I’m not exactly the early bird, I’d much rather call myself a night owl. I can’t even remember the last time I was up (and out) this early – however, this morning I left Peter’s place at 5:45 AM, and I cycled through the city. My mood wasn’t the brightest, but this changed, after the initial daze of my lack of sleep wore off. I just couldn’t help noticing the beauty of the early hour in the city.

The hustle and bustle and the crowds are basic characteristics of city life, and some big cities, as they say, never sleep. Maybe the latter isn’t completely true about Budapest, but you can probably never cross the city without meeting a single soul, no matter what time of the day it is (maybe for the exception of a few neighbourhoods).

Nevertheless at 6AM on a public holiday the streets were reasonably empty for me to enjoy the ride home, and to see things as I never see them otherwise – it was an experience.

If keeping to the right as much as I can, dodging bumps on the road and avoiding getting hit are not all I’m concentrating on, there’s actually a very pretty view from Petőfi bridge. It is still a little dark when I leave, and the street lights are on. Imagine this: I can make out the walking paths on Gellért-hill, the Gellért Hotel is floodlit, and its lights are reflected by the Danube (along with all other lights). Behind the Lágymányosi Bridge the sky is slowly turning blue, and some lonely birds are flying over the river. A handful of people are shivering as they stand waiting for the tram or the bus. Pigeons sit tightly crammed next to each other on the tops of lampposts on Móricz Zsigmond square. I realise that I’m going westward all the way home, so the sunrise is happening behind my back. In front of me the Buda hills are foggy and dark, but sometimes I throw peeks behind me, especially when stopping at red lights. The east sky looks completely different: it has all shades from red and pink to blue. By the time I get to the BAH-junction, it’s bright enough for me to turn off my lights on my bike. I pull over and turn around. The view is extraordinary: the clouds are fleecy, pink and yellow against the blue of the sky, and I can still make out the sickle of the Moon, although his time is almost over. The trees have lost most of their leaves by now and they look black against the many colours of the clouds and the sky. It almost hurts that I don’t have my camera with me.

I love my bike, I love the fact that if I feel like it I can pull over and stop in a second, and have a look. Or even while I’m riding I can switch to sight-seeing mode. Of course this is much more enjoyable with little traffic. Besides the sky, I can look at each and every house as I pass by. Everyone’s asleep inside. On an average day, I would be, too.

I’m glad that today wasn’t average. I’d like to see this again. Next time I’ll have my camera. Even before arriving home, I have a plan ready in my head: I’ll have to go up to the top of Gellért-hill, so that I can look down on the city from Citadella when the dawn is breaking. Or I’ll have to walk up a few streets from where I live, to the point from where I can see the Buda Castle and the bridges. The bridges! I’ll have to look at the city from the bridges, too. I love this city so much!

• I’m thinking about how being alone in a place is not an everyday experience for today’s modern people anymore. It can be scary or very positive, like in my case. Basically everything is full of people all the time, and you can never be the first to get to a place because somebody has always been there before. Being alone in a public place and not just your own house is a rare moment. Of course if you live in the country or go hiking it might not be so rare, but in a big city like Budapest, it is. You have to find an opportunity.
My German teacher in highschool told me that they have an old habit: they go hiking in the woods of the second district in the morning, on the first of January. At this time of day and year, there’s absolutely nobody, it is extremely silent and the woods are covered in snow. At 23 I’m actually old enough to find this just as appealing as a new year’s party. We’ll see if I’ll think the same in two months’ time – but I really think it is a great idea! •

(Originally published in Hungarian here.)

Dawnride” bejegyzéshez ozzászólás

  1. It’s good that we don’t all have the same ideas at the same time, otherwise we may never discover the beauty of the solitude that you wrote about. The ends of the day are usually the most dramatic, aren’t they? Camera or no camera, I often think, “How could a photo ever describe what I’m feeling out here?”

    I once read of how a city would sleep. It described the point when all is calm and silent, between the old day ending and the new day beginning. The larger the city – the smaller that gap would be. It may only be seconds long, but it’ll be there in the middle of the night somewhere.

    Thanks for the translation, I knew it would be a good read.


    • Thanks for all the nice comments, Kenny!
      It’s true that photos can’t capture all the aspects of a moment or a view, but at least they capture some of it. And that can be important.

      I really-really like this idea of the small gap when the city sleeps! 🙂

      By the way, was this (and the other two posts) really a good read considering my English? I’ve never tried to translate something that was artistic or literary in any way, and I have no idea how it sounds to you, if you can tell that it was written by someone for whom English is not their native language or not.
      Please tell me if something sounds strange, I’d like to improve!

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