(Turanian Spring Solstice)
Looking to find words for this special season in Budapest, his place of exile, the writer of this essay watches the cold sun of early spring sparkle up the waves of the Danube, speeding towards the Black Sea as it passes under the sleek span of the Liberty Bridge, an art nouveau wonder soaring up into slim spires topped with Turan’s Turul bird. Emperor-King Franz Joseph himself put the last rivet in this bridge, which would long bear his name – this was long ago, when Hungary celebrated its millennium. One hundred twenty-seven years later, he would still recognize this part of his old domain: here, the dignity and beauty of the Old World still linger on, stubbornly defying the degradation and ugliness that have blanketed the heart of Europe over multiple lifetimes of SU-communist and US-liberal occupation. From the writer’s Pest bank look-out, there is a splendid Buda-side view across Liberty Bridge, a view filled with the high cliffs of Gellért Hill and topped off by the slender Liberty Statue with its palm leaf, held up to a steel blue heaven. So bright is the sunlight and so clear is the sky that, for once, even the normally dark-grey Danube becomes pale green, matching Szabadság híd. And, for once, the sheer beauty of the place hushes the loud-mouthed, brain-dead tourist mob. Masses of torn-clothed, phone-wielding zombies are crawling all over the remains of Old Europe everywhere, but they seem particularly attracted to the Hungarian capital. Of course, here, they do the same thing they do everywhere: stare down into their little screens to home in on their standard-fashion narcissistic supply sources: selfie moments, Insta likes, Tinder decors. In this spot, between Market Hall and Liberty Bridge, they silently stare for a while into glittering sunlight, gaping at un-comprehended wonders. Then they shuffle off again, retreating into their nearby un-reality lairs: globo-homo food outlets, over-priced brand shops and app-guided night spots. Fortunately, their mass appearance in this spot is limited to certain pre-set migration weeks and feeding hours. For most of the long autumn and winter, and the early part of the brief spring, this spot is free of them: just a commute crossroads for the modest natives, with the occasional foreign exile mixed in to walk his dog – and wonder. But even as this year’s tourist migration season starts, and even as today’s zombie feeding hours start, somewhere after late-breakfast mid-morning, something seems to be – ever so slightly – different. Looking up from writing these words, just after spring solstice, the writer notices that there is something different about this year’s season: unmistakably, a faint tinge of true spring is in the air. A faded trace, perhaps, of the true all-compassing rebirth principle that must have filled this season when the world was still young – long ago, when its heaven was a truer blue and its growing a truer green. The kind of blue and green that old and tired eyes can no longer grasp, a memory of which may nevertheless linger in Monet’s old-age fin-de-siècle masterpiece Water Lilies.
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This has been stuck in my mind since reading it. Very powerful observation and advice.