In the WittyLeaks series, Diplomacy&Trade regularly publishes the personal accounts of ambassadors and other diplomatic mission leaders accredited to Budapest.
I arrived in Budapest end of November 2021, when the sky is gloomy and grey. I got myself an apartment to rent in downtown District 5 so that I could walk to work. The place is very modest and comfortable, but with windows facing another building and without a terrace. I usually plant and grow my own herbs, strawberries, spicy peppers etc. in my balcony or the garden back home. Hence, the desire and the urge to be outdoors and escape to the nature got immense!
Within the first months after arriving in Hungary, I bought all the maps and booklets for stamps of the National Blue Trail (Kéktúra) as well as the biking map of Lake Balaton. Up to today, I still have no stamp on my Kéktúra booklets. And to be truthful with the readers, I sense a slight dosage of envy when I read and see pictures of President Katalin Novák finishing yet another segment of the Trail and most probably by now having a vast collection of the stamps in her Trail booklets.
Reducing environmental footprints
Once, while hiking around the Hármashatár-hegy and Mátyás-hegy hills in Óbuda (Budapest’s District 3), I saw a group of hikers near a pole and out of curiosity, when you are in the nature and encounter such a view you must know what they have discovered. I approached them and saw that they were stamping their Trail booklets, which meant that I passed by one of the Trail’s segments without knowing, hence not having the booklet with me. The trail officially starts on the top of the Írott-kő Hill. Arriving there from inner Budapest with public transportation on a weekend takes almost one full day.
I am doing pretty good and I keep learning through the challenges of communicating in Hungarian and getting around with public transportation! I only use a car when necessary and do my best in reducing my environmental footprint. Therefore, even today, instead of a car, I have two bikes. Considering how much nowadays we humans contribute to the pollution even with small actions or dietary habits and how much we hurt and endanger the ecosystem of our planet, I enjoy more slow travels and being present outdoors as much as possible.
Slow traveling through natural marvels
As for the magical Lake Balaton, so far, I have walked from Balatonfüred to Tihany. Although a rather short uphill walk, it was a memorable journey of spectacular views, encountering patient fishermen with families and friends around picnic benches. On the way up, I would slow down my pace to catch my breath and discover new plants or pick up some blackberries.
My husband and I adored biking around another stunning lake, the third largest natural lake in Hungary, Lake Velence! What a wonderful experience, with pleasant breaks at the Bird Sanctuary and the Dinnyés Nature Conservation Area.
Yet another unforgettable outdoors exploration was the bike trip from Bratislava to Mosonmagyaróvár, and next day from Mosonmagyaróvár to Győr. The bike path passes through fields of corn, wheat, sunflowers, and vineyards, adding a rustic charm to the journey, providing impressive landscape views. Stopping to get directions from locals, having a coffee or a lunch in Rajka, Feketeerdő and Ásványráró, all this added to the fascination with rural life and wisdoms of the Danube surroundings.
When short on vacation days, I escape to the nature in the center of Budapest too! After a long working day, some cardio exercise is essential, hence I take off with a fast walk south along the Danube crossing my favorite bridge, Szabadság-híd, and immerse into nature climbing up to the Gellért Hill, preferably up at the sunset, to enjoy breathtaking views of the most significant city landmarks.
Enchanting scent of linden flowers
And all year around, when in Budapest, no week passes by without a visit to the splendid Margitsziget (Margaret Island)! And every time I go is like falling in love for the first time. I am captivated by its tranquility, wisdom, loveliness, rich flora, as well as its attractions and activities. I often go for a swim at the Palatinus Baths, take a stroll through the picturesque Japanese or Rose Gardens, or jog or walk all around the island.
Additionally, Margitsziget carries me back to my roots, to my peaceful escapes to Gërmia Park in the capital city of Prishtina or to the city of Peja, where I was born and raised, as I pick up some cherry plums or black mulberries around the island as I did in the garden of the house I was born in. And when reading under the shades of chestnut or linden trees, I recall my childhood walks into the forests of Deçan or Rugova collecting chestnuts, nuts or linden flowers for winter. Or the early spring walks with my father and my three siblings to the gardens of Peja’s Monastery to see blooming of the violets and rising levels of the Lumbardhi river from the snow melting high up in the Accursed Mountains.
Being outside in the nature, touching the grounds, walking the trails and climbing the hills, makes me connect even more with Hungary, while recalling my past and think and dream about the future.
The magic of the dancing fountain
And in summer days, all my visits to Margitsziget end by sitting near the speakers by the musical fountain and let myself dive in and be taken by Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz and Radetzky March, Bram’s Hungarian Dances, Bizet’s Carmen, Avici’s Hey Brother and Michael Buble’s Feeling Good, and I gradually close the visit as the fountain continues dancing to the tune of “Stars when you shine; You know how I feel; Scent of the pine; You know how I feel; Oh, freedom is mine; And I know how I feel!”
And I leave the island walking on the Margaret Bridge and on weekends continuing the walk in the Danube embankment free of cars, feeling free too, together with other joyful pedestrians, cyclists, parents with kids, roller skaters, dogs, cherishing the space, the wind, the breeze off the river, and looking up to the striking and impressive architectural marvel, the Parliament building. And I continue singing Buble’s song and dreaming about freedom, the future of our planet and a better world for all!
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