One thousand years ago today Hungary was established when King Stephen was granted the crown by Pope Sylvester. Today there’s a party going on. One week ago Suzi and I were sitting on the beach at Milocar in Montenegro, with no idea we would be here. Since then I’ve been in Bosnia, Croatia, and Italy. Today Suzi goes back to Podgorica while tomorrow I go to Bosnia, Austria and Romania. Don’t ask.
At the end of the week I was feeling pretty punk. When I got back from a meeting with an ambassador on Friday, I had a temp of 102. I spent most of yesterday recovering. Now I’m feeling ok, rested and resting. Normally, during a celebration like this I would be out in the crowd no matter how I felt, but this celebration came to me. There are stages set up all along the Danube, including one about seven floors below me. I have a great view. So while people sweat in the 98 degree heat I sit in an air conditioned room with the windows cracked sipping on ice water listening to a mix of Hungarian, Klezmer, Roma, Cajun, traditional country, bluegrass, Balkan, big band, bop, brass band, polka (Hungary is south of the omph pah line) Dixieland, Latin, blues and tin-pan alley.
I’m constantly amazed that, even at a folk festival, which this was billed as, there’s a dominance of American styles. Even the Klezmer band did a lot of Irving Berlin. Europeans often complain about the dominance of American culture and wonder why Europe no longer dominates. I want to yell out “It’s the diversity, stupid.”
It’s a few minutes later and Hungarian army parachutists are being fished out of the Danube, to the sound of jazz-funk, by some guys in camo in boats with outboards. One guy is madly pulling on the rope trying to get his kicker started to rescue a guy in a parachute of the Hungarian national colors who is floating toward Serbia. (Not to worry, it is a long float.
On Friday night A Danube fire boat put up a fine mist onto which the full pageant of Hungarian history was holographically projected. All of this was synchronized to techno versions of some of the Hungarian classics that one might hear at the Sitka Summer Music Festival. My feverish state made it seem stranger than it was. Tonight, fireworks
I often wonder how a United Europe will work. The heroes celebrated here in stone, bronze and now holographically in a fireboat’s spray, are the same guys vilified in Slovakia and Croatia. How do you preserve this history in a unified Europe?
The fireworks are something to write home about so I will while the band seven floors below is doing covers of Michael Jackson and the whole experience it is very fresh in my mind.
Just before nine this most beautifully lit city went dark, the palace, cathedral, the chain bridge, the Fisherman’s bastion blacked out. The thousands of people outside went dead silent. Police boats held small craft and excursion boats just downstream of the chain bridge. Strobe lights started flashing up and down the Danube. Then the historic chain bridge ignited and became a Niagara of fire falling from the roadway between the towers to the river, reflecting the sparkle back up to me on the seventh floor. Lasers swept from the Parliament building and fireworks erupted overhead. It was the most complete display I have ever seen and it just continued to get better. As the fire fall from the bridge began to die its towers began to glow a subtle and strange blue. As the fireworks continued to blossom overhead the chains themselves began to glow. Pretty soon the bridge was glowing with a blue that looks like the color of those plastic glow wands that they sell to kids on the fourth of July in states where they don’t allow sparklers. In fact they are selling them here today. The lasers looked like crossed swords over the bridge as it glowed a deeper blue. The fireworks kept coming.
I have the best seat in Budapest.
Now the blue on the bridge is slowly dying and the normal while lights are beginning to glow. There is just a hint of blue on the towers. Several police boats have opened the channel, their blue rollers reflecting in the water beneath the bridge. Wow.