December 2002. I’ll never forget the Christmas I spent in Budapest with my buddies Jon, Myles and Mat. The three of us were living in Bratislava, where we taught English at a language institute in the city centre. Most of our fellow teachers jetted home for the holidays, but with so may undiscovered places right on our doorstep, the three of us decided to club together and head off to Hungary’s capital for an alternative Yuletide experience. We rented a crummy but cosy little apartment from a guy recommended to us by one of Jon’s students. This picture, taken during a later afternoon stroll across Chain Bridge, is among my most treasured shots. It reminds me of a gloriously uncomplicated time of my life and that brilliant, rare camaraderie the three of us had. They were walking ahead of me and I just said, “Hey guys, turn”. I hit the button almost immediately, there was barely time to think let alone pose. I’ve always thought it would make a great album cover. If only we’d had the songs.
December 2002. The largest and highest building in Hungary, this shot of the nation’s parliament (Országház) was also taken from Chain Bridge that afternoon.
December 2002. “Merry F***ing Christmas!!!” she yelled, her loose-fitting Santa hat almost falling off her head as she jiggled from side to side. We’d literally bumped into them, dressed from head to toe in red and white Christmas clobber, drunk out of their minds and deliriously greeting anyone who passed. “I’m Mary!” yelled the foul-mouthed bleach blonde, forcing a hearty embrace upon me. “And this drunken f****** is Mr. Christmas, so no dirty ideas ok?”
March 2003. Just three months later I was back in the city for a birthday weekend. This time half the school was in attendance, with over a dozen of us heading over to celebrate with Sheila, who was turning 21 again. On the first night we ended up in this watering hole for what became a heavy night of merriment. I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the bar, or even where it was in the city, which is probably testament enough to how much I enjoyed the evening. There were so many great photos taken that night, but this one just about has the edge. Chris (left) and Irish Mike (right) had never been the best of friends. They seemed to disagree on just about everything and co-existed in a state of mutual toleration. I love the way the shot captures them in a rare moment of unity. “Beer. Yes.”
March 2003. Nothing screams hangover like an open-air museum of communist statues. A sort of surrealist Soviet Theme Park, over forty monuments from and around Budapest were relocated here after the 1989 revolutions. This statue, a tribute to Hungarian-Soviet friendship; was made by legendary sculptor Zsigmond Kisfaludi Strob.
For more photos and info on my adventures in Hungary, have a look at travel report on The Danube Bend.
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