I was set on making it all the way down through the Balkans to Istanbul, but I found myself making a U-turn at Bosnia after learning my lovely old chum Annie was due to play a gig in Prague in late July. Budapest was the nearest I could get without taking a flight or going back on myself, so we agreed to meet there the day after her Prague show for a few days of catching up and being silly.
I arrived two days ahead of Annie, and after my very sweaty nights sleep, I spent my first full day in Budapest exploring the city, starting with the fantastic and haunting museum known as the House of Terror. The building was used as a headquarters by the Gestapo and later the KGB, and countless appalling acts took place within its walls. The exhibits were creative and engaging, and gave you both an insight into the history of the city and a full sense of the suffering the victims went through. Harrowing but fascinating.
Feeling a little spaced out by the museum, I headed back to the hostel to lie on my bed and let the heat of the day pass. In the dorm I met a French-Dutch girl called Emma, and we got talking and decided to head out and explore. We ventured into the city, and wound all the way down to walk the banks of the Danube. Our affable chatter was hampered somewhat upon crossing said river, when a dirty great dust storm descended from nowhere upon us, whipping my hair around and reddening my eyes and going right up my nose and out my ears.
Back at the dorm we met a couple more people (cheery Norwegians), and we concluded the evening in a gigantic maze of a club, named Instant. My personal highlight was howl-singing to Lithium by Nirvana in a foisty vaulted basement. It’d been a while.
The next day – after another night of sweating no-AC – I checked out of the hotel and into an AirBnB near the river. Annie and I had booked a cute little pad for ourselves for the next few days, and I got the place ready for her arrival before walking a couple of miles to the train station to meet her off her train from Prague.
I arrived a little late and found Annie waiting for me on a bench outside.
“My god, you’ve actually got a tan,” I said, when we’d finished hugging.
Since we last met in Austria, Annie had visited half a dozen countries, zipping all over Europe to play shows. She’d been fighting fit the last time I saw her, raring to go at the start of her tour. Now, at the end of it, she was a nauseous puddle melted over the bench. Just like old times.
We headed into the city together on the tram, swapping funny stories in hushed tones like naughty schoolkids. For the next four nights we enjoyed the city, visiting bars and spas and eating life-changingly flavoursome goulash. We hit up Szimpla Kert and the other ruin bars, then scoped out Budapest’s gay scene (verdict: lacking). We bobbed jovially around the heated pools of Szechenyi spa, we snapped pics of the vast Central Market, and we talked a lot about the future and our dreams and our fears for our respective creative pursuits, which are principally that we’re a pair of deluded talentless oafs (oaves?). We swapped ideas and praised each other’s work, and boosted each other up, like we always do, alongside the constant playfighting and sibling-like playground teasing.
When the final day came, and it was time for our weary duo to part ways once more, we tidied our AirBnB and dragged our bags across the city to check me back into my original hostel. Then, once again ruined after another Ani Klang tour but feeling bold and accomplished, Annie took the taxi to the airport. We hugged tightly before she got in.
It was a simple and happy goodbye, this time around — because we know now, happily and simply, that we will see each other again soon, and will continue to do so, wherever we move and whatever becomes of us, throughout our lives.