My heart lifts at news that four Hungarians this morning have “viewed” my post of historian John Lukacs’s description of Budapest in 1900. To reward them, here is more from that passage:
Summer was hot, hotter than in Vienna, sultry at times, broken by tremendous thunderstorms, but almost never damp. When the dark thunderheads convened high over the dry, dusty streets, they carried the promise of relief and the return of the long pleasant summer evenings, for the evenings were almost always cool. There is not much difference between a May and an August night in Budapest, except of course in the vegetation. Even on the hottest of days the trees were green, never sere. Summer was the recurrent feeling, the promise of pleasure in le bel, le frais, le vivace aujourd’hui, and a Budapest bourgeoise or a young gentry wife threw open the double-leaved windows and leaned over her geraniums with the same movement – and perhaps, too, with the same movement of the heart – as a Frenchwoman on the Cote d’Azur at summertime circa 1900, a little out of season but fraiche, belle, vivace, nonetheless. Surrounded by the yellow, powdery Hungarian countryside, Budapest then spread along the banks of the Danube like a green bower; or, perhaps (for those who prefer vegetables to flowers), rather like a super-large green cabbage whose outer leaves were edged, here and there, with the black rime of smoke from the factory chimneys. The crowded town, packed with people and rows of apartments houses, gave the impression – and the feeling – of a summer resort, perhaps even that of a spa. Few people complained of the summer in Budapest, except for those who employed it as the pretext to proclaim their departure to vacation places well-known. A profusion of fruit, greenery and fish spilled out from the markets to the sidewalks. Young people stayed up late, into the dawn. Older people, daydreaming on the hot afternoons, turned their thoughts to the winter season to come, thinking of new circumstances, new quarrels, new flirtations.
More, perhaps, to come.