Any Excuse to Travel

2014 Grateful 39

It’s very easy to get into a rut, to do the same thing day in, day out. Comfort zones are attractive because they are … well… comfortable. Making the same choices, listening to the same music, reading the same types of books, wearing the same colours, all contribute to that comfort of sameness.

It’s quite tempting to drift along on the tide of familiarity, carried away by the currents of regularity and predictability. So tempting, in fact, that if given the opportunity to reflect on life as lived, it looks quite mundane. From the outside looking in, of course, it might look quite glamorous. Who wouldn’t envy regular trips abroad, a series of opening nights, sampling fine food and even finer wine – but living it on routine basis can be … well… routine.

When you have friends with different interests, varied tastes, and unique perspectives, you often get to dip your toe in foreign waters without ever leaving home. Being open to suggestion, to trying new things, to living new experiences helps. And I’m nothing if not game.

I rarely refuse an invitation, unless I have previous commitments or it comes from someone I’d rather not spend time with doing something I know from experience that I won’t enjoy. I try not to knock something until I’ve tried it and while what’s on offer mightn’t appeal to me in the slightest initially, I’m often pleasantly surprised.

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I’ve wanted to have a look inside Pesti Vigadó ever since I saw the offices-for-rent signs swing from its balconies a few years ago. I couldn’t for the life of me imagine how such a beautiful building could be used for anything but the public good. Billed as the most beautiful concert hall in Budapest, it sits on the banks of the Danube facing the Castle District in Buda. The original building – a concert hall – was razed by fire during the  Hungarian War of Independence; the new theatre was built in 1865. This, too, was damaged during the Second World War, so damaged that it took 36 years to restore.

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What notions I have about architecture are minimal and based purely on what I like and don’t like. But I’m reliably informed that this particular style is Oriental and Hungarian Art Nouveau mingling with Romance [Is Romance a style?] Designed by the same chap who built the wonderful synagogue on Dohány, one Frigyes Feszl, it’s home to some fantastic frescoes courtesy of  Károly Lotz and Mór Than.  The main concert hall seats up to 700 people, while the chamber hall fits 220, and the Vigadó Gallery could compete with any of the exhibits it hosts.

I was there at the invitation of KG to see the 40th anniversary performance of the Hilliard Ensemble. When I looked that them on the website, I could have sworn I’d seen them perform in Oxford and was keen to go, even rearranging theatre tickets to accommodate. But my memory isn’t what it used to be and I was wrong. In fact, I haven’t been this wrong since I mixed up my Paddys. The lads, all very talented, weren’t what I was expecting and were a tad too high-brow for my taste. I like lyrics more than music and am not a great fan of noise, no matter how musical it might be. Having expected to hear some good old a capella  (a male version of the great Alaskan female quintet The Derry Aires I thought hopefully) settling for Mundus vergens in defectum, no matter how accomplished the execution, just wasn’t my cuppa tea.

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But I enjoyed the night nonetheless. I managed a quick nap. I ran into GT whom I hadn’t seen in a few years. And got to finally see Pesti Vigadó from the inside. A long-threatened drink at Dunacorso started the evening, and a nightcap in a really sweet little pub with a very obliging bartender on the edge of the madness known as Gozsdu finished it nicely.

At the end of what’s been another exhausting week, one I’m glad to see the back of, I’m grateful that I have friends who take the time to pull me in new directions, to shift me out of my comfort zone, and to keep the life in my living.


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