Budapest, Hungary – February 2012
Today, I will take my brand new camera and go outside. The high temperature today is -12C (10F), which is higher than it has been in many days. The deep freeze that has afflicted Russia and Ukraine for most of the winter has swooped down over most of Eastern Europe and made itself at home.
I have not left the apartment in over a week, except to go to the supermarket that’s in our building. Like every winter, my husband has fled to the South Pacific to visit his family for a few weeks. My pet rabbit is my only company. It’s a good thing that I love solitude.
I’ve read that the Danube may totally freeze over for the first time in 25 years. Icebreakers are working around the clock to prevent it. It would be a shame to miss this. And Budapest is so beautiful in the snow. I put on my warmest clothes, take a deep breath, and step outside. The noise of the outside world, no matter how subdued by the freeze, is a shock. So much motion and interaction.
When I exit the metro at Batthyány tér, which is right across from the Parliament, it’s clear that the icebreakers have succeeded. The ice is broken up into drifting floes that seem to parade in front of the magnificent building. I walk to the edge of the river and take out my camera. The wind gives me a vicious shove every few seconds. I remove my gloves and steady myself. It is so cold that the touch screen stops working and my fingers cramp. I snap a few photos using the manual controls and then walk quickly towards Margit Bridge.
I breathe deeply as I walk. It feels like my lungs are crystallizing. The cold seeps into my legs. My neck and upper back tense up. The pressure in my sinuses intensifies. It feels like my eyeballs are going to pop out of my skull. I stand at the top of the bridge and look down at the floes as they pirouette under the bridge. They make soft groaning noises as they collide. Two people walk along the banks on Margit Sziget. I consider walking down to the island to take advantage of the lack of people. The photos would be stunning.
A sharp pain moves through my head, and my vision blurs. There is no one to call if I get dizzy. I’ve got enough photos for today. I turn and make my way towards the tram stop.