The day before yesterday was in Budapest the best Russian photo blogger, Ilya Varlamov, whose pictures have been quoted several times in Poemas del Río Wang. Before his arrival, as usual, he asked his readers about what is worth seeing in the city. A hundred and fifty answers came in comments, which illustrate at once how popular Varlamov, how communicative the Russian readers, and how knowledgeable the Russian tourists are about Budapest. Before seeing what Varlamov saw in Budapest, let us see what was recommended to him by his readers.
The prize, of course, was won by the spas, especially the Széchenyi and Gellért, some even quarreled on which is the better. Many have suggested the Szimpla kert, even correctly describing the name of the street, which is no small thing: Kazinczy utca. Others liked the cable-car to Buda, the Castle and the Labyrinth under it, the view from the Citadel. Many have mentioned the subway and that it has cars like the Moscow metro. Some thought that this was an intentional retro design, but someone corrected it: “they are really old, just like ours in Moscow, although now there are two metro lines, one with our cars and another with different ones.” In relation to the metro someone warned that when changing from line 2 to 3, a new ticket must be punched, but someone else immediately fixed that this is not so any more. Although there was someone who told that “basically one is supposed to visit Budapest with public transport. The buses and trolleybuses are mostly the old and decrepit Icarus brand, but they often and quickly go. When I was there, at first we went by subway, but then it turned out that the above-ground traffic is just as well for going around, and you can even see weel the city.” They also liked “the Museum of Terror” and the Memento Park with the communist statues, the City Park, the Fatál restaurant in Váci Street and “Restoran Paprika na Dzosa Gyorgy it 72” with its excellent Hungarian kitchen, the Gundel, “the most beautiful restaurant, but if you desire something really Hungarian, then go to the Krapai Csárda in Diósd, not far from the Memento Park: very Hungarian and very tasty.” They recommended to visit the Parliament, “the most beautiful building of the world”. The Philosophers’ Park in Gellért Hill, Europe’s first metro (someone immediately corrects it: “не метро, а именно подземка, földallati, that is, underground tram”, the Market Hall, the Pioneers’ Railway, the Elizabeth Lookout, Óbuda with the ancient Roman ruins, Europe’s largest synagogue. “It is worth to walk out to the Millenáris Park, usually there are very interesting exhibitions.” “I heard that in this city, so little in comparison to Moscow, there are unrealistically many museums – more than 200!” “The most delicious poppy seed cakes in Normafa, at the 90 bus terminus!” There are also disagreements: “I only like the circus and the zoo there.” “They burp up the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy everywhere. Old ambitions, zero greatness. An unpleasant city (apart from the baths).” Someone else, however, immediately defends us: “What? that Hungarians strive for greatness? Besides the idiots of the Jobik [sic, the ultra-nationalist party], nobody thinks of such a thing, in my opinion.” And generally everyone spoke with great devotion about Budapest – called by Varlamov himself “the best city in Europe” – and they were eagerly waiting for the photo report for two days.
And the photo report has come, with thirty-five pictures. Let us see what the best Russian photo blogger saw in Budapest. You should click on each picture, because they really live in large size.
The series naturally starts with large panoramas. Varlamov is barely able to speak at the sight of the city contemplated from Gellért Hill. Просто чудо, simply a wonder… Смотрите, как он прекрасен, see how beautiful it is!
He marvels at the monument models provided with Braille captions and the various street surfaces made for the blind. He writes approvingly about the curbs made easily accessible for the cars, the parking system, the parking penalties actually recovered, in contrast to Russia, and he specifically mentions that on the “Santa’s bags”, the red penalty notifications appended on the windscreens of the cars the inscription also figures in Russian.
He writes with particular recognition about two vehicles, considered as characteristic for Budapest: the tram and the bycicle. “In general, the transport is simply amazing in Budapest. I want to write a separate post on the trams. For, as it is well known, this is the best means of transport. In Budapest they like the tram. They even give it the most expensive: the riverside promenade! Such thing is possible only in Budapest.” He mentions that here are the world’s longest trams, the 53.9-meter long Combinos, which follow each other by one minute, carrying 20 thousand people per day. “And see how beautifully they mark the rails off the roadway!” On the bycicle: “They build cycle paths everywhere. The pedestrians share the riverside promenade with the cyclists. In Budapest they all love and respect each other.”
He also publishes some genre pictures on the walls full of graffiti, the gappy subrban streets (apparently around Dob Street), and from the New York, “the world’s finest coffee house” (“but prepare for the rude waiters!”), the street toilets. “But in Budapest the most fantastic things are the thermal baths. I won’t even show you a picture of them, because then all of you will come here tomorrow, and this city is not made of rubber, either!”
This site was identified by Bálint Gilicze: in front of the door of the Castle Bazaar’s pavilon (here)
The Budapest bosom is proudly bulging out at reading this flowing praise, the cynical Budapest heart contritely repents its eternal dissatisfaction, but the Budapest eye misses something after looking at all the series. These pictures are… er… commercial. Average tourist photos. There is nothing in them that a Japanese tourist would have not taken in a morning downtown walk, and I am sure that most readers would have found more exciting topics during a two-hour pilot tour. And not just the themes are cliched: even their composition remains far below Varlamov’s usual standards. As if he were in a hurry, as if he did not leave time for himself to discover the details, to find what can be grasped as a self-standing image from the dense fabric of the city. Let us compare, for example, the following picture with Andrea Zavada’s photo, taken at the same place:
Ilya Varlamov is the kind of photographer who is good at his pictures when he knows enough on the site, and this knowledge makes him attentive to the details. He has several such photo series, from which we have already published and will publish some more in Río Wang. This series, however, is not so. Since I saw this, I have been thinking which path he should have followed in Budapest, to see more real and more exciting faces of the city. Think about it, and write us, what kind of route would have you composed for him – or for any foreign photographer – for one day!
But with any feeling of lack, how could you have a grudge against someone who writes such things in the very first sentence of his photo report:
“I have never been in Hungary. To tell the truth, I never felt any particular interest in the Eastern European countries. Budapest was a pleasant surprise… And not only a surprise, but I fell in love with this city at the first walk… Before that, I only loved Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Porto in Portugal. But Budapest has surpassed them all. Now I already can die only here. This city is straightforwardly beautiful. It is difficult to explain why it is so beautiful, I myself do not understand it… The Hungarians have a funny language and a funny money what they call “forint”. Budapest is like a lovely kitten, it is impossible not to love.”
A video compiled with the support of BMW and the information center of the Moscow government by Ilya Varlamov and Maxim Katz