Prolog: I ❤ Budapest
When I wrote you last, dear readers, I had just arrived in Budapest; a city that I have visited many a time and love dearly. Naturally I decided to get as much out of my time there as I could.
Everyday I went to my favorit book café Massolit:
When visiting the art hall Mucsarnok, a ‘Kusthalle’ that I have made it a personal tradition visiting, after seeing many good exhibitions there, I stumbled upon a David Lynch photo exhibition! It was small but very interesting – namely since I love Lynch’ movies – and art as such.
Another tradition of mine when in Budapest, is to go to the opera and so I went to see the La Traviata by Verdi. It was stunning and I knew more of the songs than I thought. Unluckily the old grand opera house was under reservation, so I didn’t get to go there as usual – but then I got to see the Erkel Theater, where I found beautiful wall art and a colorfully decorated ceiling.
I didn’t do much sketching, but I later sketched a moving sight after memory: I was walking briskly along some quite dilapidated streets closing in on the Erkel Theater. On my left, all the way on the other side of a wide road, a bald skinhead looking middle aged man was leaning out of a window on the fourth floor. This in itself wasn’t very moving to me, but he was sheltering a cat in his arms; his strong right hand on its throat, but not in a menacing way.
He was smiling full of tenderness, looking down at the cat and then at the road below, as if he was explaining the phenomenon that is ‘cars’ to the pet. In my opinion my sketch didn’t turn out so well, but at least it helped preserve the beautiful memory.
Departing to Greece
Soon I was heading to the airport and on to Athens. Excited to see the city for the first time and to meet up with my fellow poet and artist friend A. He had already arrived earlier and I flew out to join him in the evening as the sun was beginning to set over Budapest Airport.
Athens with A
It was completely dark when my flight landed in Athens. I had to walk an almost impossible distance out of the terminal and from the terminal to the metro station, but I made it in time for the first train and soon after I arrived at the open place in front of the metro Syntagma; after which I only had a 10 minute walk to our hotel.
The place was full of colorfully lit up fountains and trees. It felt like walking into a fairytale. Later I was striding into the historic Plaka district, with its narrow streets with ancient tiles, shiny as tiny square puddles in the street lights.
Not long after I arrived at the hotel and met up with A. We shared a Greek beer he had bought for our tiny fridge, which we enjoyed on our balcony that had a marvelous view, before calling it a night. The view from the balcony was even better in daylight and I sketch it a few times.
The next days we wandered miles and miles, getting to know the city.
The hours flew by as we talked, walked and ate delicious Greek classics such as Octopus and Moussaka. While we were discovering Athens during the day, we filled our fridge at the hotel with the supermarkets entire selection of Greek beers in the evenings, in order to try them all. They were all quite good!
During these evenings we played cards and kept in touch with our two fellow poets; we all met each other at the Vallekilde Hoejskole poetry course I mentioned in my previous post. They responded enthusiastically and requested to hear our Athens Suites when we returned.
We stopped on every interesting looking bench and had lots of freddo cappuccinos (cold black coffee with white frothy milk foam on top). One major challenge to our escapades on foot was the amount of vehicles, and the chaotic way in which they were parked literally everywhere. Walking, especially on the less touristic streets, was an actual obstacle course among cars, scooters, motorbikes and orange trees. This did, however, only add to the sense of adventure.
Our fellow poets’ eager wish to read our Athens Suites lit a poetic fire under us. We tried, mainly during our freddo cappuccino breaks, to write some drafts. I found it difficult to gather my thoughts enough to create anything coherent.
My poetic attempts became fragmented observations and impressions rather than coherent poems. I do intend though, to keep my promise from last post and share some of these poetic fragments with you. My approach will be to list a few of our main experiences in the following and then tie in a poetic fragment a few times. For example right away, in regard to the obstacle course of vehicles on Athens’ streets:
biler dækket i brunligt støv fra Grækenlands landevejs-ørken
brøler forbi kirsebærtræer
der læner sig yndigt indover en af Athens bredde veje
biler, scootere og motorcykler sover om os
parkerede i uforudsigelige formationer
på tværs, langs og diagonalt henover veje, fortov, græsplæner og lyskryds
vi går sidelæns på tåspidser zigzaggende gennem auto-junglen
under appelsintræerne der poserer duftende
og drypper med mugne gullige frugter
Roughly translated into English in goes like this:
cars covered in shades of brown dust from the Greek highway-dessert
roar past cherry trees
that lean gracefully above one of Athen’s wide roads
cars, scooters and motorbikes sleep around us
parked in unpredictable formations
across, along and diagonally over roads, sidewalks, lawns and traffic junctions
we walk sideways, zigzagging on tip toe through the auto-jungle
under orange trees that pose fragrantly
and drip with yellow fruits
I hope, dear readers, that you will be able to follow the stories. This post might be somewhat messy, as I’m attempting to write it with some details included even though my mind is still somewhat distracted and I’m closing in on my Sunday deadline. None the less, I hope the following will at least convey my state of mind in an interesting way to you.
Sketches on Tables
Once at a café I had an espresso with Mastic – a liquor made from a certain Mastic tree’s resin. The waiter put a brown paper on top of our table, which of course was irresistible to draw on. I sketched my coffee cup. Later I actually took a liking to it and decided to rip it out from the paper table cloth.
Another time we were sitting in a really nice area with antique shops where I bought a pretty necklace. We were having freddo cappuccinos in a café that also put a brown paper tablecloth down for us, and I sketched on it after a bust of a woman with her hair in the wind. This time I left the sketch on the table – with a shameless reference to my Instagram.
The Hairdresser From Kashmir
One day we passed a hair salon that advertised 5 euro haircuts. By now my hair had grown out considerably – which was fine, but it bothered me in the neck as the hairs felt awkward to me, so I approach the salon and saw a guy sitting in a chair in the sun on the left of the entrance. He jumped up as we approached and eagerly invited me to sit down.
I told him to cut my hair in a classic male style, and he went straight ahead with it. His English wasn’t very good, but he became very talkative when I mentioned I was from Denmark. It seemed to me that he was trying to explain how Denmark was good for work and in Greece working enough to survive was difficult.
After explaining he himself was from Kashmir in India, he suddenly began to give me what he called an Indian massage, which included rubbing his hands extremely fast around my skull until I became positively dizzy. I was completely chocked. I’ve never experienced a hairdresser giving an impromptu massage.
Then he went back to cutting my hair, but later massaged my skull again and then continued the massage to my neck and shoulders. Also he kept mentioning a baby, which I didn’t understand. It’s the most bizarre hairdressing experience I’ve ever lived through. At the end of it he asked about connecting on Facebook and visiting Denmark which I promptly rejected, still in chok and completely lightheaded from all the fast rubbing on my skull.
When I stood up and pushed away my top-shirt to get to the money in my waist bag, the hairdresser from Kashmir laughed and exclaimed, ‘no baby!’. So he thought I was pregnant. That explained his talk about a baby, but I still don’t understand why he massaged me.
I gave him a two euro tip, acknowledging his extra work on the massage, even though I didn’t ask for it and honestly didn’t want it. The dizziness went away later so I don’t think, however, that he did something damaging to me.
He must have known what he was doing, even though there were no signs advertising massages at his salon. Very puzzling experience. A started writing a poem about it in Danish later. I myself tried to write poetically about it, but found it impossible. It was too both real and weird to me – so I’ll keep my description in prose.
The Mountain of Muses
Another day we climbed the tallest mountain in Athens, from which we had an impressive view of the Acropolis. On our way up we passed hundreds of deep red poppy flowers and butterflies. On top remained only a ruin of a Temple of the Muses.
A poetic fragment:
valmuerne på musernes bjerg vinker os nærmere
forførende i deres saftige røde glød
som fuldmodne jordbær
vi følger dem
mens vores pander skifter farve til den same lyserøde nuance
som de offentlige toiletters håndsæbe
skarpt syntetisk med blegt perlemor i skæret
the poppy blossoms on the Mountain of Muses wave us closer
seductive in their succulent red radiance
like ripe strawberries
we follow them
while our foreheads change color to the same shade of pink
as the hand soap in the public bathrooms
sharply synthetic with a pale shine of ivory
We took a moment to sit on a bench and write poetic notes on the mountain. Then we continued downwards to the Acropolis – that we decided not to visit as the entrance ticket was expensive, it was too crowded with tourists and we had seen magnificent views of the ruins from different distances already. Instead we walked around on the free areas surrounding the Acropolis.
A Few Sketches of A
Here are a few sketches of A:
And one of a random old man I saw in a restaurant:
Epilog: One Day alone – Then on to Rome
Before I knew it my time with A had passed and he jumped on the metro to the airport. I had only one day left alone in Athens. I roamed the streets, only stopping for more coffee and food and taking pictures of some really cool graffiti artworks.
Other than that I spend the time doing some sketches of a cute table in a café.
I really want to return to Athens one day. I loved everything I saw in the city and I didn’t even go to Acropolis or any of the museums. Even if they had some weird souvenirs – mainly a wide selection of wooden penises in all sizes and colors:
As well as some funny looking soldiers:
Next Destinations: Rome & Bratislava
Yesterday night I flew to Rome, where I’m sitting in my hostel common area now writing this post before my deadline!
I’m excited to go out later and explore Rome. I’ve only been here once as a teenager on a school trip, so it’s going to be wonderful to experience the city alone as an adult.
On Wednesday I’ll be travelling to Bratislava in Slovakia – so next week I’ll write you from there!