The first couple of years that I lived in Budapest, Gellért Hill was my favorite place to walk. I’d cross over Erzsébet Bridge from Pest, take the paths that circle up and around, passing through Jubileum Park before descending on the other side at the Gellért Hotel, and then I’d cross back over to Pest on Szabadság Bridge.
At the very bottom of Jubileum Park, the steep path turns into stairs and houses appear on the right. My eyes were always drawn to the one with the cemented up picture window, the bullet hole scars on the wall, and the unkempt yard. No vehicle ever graced its driveway, but I could still feel a presence. Was someone watching passersby from behind the thin veil-like curtains?
In November of 2010 a shriveled jack-o’-lantern appeared in its yard. It was placed on top of a pile of sticks that seemed destined to become a pyre. I stopped in my tracks. Halloween is not celebrated in Hungary. I snapped a photo and continued my walk, my mind ablaze.
Not long after this, I stopped walking in Gellért Hill. I’d had a couple of encounters with aggressive exhibitionists, so I no longer felt safe. In May of 2013, just before I moved away from Budapest, my husband and I took a walk up to Jubileum Park. The house had been demolished and it looked like a new apartment building was being built in its place.