Aug 20 – The Adventure on Gellérthegy

Erzsebet híd at dusk
Fireworks over Budapest
Fireworks on Gellerthegy
Muddy feet

During the day, we must have walked a marathon, but I think we did see most of Budapest’s central area. Since it was the 20th – Hungary’s national holiday – most of the city was closed to cars, leaving wide avenues open for people to walk on. We left for Gellérthegy about 1 hour before the firework display, intending to take a bus to the bottom of the hill, then walk the stairs to the top. Well.. bus was a brilliant idea – shouldn’t I have thought of the fact that if the street is closed off, clearly the buses wouldn’t be running? So instead, we walked about 20 minutes to the bottom of the hill; I wasn’t too worried – it wouldn’t take us more than half an hour to get up to the top… at least not on a normal day.
We get to the bottom of the hill, and get blocked by police saying we weren’t allowed to go up those specific stairs, and have to go around. OK. Fine. Around we go, taking the first left up, and see that it just leads us to the top of the “forbidden stairs”, where there are in fact people sitting and waiting for the show. Well… that was pointless. We try to go farther, run into further blockade, and taking about 3 or 4 of these detours, always turning back and taking side stairs the other way in order to avoid the cop-block, we end up on a path, where there are police further right and left (so they couldn’t see us yet..). Straight ahead: a steep hill. Well.. offroad it is… climbing up, we ran into yet another blockade – this time a natural one: muddy ground.
This is when it hit me: While crossing the Chainbridge during the day, it appeared that there was some sort of giant water sprinkler system watering the hill during the day. Why? That answer came to me then: they were firing fireworks off the hill as well – and it was merely a precaution against any kind of explosive going off and causing a forest fire.
Climbing up, it was like swimming through mud – I only had flip-flops on initially, but by the end, I had a flashlight on my head, flip flops on my hands, feet bare, climbing up on all fours to avoid slipping into the dark chasm below us. My x-flatmate was on my right, doing the same thing, but had slightly better shoes, and a wine bottle in his hand – which he cleverly used as a pickax, striking it into the mud for more stability. I had this vision of this being like a chase, where police are climbing up behind us, trying to make us stop; our hearts were already pumping, faces probably beet-red, sweating.. Tom telling me: “This better be worth it at the top…” I kept checking my watch to make sure we weren’t going to miss the whole thing bushwacking our way up the mudslide-hill. It even crossed my mind that maybe they sprayed water all the way over on this side (the fireworks were to be shot off the other side of the hill), in order to keep troublemakers like us from climbing up.
Not too much later, we saw the light at the end of the tunnel: both of us huffing, puffing, half-laughing, half crying with relief, we get up to some concrete stairs which lead to the top of the hill overlooking the city.
We even had about 10 minutes to spare. In the end – I think it was worth it: cloudless sky, sunset still illuminating the bottom of the sky, the city lit up, fireworks exploding in front, and from behind… If I recall correctly, even Tom, who is very hard to impress let out a couple sighs of awe.

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