Sunday, 30 May 2010

Cycling and serendipity

Every now and then when cycling around a city, obstacles such as the appearance of major highways or one way streets force you to take a diversion. Usually this just creates a hassle as you find yourself lost and possibly slightly anxious as the new surroundings seem somewhat threatening. However, occasionally the detour enables you to make an interesting or delightful discovery. Today's's detour was definitely serendipitous.

The day had started with Helen and I cycling across the Margit Bridge at 8 in the morning to a yoga studio, where Helen had the second day of a weekend workshop. I had decided to use the early start as the justification for a ride south, following the banks of the Danube for about 15 miles until I could cross over to Csepel, a large island in the river. The route took me through an unfamiliar and interesting part of the city, old abandoned factories, riverside wharves reclaimed as parks, high embankments protecting the city against flooding and a No 7 bus to Richmond-on-Thames.



After crossing Csepel I headed north again back into the city, but as I hit the outskirts my road became extremely large and busy and I decided to try to follow a parallel, quieter route and found myself going into an area of obviously municipal housing but with a definite sense of space and green, and where the houses seemed to be designed in a different style of architecture. Eventually my wandering took me into a large square, completely different to anything I had seen anywhere else in the city, with rather striking foreign looking buildings surrounding it.



Bemused I cycled on until I came to a wooden post at a crossroads. At first I thought it was one of those signposts that points to other places in the world but then I realised that the arms were not pointing and that they listed some strange places such as Hampstead, Welwyn and Port Sunlight. What I had so serendipitously discovered was Wekerletelep, Budapest's very own 'Garden City'.

This was a term that I only understood very vaguely, so on returning home I looked up Wekerletelep in Wikipedia and found out more about the Garden City movement of the early 20th century. In Budapest rapid urbanisation had led to the building of large areas of really poor quality housing for the new city dwellers and Sandor Wekerle, the Prime Minister of the time, decided to build a new area following on from the principles being applied in these English (and other country's) towns (including the Flower Estate in Sheffield).

Budapest continues to help my education.

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