The Deep Freeze

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.


37 thoughts on “The Deep Freeze

  1. My recent visit to Budapest included a snowy windy tour up the hill on the Buda side… It was too foggy to take a picture of the Parlament :p However, it was still very beautiful!

  2. My only visit to Budapest was in January 2006, and it was just like you have portrayed it. -10 and the river was very nearly totally frozen. I’m glad it’s a bit warmer for you this year!

  3. Julie, beautiful photos. I so know the cold you are talking about. Having lived in Minnesota much of my life, I remember many days like you’ve described. The kind of days when your nostrils stick together and your eyes water but then burn at the same time. Stay warm!

    • Hey Steph – I’ve been in Minnesota in the dead of winter. I didn’t complain about Michigan cold after that. I was going to write something in this post about how the insides of your nostrils feel like muesli, but I thought that might be kind of gross. Haha. I’m sure you understand, though. –Julie

  4. I think you are ready for Canadian winters!!! One thing I really like about winters is what I call cocooning. A good book, a pot of tea and soft music. Let the storms rage outside!!

  5. That is literally the most beautiful building I have ever seen. I visited Budapest nearly 10 years ago and it took my breath away. Also, I wish our deep freeze was -14C! It’s been hovering at -35C for weeks now and it’s just started to ease up. Such is life in Canada. x

  6. Great photos, and so well written. I confess I don’t even want to spend so much time outside taking pictures these days here, where it’s in the 40’s! You must be tough!

    • Thanks!! I’m not that tough. I only went out that one day and then I stayed inside for another few days until it warmed up. 🙂 It was really beautiful, though. Sometimes it’s worth it to force yourself.

  7. It sounds like Budapest is much like Michigan. Unlike Canadians, we tend to cocoon with a tea of pot instead of a pot of tea. But, it all works.:-)

    • Haha. Now that it’s pretty much legal there. Budapest is actually a little warmer than Michigan. It has perfect seasons, in my opinion. We get 4 distinct seasons and winter is cold, but it ends at the very beginning of March just when you’re getting fed up. In Michigan it can drag on and on.

  8. ahhh, I remember seeing these photos from your other blog but I don’t know the story behind it. I am glad to know about that.

    I love solitude too so I don’t mind being left alone for a long time, I can manage so well with silence. 😀 others do not.

    • I’m not surprised that you like solitude. 🙂 I think that many people are terrified of silence, because there’s no noise to drown the questions that they might have about their lives.

      • I love the beauty of the everyday and mundane, and when you’re not used to that kind of cold, although you may be more than I was, it’s a real event. We got down to -35C one winter and those walks to and from the bus stop felt like Olympic events!

    • Oh, yes. Definitely milder. That one was tough. I still remember the pain from that cold. But those photos are some of my favorites. One must sometimes suffer for her art. 😀

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