Keleti train station, Budapest
I'd made a reservation at a hostel in Budapest near Keleti train station. Off the busy main street, you pass through two doors and then into an inner courtyard. There are hardly any traffic sounds at all.
I wake in the morning to the faint sound of trams. There is something about Mitteleuropa that I recognize, it feels familiar. It is a sense that's all, like the feeling of sunlight in early morning, touching a place that you are aware has been touched before. It has no name, just this recognition, like a friend you haven't seen for some time and it's not that you'd forgotten this person but rather, that you'd been preoccupied with other things, as if our lives have several concurrent tracks or as if we are a whole system of Ways, we are the network rather than just one branch line, but this one line has been our focus for some time so we have come to identify with it. We have localized our perception and identity but at such times of recognition it's clear that the geography of who we are is so much bigger than our usual local streets. Travelling is not just visiting external places but revisiting parts of ourselves too.
Poetry I feel, takes this for granted. It can spring up anywhere and has no need of explanation. It has an immediacy like an outstretched hand. Not so much simply a response to a place or a feeling, but part of an ongoing uninterrupted communication. Here I am, here is my hand.
And you take the hand of the place you are in. How could you not?
Erzsebetvaros so I read, with surprise and delight, is named after Elizabeth, Empress of Austria. The delight is similar to meeting up unexpectedly with an old friend. Well known in continental Europe, her name meant nothing to me until a few months ago, when I visited the Achilleon in Corfu. It was she who had this grand mansion built in honour of Achilles. Elizabeth was married to the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph but she was not someone who enjoyed court life and stayed away as much as possible. She had a fondness for Hungary and spoke the language fluently. She was influential in the re-establishment of the Hungarian constitution which led to the Austrian Empire becoming the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary.
Clearly her feelings for the Hungarian people were reciprocated, as this street and the area around it, has been named after her. It is off Rakoczi, and leads into the old Jewish quarter of Pest. This is when the city comes alive for me, in these narrow little streets. It's also when the feeling of familiarity is strongest.
These are the streets where Robert Capa, born Andre Friedman, was born and grew up, and where he first became a photographer. Obliged to flee Hungary because of the rise of fascism in the 1930s he later lived in Paris and became famous as a war photographer during the Spanish Civil War. So I feel that I meet another friend.