“Island” is not a term many people associate with a landlocked Central/Eastern European country, but Budapest alone has a slew of islands to be explored. Located on the Danube River (Duna), the islands vary in size, shape, usage, and popularity. Throughout my time creeping around the islands, I have seen ruins from the 13th century, swarms of mosquitoes feasting [upon my overly delicious blood], a forgotten animal park, topless women, abandoned junkyards, and other completely commonplace sights.
I have explored the most popular, tourist-friendly, central one (Margaret Island – Margit-sziget) the most extensively. Located between two bridges – Margaret Bridge (Margit hid) and Arpad Bridge (Árpád híd) – Margaret Island has been dubbed “the green heart of [the] city.” Only buses and taxies are allowed on the island – any other vehicle is prohibited. During the Middle Ages, Margaret Island was called “The Island of Rabbits” due to the sheer amount of rabbits that used to populate the island. The name that is in use now came from King Béla IV’s daughter, Margaret, who lived in a Dominican convent there in the 13th century. The ruins of this convent, along with a Franciscan one, can still be found on the island today. In addition to these ruins, here is a list of some of the other things that can be found on the island: Japanese garden, music well, open-air theatre, artists’ promenade, Centennial Monument, Margitsziget Fountain, a water park, etc. Although I go to the island year-round, everything comes alive during the summertime. Margaret Island is a popular destination for not only tourists, but for locals looking to sun themselves, have picnics, and walk their dogs. My friend, Rebecca, and I played an intense game of beach paddle ball/Matkot for an hour or two one time last year. Yes, that’s right: an intense game.
Another island that I have explored is Obuda Island (Óbudai-sziget), which is man-made and located in District III. Obuda Island used to be called Shipyard Island (Hajógyári-sziget) because of the former presence of the Óbuda Shipyard. There are two entrances to the island: one by taking a bridge on Hajógyár utca, the other by walking across K-bridge (K-híd). The island is essentially split into two: the southern half (accessible by Hajógyár utca) is closed, gated, and guarded. On this side is where the shipyard used to be, but is now supposedly run by a yacht company. My friend Kate and I tried to enter through this way, but were stopped by two men. Using my Hungarian knowledge, I conversed with one of the men and found out that pedestrians/common folk are only allowed to enter the island by crossing K-híd. Obuda Island, although not as popular as Margaret Island, becomes alive with the glory of love every August for the ever-popular Sziget Festival. Sziget Festival, “Sziget: The Island of Freedom,” is one of the largest music festivals in Europe. Every August Budapest becomes flooded with music fanatics/festival connoisseurs/party animals ready to live on the island for a week. I considered going for a day last year, but the tickets were out of my price range. Maybe I will break the bank and experience the madness this year – I am a major fan of at least 85% of those who come to perform. Some artists/bands that have performed at Sziget include, but are not limited to: David Guetta, R.E.M., Franz Ferdinand, Two Door Cinema Club, Mika, Empire of the Sun, The XX, Marina & The Diamonds, Prince, and Snoop Dog. The 2014 lineup currently includes: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Tom Odelle, Calvin Harris, Bastille, London Grammar, and Imagine Dragons.
The last island (but really, it’s a peninsula?) that I have explored is Népsziget, which translates to “People/Folk Island.” Located in District XIII, you can reach the island from a large, green pedestrian bridge from either Buda or Pest. Out of all of the islands I have explored, I found Népsziget the least manicured. Although cars are allowed to drive on the island (but seriously, it’s a peninsula – it connects to District IV), life on the island is greatly limited. An animal park (állatpark) which contains myriad goats, chickens, ducks, and dogs can be found as soon as one reaches the island – chances are, your nose will discover it first. My friends and coworkers Danielle and JP came with me to walk around the premises. Several people were scattered about the island – fishing in complete, comfortable silence. We came across two mysterious buildings: one in ruins, the other old, yet still intact with several satellite dishes attached to one wall. On the other side of the island, there is a massive structure that too is left to wither and die. These buildings are my favorite.
Other islands include Csepel Island (Csepel-sziget), Haros Island (Háros-sziget), and Molnar Island (Molnár-sziget). Maybe one day I will visit them as well. Although I have lived here for a year and a half, there is still so much of Budapest to explore. Speaking of which, I suppose now would be a good time to announce that I am officially staying for another year. Year three in Budapest, coming right up! I am staying due to a mixture of needing health care coverage, not feeling finished with Europe, and not being able to afford to leave. A running joke last year was: “Jennifer will be here forever because she cannot afford to leave.” Jokes on me, jokes on you: boohoo, I am stuck in a beautiful city in Europe. I will continue to be on staff with the Central European Teaching Program – if you are coming to Hungary next year to teach through the program, you’ll see me at orientation!
School update: Two weeks ago we celebrated Farsang (Carnival). I dressed up as a cat, ate an absurd amount of donuts, and lost to a third grader in a game of musical chairs. I have had prouder moments.I also had an open lesson with parents who are interested in having their children attend my school. An elderly man, who said nothing to me when he walked in and walked out, saw me the next day. He stopped me in the hallway and said, “Thank you so much for your lesson. Yesterday I felt a lot of love. It is clear how much you and your students love each other. It’s beautiful. You are meant to be a teacher. Thank you. It was an honor to have seen you teach.” I am not sharing his words to brag (I have a lot of things to work on), but to express how important it is to have a connection with your students. Rita Pierson once said: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.“ You never know, you could be the only positive role model in their lives. Pierson continues with: “Teaching and learning should bring joy. How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think, and who had a champion? Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.“
As for replacing the items that were stolen from me in Slovakia, it has been a real (warning: bad word approaching) bitch. I wouldn’t trade my memories for anything, but having $250+ worth of stuff stolen from you is like driving on Rainbow Road – frustrating. At least I have this beautiful, framed Slovakian police document hanging on my wall, right?
A Lesson From Miss Jennifer: “Belépni tilos!” means “Do not enter!”