Lost and Found in Budapest

Crossing the Petőfi bridge on the 4-6 tram, (and you know rowdy that always is) there’s a moment of silence as time slows down just a little bit – almost imperceptibly (or maybe only in my mind). Looking to the north I see a view of the most beautiful parts of the city, framed by the window of the tram. It’s almost like it’s meant to be a postcard or one of those living trading cards from Harry Potter where the famous witches and wizards are not only pictured but actually smile and wave – kind of like that. The perfect moment captured in time. I try to so hard not to close my eyes and instead memorize every detail in case I tragically, unexpectedly never seeit again.

I feel like a frustrated sponge – already too saturated to take more in beauty and unable to do my job – but this is what I was made for! As humans we’re created to enjoy beauty – drawn to the things that please the eyes of our souls. When I see something truly beautiful, I sometimes describe it as making my eyes feel “juicy.” Imagine things like lush, green grass after a few weeks of springtime rain, the sun setting over the sea, or an intricate work of art. It’s like taking a bite of the perfect nectarine and the juice is so sweet and runs down your chin – only this all happens in your eyes. I sincerely hope you’ve experienced it.

More often than not in Budapest, I find myself with juicy eyes. It’s different in its beauty than other cities I’ve experienced – with the old next to the new, clean next to the dirty, the once destroyed turned into something even more precious, all the while forcing us to remember what once was and long for what could be. Artist Makoto Fujimura has written, “Beauty is in the brokenness, not in what we can conceive as the perfections, not in the “finished” images but in the incomplete gestures.” I see this in the bullet holes that remain in sides of buildings and in those areas of the city that haven’t yet been touched, those neighborhoods where no one has yet begun to wash over the past. I see it in the beautiful bridges that are flanked by crumbling buildings. I see it as old ladies fill their homes with whatever they deem as beautiful, whether it all “matches” or not and as homeless people make homes for themselves in corners of the city.

This city and country have, undoubtedly, been broken. It’s a place that has suffered and persevered and succeeded and then been brought back down and over again. And that brokenness, paired with “incomplete gestures” to fight against and work toward unachievable perfection create an atmosphere of beauty that provides inspiration. I believe it is because of this that the city is so full of artists, musicians, dancers, designers, contractors who do the work of renovating the broken. Everywhere you look there are gestures toward a finished image that will never be complete.

At the coffeehouse I run, we have hosted an artist named Dóra Votin. Dóra once showed some work that she’s done over the years with old, discarded planks of wood. She takes the ugliest parts – the knots and holes and chips and burn marks and fills with them with gold and metal and precious paints and emphasizes those broken pieces and they become the most beautiful. That is what Budapest is to me – a city with good reason to be hopeless, full of brokenness and ugliness, but that is instead becoming a precious stone, a city of “gold.” A city of such beauty that it makes one’s eyes juicy.

As the tram continues down the tracks, brining me to my neighborhood, I smile. It’s a neighborhood that is constantly under construction, constantly experiencing renewal – which means it’s constantly filled with cranes and trucks and dug up roads. And as annoying as they are (and as often as I trip over the uneven sidewalks), I walk around with wonder, being drawn always to remember what was and look forward to what will be.

– Posted by Cassidy, who is overwhelmed at the beauty of Budapest and longs for spiritual renewal which is energized by the gospel to accompany the physical renewal happening all around her in the city.

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