Sunday, 25 April 2010

Spring comes for the weekend

The last weekend in April has seen the first really beautiful weather of the spring, with clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid-20s.

That worked very well, as there were two outdoor events that I wanted to go to.

The first was one of Budapest's Critical Mass events. For anyone who doesn't know what a Critical Mass is, it is where cyclists assemble in a city centre and ride around. Exactly how planned they are varies, but the one in Budapest is carefully organised and very well-run, so that the city authorities co-operate in closing certain parts of the city to allow the cyclists to circulate.

The riders assemble next to the river, cross backwards and forwards over two of the bridges and then cycle along the embankment before heading into the city centre to end up at the People's Park. Reports suggest that 35,000 people took part, which is truly amazing.

The atmosphere in the Park at the end resembled a festival, and the beautiful weather meant that people could lie on the grass in the sun and enjoy the relaxed vibe. Various announcements and short speeches were made, but what they said I have no idea! The event culminates with the bicycle lift, where everyone (who can, at least) lifts their bicycles over their head. It's actually pretty impressive, looking out over thousands of people all holding their bicycles up to the sky.

Since the event was first held here in 2004 it has helped to put pressure on the city authorities to provide more facilities for cycling, and this has probably helped to increase the numbers of people riding around. Certainly now that the nice weather has arrived there are plenty of people pootling around the city centre on bicycles.

When that ended I rode on home, where the traders in my street (which is known as Budapest's 'antiques' street) had laid on a street festival. So all the shops were open until late into the evening, a stage was erected for music and the various restaurants and bars had tables and chairs out in the (closed off) street. The warm evening helped it to be what seemed to me to be a wonderful event with a very jolly atmosphere.

I enjoyed going into some of the antique shops and having a look at what they offered. They had previously looked a little intimidating to me, so I enjoyed being able to look around anonymously. What amazed me with several shops was that they occupied cellars that extended for what seemed like huge distances underground, packed full with all sorts of things. I guess the most common style represented was Art Nouveau, being the style most associated with Budapest.

Perhaps the biggest surprise I had was discovering that on the opposite side of the street to my front door is a bar. I normally discover bars fairly quickly, so wondered why I had never noticed this one. I had a beer and enjoyed its cosy atmosphere, and then saw that it only opened from 10 AM until 5 PM, and not at all at weekends. Now, I may not have been to all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, but I have never before come across a bar that only opens during working hours. Weird.

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