villes d'eaux

watercolor of Lake Hévíz, thermal lake and spa in Hungary near Lake Balaton
«Hévíz», work in progress, 2012

«The Lady is aflame... and silent…»

She lifted the blue silk folds of her skirt, marched off past the row of linden trees, disappearing behind the sunlit hedge.

The mysterious twists and turns of life beautifully filmed in this scene from the cinematic adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, directed by Sally Potter.

Scenes from Budapest, Evening dances underground

Kalotaszegi legényes
«Danseurs en rond», aquarelle

As November draws to a close, wooden huts of motley wares mushroom across the squares of the city, giving shape to Christmas markets that will soon illuminate the darkness of Central European winters.

The wailing arabesques of fiddles cut through the late autumn air, surprise you at corners, mingle with the sweet aroma of roasted chestnuts. Night falls shortly after 4 o’clock, and all anyone would like to do after work is squirrel himself away in some cozy niche with warm company and mulled wine.

One such frosty evening, V took me down to the Gödör Klub on Erzsébet tér (management has since changed hands, and it is now called Akvárium), an underground pit in the middle of the city that hosts various nocturnal and cosmopolitan parties of music and dance. But that evening, Gödör had donned on the aura of one of Gogol’s country tales, becoming the “light burning somewhere at the end of the village as soon as evening comes on,” where “laughter and singing is heard in the distance, there is the twang of the balalaika and, at times, of the fiddle, talk and noise […] lads burst into the cottage with the fiddler, there is an uproar at once, fun begins, they set off dancing, and I could not tell you all the pranks that are played.”1

In the dimness of candlelight and Christmas garlands, a music ensemble composed of contrabass, violins, the hurdy-gurdy, the zither, and the cimbalom, performed for a dance floor filled with men and women of all ages holding one other by the waist and shoulders, twirling madly about, now clockwise, now counter-clockwise. On the men were sleek polished leather boots that glinted softly and reached just below their knees and slim trousers topped with a billowing white shirt. On the women were flowing skirts that flared as they spun around, their heads tilted back, their eyes fixed on their partners.

The entire scene did not give one the impression of being too folkloric, but rather of something pulsing and vibrant, of a past woven seamlessly into the present.

When the couples’ dance had ended, the women parted to the edge of the floor and the men formed a circle to perform for the women a dance, the legényes from the Kalotaszeg region of Transylvania. The musicians took to their instruments and one by one, each of the men puffed into the circle, executing a series of improvised leg flourishes with his black leather boots, now tapping the ground with his heel and boot tip, now kicking the air and bending his knees to the melody of the fiddle. Like a marionette, he seemed to leap into the air in starts and spurts, his torso straight, his head level, with his limbs in autonomous animation. All the while, the women looked on sternly, amusingly, their hands on their hips, swaying also to the music, admiring, evaluating, reveling. How like life!

We took part in the next couple’s dance, but this part of the night with men in a circle, dancing, vying for the feminine gaze, was most memorable. I shall be sorry when I leave this city of underground dances whose folk roots flourish on modern dance floors.

1 Nikolai Gogol, (Evenings in a Village near Dikanka, preface to Volume I, 1831)

A performance clip of a Kalotaszegi legényes

Spaces, places

elephant batik

Is it possible to imagine that this batik had its origins in a sleigh racing over snow through a frost-laced forest, tinkling bells to the music of Tchaikovsky? Bearing a happy couple bundled in furs, each peering from under their snug chapkas at the wondrous wintry kingdom fleeting by? Somewhere along the way, an elephant from Mughal India crept underneath my hand, and the snows melted away to reveal flowers of a tropical jungle.

But perhaps I have confused the beginnings of this balmy promenade with another dream, now that autumn is here once more, and winter is not far away.

The room is veiled in silence, folds of saris the colors of pandan leaves and conch shell lips. Tendrils of interwoven golden threads climb a trellis of emerald silk, glimmering dimly in crystal drops scattered about like morning dew. A young Tahitian woman’s gaze captured by Gauguin’s brush is reflected in the mirror. Her fragrance has wafted across oceans. Noa noa, a lovely word.

The door opens out into the morning air. A heavy fog the color of bones has enveloped the entire city. From the balcony, one can barely make out the jeweled dome of the Parliament on the other side of the river. A few minutes pass and Parliament disappears. And then go the two spirals of St Anne. And the cylinder that is Hotel Budapest. And the brick chimney of a hospital. The city is a paper screen, darkened now and again by the stroke of a wet brush, before reassuming its unblemished opacity. The city is a paper screen for my shadow theatre.

I’m floating in the Jugendstilbad, eyes lifted toward the vaulted ceiling and painted walls. As steadily as the fountain trickles, they expand and fall away, revealing the misty hills of Lake Garda. Waves lap gently against the wooden pier, where two young girls await the return of a pleasure boat. The boat is rocking like a cradle in the middle of Lake Balaton. A child bravely jumps into the water, buoyed by a bright orange life vest. Orange, the color of hope, like the coat of the royal Bengal tiger hiding under the boat’s tarpaulin, stranded at sea with a boy from Pondicherry. A bigger cousin of the feline now stretched up against the heater, its ginger coat rising and falling ever so softly.

Spaces, places confound, conspire, in the unfathomable depths of an autumn canvas.

A Romantic Idea of Village and Country Life

Romantic village life
«Romantic village life» 2012

In the winter, you could see its fairytale tower puffing out a ribbon of smoke from its little chimney. The last leaves fallen away from the surrounding trees, its faux half-timber façade stood visible upon a mound further up the street. It was the one house that appealed most to the romantic idea of a provincial life.

Some abodes in the village have wooden shutters painted pastel, not common in these parts; still others have rounded rosy roofs or roofs that slope steeply downward and then gently flare with charm; but this is no Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and the vast majority of homes here are an unremarkable collection of modern-day constructions one can find in any German suburbia.

So when evening falls, and the meadow is enveloped in shadow, I can peer out the window at the tower’s moonlit silhouette, and life in a village takes on sweet and poetic notes, like horses grazing under apple trees, like yoga in a farmhouse, like a one-track train station platform, like the only café in the village that doubles as tailor’s and delivery service and closes shop at noon on Saturdays. Like the bird sanctuary trail winding along the hill, the ringing church bells, the stream running behind the village hall.

But I won’t shed a tear leaving. That isn’t to say I have given up entirely on village life. Some villages have grannies who sit on public benches on the main square watching the world go by. Some have a warm summer street where all the dogs go for siestas. Some have cottages with bunches of hanging herbs. Some have old stone walls covered in brier. This village had none of those. Something important was lacking, but I won’t wait to find out what.

Onwards with the tramontane life and spring cleaning.

Spring alights on my shoulder

«Yumeji's camellias» batik 2011

After a winter that was not really winter, a flurry of snow one day or two, green is timidly burgeoning, the smell of fresh grass in the air, the warble of thrush in the hedges.

Proljeće na moje rame slijeće
Đurđevak zeleni

Spring alights on my shoulder
Lily of the Valley is flowering

We had fun imagining ourselves traversing a Siberian winter, shut up in the living room in the after hours, poring over tales of provincial life in a village near Dikanka. One misty morning, we ventured out for a stroll, reaching the great clearing that gave Lichtwiese its name, Meadow of Light. From the other end of the mud path, a man with silvery hair approached on his rickety bicycle. We inquired about the way. He put one foot down, pulled out his handkerchief and dabbed his nose, then pointed us down the road he came. But before he set off, he made a sweeping motion with his hand towards the clearing, and asked us whether we knew the poem by Matthias Claudius. “It was at this very spot that he was inspired to compose it.” Before we had time to answer, he recited this poem:

Der Mond ist aufgegangen,
die goldnen Sternlein prangen
am Himmel hell und klar;
der Wald steht schwarz und schweiget,
und aus den Wiesen steiget
der weiße Nebel wunderbar.

Wie ist die Welt so stille
und in der Dämmrung Hülle
so traulich und so hold!
Als eine stille Kammer,
wo ihr des Tages Jammer
verschlafen und vergessen sollt.

Seht ihr den Mond dort stehen?
Er ist nur halb zu sehen
und ist doch rund und schön!
So sind wohl manche Sachen,
die wir getrost belachen,
weil unsre Augen sie nicht sehn.

Wir stolze Menschenkinder
sind eitel arme Sünder
und wissen gar nicht viel;
wir spinnen Luftgespinste
und suchen viele Künste
und kommen weiter von dem Ziel

— Matthias Claudius,
Abendlied (1778)

The moon has slowly risen,
The golden starlets glisten
In the heavens, bright and clear;
The forest stands dark and silent
And from the meadow rises
A white mist most wonderful

How still is the world,
And in the veil of twilight
So intimate, so fair!
As if it were a quiet chamber,
Where the sorrows of the days
Shall be forgot and slept away

Do you see the moon up there?
There is only half of it to see,
And yet it is round and fair.
So it is with many things
That we laugh at with good cheer
For our eyes see them not.

We proud human beings
Are only poor sinners
And ignorant too;
We spin webs of air
Casting about for many an art
Moving further away from the mark

«Lichtwiese» March 2012

Idylle en Bohême II

She used to dance more often back then, nearly every other night. A way to live out the city, traverse its cobblestones after all the shops had closed. When she saw that fragment of a film, it spoke to her about her own life.

Zrodil se za horou pramének málu
pospíchal dolů a spěchal vždy dál
když potom opustil své rodné scaly
klidnou a moudrou on řekou se stal

Řeka, ta zná a nepoví
jaký je sladký ten čas
když plyne soumrak medový
když loďka unáší nás

Břehy se ztrácejí ve tmách
v srdcích to šumí jak proud

Řeka, to zná a nepoví
že chceme do lásky plout

— Valčík from the film
La Libertée surveillée (1958)

Newly sprung from the mountain,
the little stream
Dashed down and coursed ever further
Leaving behind its native rocks,
A calm and wise river it became.

The river knows and does not tell
How sweet is the hour
When honey twilight falls
When the boat carries us away

The river shores are lost in the darkness
In the flowing murmur of our hearts

The river knows and does not tell
How we want to sail upon
the river of Love

— translation adapted from R.H.

le retour du Sturm und Drang

February, the ancient month of expiation, of purification, draws to a close. A blank page, an ashen sky is all that remains in the dimness of the crepuscule. How sly the calm at the edge of the woods, how it belies this feverish mind. Formed in a seasonless clime, of perpetual blue skies, how blithely ignorant it had been of lúty, ice and únor, of a winter pond, the true names of such times of the year, in these parts.

How the circle is drawn, what had flown far now yearns for the steadfast childhood sun, for the evergreen… but is it so, that we are living one prolonged rumspringa and that we are about to return?

Now that I have experienced what my hero of youth Richard Feverel, venturing out one stormy evening deep into the forest of the Rhine, had experienced, what is the verdict?

«Hiver en Mitteleuropa», 2010
«Hiver en Mitteleuropa», 2010

When he again pursued his course with his face to the Rhine, a huge mountain appeared to rise sheer over him, and he had it in his mind to scale it. He got no nearer to the base of it for all his vigorous outstepping. The ground began to dip; he lost sight of the sky. Then heavy, thunder-drops streak his cheek, the leaves were singing, the earth breathed, it was black before him, and behind. All at once the thunder spoke. The mountain he had marked was bursting over him.

Up startled the whole forest in violet fire. He saw the country at the foot of the hills to the bounding Rhine gleam, quiver, extinguished. Then there were pauses; and the lightning seemed as the eye of heaven, and the thunder as the tongue of heaven, each alternately addressing him; filling him with awful rapture. Alone there— sole human creature among the grandeurs and mysteries of storm— he felt the representative of his kind, and his spirit rose, and marched, and exulted, let it be glory, let it be ruin! Lower down the lightened abysses of air rolled the wrathful crash; then white thrusts of light were darted from the sky, and great curving ferns, seen steadfast in pallor a second, were supernaturally agitated, and vanished. Then a shrill song roused in the leaves and the herbage. Prolonged and louder it sounded, as deeper and heavier the deluge pressed. A mighty force of water satisfied the desire of the earth.

— Chapter 52, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, George Meredith

Songs of an Other

«If this is a dream...», work in progress, 2012

If this is a dream and he loves me,
May I never wake up
In the sweetness of the dawn,
May my soul fly away

— song from Smyrna, sung by Savina Yannatou

Idylle en Bohême

«On the Chimney», 2011 (watercolor from film Postriziny) by Annie Nguyen-Bárány
«On the Chimney», 2011

— What are you playing at?
— Why, at soldiers.

— Play at whatever you like, but not here.

— Where are we to play?

— On top of the chimney for all I care! but quietly!

— The chimney?
— The chimney!


Vaše podlomené zdraví
pivo upevní a spraví.

Feeling weak and pale.
Down a pint of ale!

— Jiří Menzel’s Postřižiny (Cutting It Short)

Chile Rising, Rafael Sotomayor

This month, Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines released a special on Chile’s student protests that rocked the country for much of the past year and continues into 2012. With a largely privatized education system described as “capitalism’s ideal laboratory,” the cost of education is high and the state of public schools and universities in Chile are dismal. The faces of the students filmed were so bright, beautiful and young. They were demanding free, quality education to the rhythms of Chilean singer Anita Tijoux’s Shock, the song-turned-anthem of the movement, whose chorus went,

La hora sonó, la hora sonó
No permitiremos más, más
tu doctrina del Shock1

Rafael Sotomayor plays Hang, Römerberg, Frankfurt am Main, drawing by Annie Nguyen-Bárány

Rafael Sotomayor, a young Chilean man, had moved to Frankfurt am Main some years ago. We had met him as a street musician on the Römerberg, the central square in Frankfurt when the apples were ripe on trees and the sun still reflected upon the city’s skyscrapers.

It is common in Europe’s metropolises to walk past accordionists who churn out La Vie en rose, whether you are in Paris, Munich or Istanbul, or violinists who will interpret The Godfather on a tram in Warsaw or the underground in London. And it is the same in Frankfurt, the banking capital of the continent.

But Rafael Sotomayor was neither playing a famous melody nor any common instrument with his slender figures. In fact, we had not even spotted him by the fountain of Justice when the strange and rich undulating timbre halted my nightwatcher in his tracks. It seemed to warp time and space around us, drawing us into manifold resonances, successions of low rapid notes that caressed the ear, now as a soft reed brush, now as the tap of a fingertip. The air was already cooling, but a little party gravitated rapt around the seated young man tapping and waving his hands over what looked like upturned metal woks or alien saucers. A Japanese businessman, a couple from South America, a group of Indian tourists, we all stood still before the spectacle. The weekend bustle of the crowded square seemed to fade as the young man wrought his melodies.

The audience clapped heartily at the end of the performance, and the South American couple came eagerly to him, interrogating him about his strange UFOs, fingering his CDs. They were happy to speak a common tongue and listened intently as he explained how the instruments were a 21st century invention by two Swiss makers. They were called “hang,” from the Bernese word for hand, which was the only medium used to coax sound from the instruments— all handmade to this day by the same two individuals, whose artisanal production was dwarfed by growing demand. I can only liken the sound to the Indonesian gamelan, since the ensemble is composed of percussions, but it is a pale comparison.

Purses and wallets opened and CDs changed hands as Rafael Sotomayor bowed graciously and packed his instruments. The sun had set and the wind was rising.

The affable young musician told the crowd he would be playing in the city’s Königshalle (Emperor’s Hall) where kings and emperors used to be crowned, as well as at theatre and concert venues in and around the country. He also played in a band, The Art of Fusion, composed of musicians from Poland, Bolivia, Jamaica, Spain, India, as well other intermittent artists of diverse origins.

The crowd dispersed eventually, some still under the music’s spell.

It is time we should look him up again. “Chile Rising.” It seems to describe Rafael Sotomayor.

1 The bell has tolled, the bell has tolled
We won’t allow it any more
Your doctrine of Shock

The song makes a direct reference to Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine, the name she gives to the free market economic policies of the “Chicago Boys” who had influenced Chile’s development under the dictatorship of Pinochet.


Shock, Anita Tijoux
Skies over Germany solo piece, Rafael Sotomayor
Inner Voice, The Art of Fusion-Rafael Sotomayor

Please Mr Postman

«Boîtes aux lettres» 2012 by Annie Nguyen-Bárány
«Boîtes aux lettres» 2012

So many days you passed me by
See the tear standing in my eye
You didn't stop to make me feel better
By leaving me a card or a letter

Please Mr. Postman, look and see
If there's a letter, a letter for me?

Please Mr Postman, The Beatles

woman women writing letters
Catching up on correspondence

Scenes from Budapest, Bomo Art

Hot air balloons over Budapest, Bomo Art
«Hőlégballonok Budapest felett» Hot-air balloons over Budapest (via Bomo Art)

C'était l'époque où les crinolines, les cages d'acier avaient pris leurs proportions les plus extravagantes, et il me semble qu'elle émergeait d'une véritable montgolfière de soie blanche.

It was the age when crinolines, those cages of steel, had taken on the most extravagant proportions, and it seemed to me that she was emerging from a hot-air balloon of white silk.

— Pierre Loti, Prime jeunesse (1919, p 34)

Touching that Pierre Loti, indefatigable voyager and Orientalist, lover of Istanbul, would in his old age depict the outmoded women’s skirts of his youth as hot-air balloons, so that even in a drawing-room, one was still elsewhere, circumnavigating the world and time in 80 days.

Something in that picture reverberates in the little shop on Régiposta utca 14 (14 Old Post Office Street), home of Bomo Art stationery, in its leather-bound journals and exquisitely printed original paper sheets. Surannée, like the pomaded locks of Valentino, or the waltz in a tango; dépassé, like an English rose at the piano, or a gentleman’s monocle; surannée, like the perfume of parchment maps, the gentle folds of a silken bow; dépassé, like skating on a frozen lake in the snow.

Budapest Operaház, Bomo ArtPraxinoscope (via Bomo Art)

Spinning the praxinoscope in the shop round, a child hovers over its rotating mirrors to glimpse a neatly trimmed corseted lady walk up and down a flight of stairs. Kaleidoscopes wrapped in embossed prints of painted birds and animals, compasses and astrolabes, lilacs and lavender, line the shelves above her, by drawers full of watercolor postcards with calligraphic greetings.

But by far the most charming print adorning journals, boxes and gift card sets is of a painting of hot-air balloons hovering over Budapest, like women’s crinoline skirts spread full in a magnificent ballroom.
Bomo Art shop Baba Yaga, Budapest
And the presider of the ball, a benevolent Baba Yaga with a bird’s nest of hair, will have her house on chicken legs carry you more swiftly than a wink to those long bygone days.

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Scenes from Budapest, Párizsi Nagy Áruház

Parizsi Nagy Aruhaz, Protests before Párizsi Nagy Áruház, Paris Department Store, ink drawing
«Protests before Párizsi Nagy Áruház, Andrássy út 39», 2012
Signs: “There will be a Hungarian Republic”, “Enough!”, “Solidarity”, “Democracy”, “Orbán, get out!”

Nothing betrayed the commotion outside the Alexandra bookstore of the Párizsi Nagy Áruház to its visitors but the assistants who had halted their rounds and stood motionless by the upper-floor windows. Arms crossed, their faces illuminated by the dancing lights on the trees of Andrássy Avenue, they reflected the shadows of thousands passing beneath their gaze. And as the music and chants grew more distinct, one could not, even in the opulent interiors of Budapest's own “Parisian Department Store”, one simply could not escape the sense that something was in the air.

Monday evening of January 2, wave upon wave of protesters rolled down the elegant thoroughfare towards the State Opera, where the prime minister and his coterie were holding a gala in honor of the country's new constitution, passed by his party’s two-thirds majority in Parliament. The numbers of the opposition did not cease to grow into the night, and already by half past seven had congested quite a number of side streets, including the “Broadway” of Pest, Nagymező utca, as well as Liszt Ferenc tér.

The state television channel would later air footage of nearly-empty streets along with isolated skirmishes between young ruffians and the largely peaceful congregation, the former clad in black leather, and who had pushed themselves into the crowds to stir trouble and make Nazi salutes. But as I had seen it from above and later down in the streets, the procession was by and large solemn and grave, distancing themselves from the troublemakers with “Nazis haza!” (Nazis go home!).

What is a constitution that restrains the powers of the constitutional court, the speakers asked, that muzzles the free press, the judicial branch, the independence of the central bank? What is to be done with a prime minister who strips the country of the word “Republic” from its official name, invokes St Stephen and God to bless the Hungarians? Do “Heroes, Kings and Saints,” the exhibit Viktor Orbán opened at the Hungarian National gallery on the same day, impassion him more than the economic fears of Hungarian citizens today?

Parizsi Nagy Aruhaz, Lotz-terem Lotz Hall Bookcafé ink drawing
«Lotz-terem», 2012

In the Lotz-terem, the neo-Renaissance jewel of the Párizsi Nagy Áruház, where I was sitting at the start of the mobilization, a piano tinkled As Time Goes By. The artist of the hall’s vaulted ceiling, Károly Lotz, must have been dreaming of the Sistine Chapel when he painted the gilded frescoes in 1884. Between the arcades, in place of Michelangelo’s prophets and sibyls, he had depicted men and women hammering, measuring, drawing, cutting, building— in a fit of national glorification in crimson lake and cobalt blue. Sipping hot chocolate in such a place, one could feel the effervescence of those years of monarchy and empire.

The neo-Renaissance palace on Andrássy út 39 that was refashioned into a department store of Secessionist expression owed its conception to the wealth gleaned from such an empire, the very same that had erected the State Opera, its ceiling also signed by Lotz. On that evening, the audience of the prime minister’s gala and the visitors of the Lotz-terem Bookcafé were gazing up at the same inherent tension— burgeoning nationalism rendered in the cosmopolitan aesthetic of an imperial multiethnic constellation.

The Párizsi Nagy Áruház and its Lotz-terem did not offer the circumstances to contemplate such paintings after the Second World War, when it was converted for some years to a book storage warehouse, no doubt at the time the finest of its kind in the world.

Scenes from Budapest, Moszkva tér

“In the old days, this square used to be called Moszkva tér”

The voice of the metro had announced the stop, “Széll Kálman tér,” just as the train pulled into the station. Nothing had changed, apart from its new and freshly pasted name. The people still arrived on Soviet trains, steel blue compartments with leather cushions from 1970, the year of Line 2's inauguration. They mounted the tunnel escalators, still interminably long and windy, at the end of which the ticket inspectors guarding the entrance still nodded a deferential “jó egeszséget” (good health) to the elderly.

From the metro doors streamed forth the passengers, among whom emerged a little boy, polar bear clutched in one hand, his grandmother's mitten in the other.

“In the old days, this square used to be called Moszkva tér.”

The boy made this remark with extreme gravity, although he was no older than three, and his grandmother, like the grannies who had overheard him, was moved to a soft chuckle.

His words hung in the air like an air of Khachaturian...

The old name plates were crossed out in red before vanishing from one day to the next. But they cannot erase the past so easily. At the bar just above the metro entrance, there was still “Moszkva tér bisztro” printed on a London underground bull's eye; across the tram lines to the market, a “Moszkva tér ticket booth.”

Or can they?

Morning breaks over the bridges, streets and squares of Budapest as Ivan Sings. Köztársaság tér (Republic Square) has become II. János Pál Pápa tér (John Paul II Square); Lágymányosi híd (bridge) has been renamed Rákóczi híd. What was known as Roosevelt tér on the Danube is now Széchenyi István tér. The nameless square by Margit bridge is baptized Elvis Presley tér. And soon Szabadság tér (Freedom Square) will cease to be, as will the poetic Pablo Neruda utca and Lukács György utca in Óbuda.

And it was so that the reigning party committed what those they condemned had done before: uproot by force, remold the memory of the people.

Vörösmarty Christmas Fair

Vörösmarty tér«Vörösmarty tér», 2009

Les nuages oranges du couchant éclairent toute chose du charme de la nostalgie; même la guillotine.

In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine.

— Milan Kundera, L’insoutenable légèreté de l’être

The annual artisanal Christmas Fair on Vörösmarty square dismantled its chalets two days before the New Year. Passing by the stalls with merchants selling their last wares or folding them away, I felt with sudden intensity the year drawing to a close.

On days I cross the river to the Pest side, a tour of the fair is always obligatory, perhaps because time itself slows there, and because the handmade traditions delight me in a way no sleek Kindle or iPad ever could. At the risk of sounding kitsch, the souls of these handmade entities seem to mingle with the wide-eyed children and adults of the square, inhaling the smoke of grilled sausages and the cinnamon-coated kürtőskalács pastries of Transylvania. Just like the child who abandons the screen when he spies a black teddy bear laying in wait of his arms under the Christmas tree, we still long for these warm things we can touch and smell, things we can really care about.

Exquisite crimson embroideries from Kalotaszeg, sheepskin capes, felt vests adorned with cord and polished buttons, black and white postcards of ancestors carving musical instruments from wood or standing in front of a cauldron of goulash somewhere on the great Hungarian plains, wrapping paper with ink motifs of hot-air balloons hovering over Budapest, kaleidoscopes, hobby horses, leather purses stamped and gilded, like the ones carried by the horsemen of Hortobágy or some Byzantine lord, shadow theatre, fairytale marionettes, gothic mirrors framed in wood and painted birds and flowers in enamel, ceramic teacups graced with tiny foxes and hedgehogs, Halás lace….

The best of the chalets clustered around the statue of romantic poet Mihaly Vörösmarty betrayed nostalgia for an era before the dawn of mass production, while fighting vigorously for a place in the present world.

Dragon Princess

«Dragon Princess», 2011«Dragon Princess», 2011

“The clouds and waves parted as the river dragon spirited the maiden far far away.”

The tale comes from the illustrated manuscript of one 17th century Nara-ehon book from Japan. A maiden chosen by her village to be sacrificed to a wrathful dragon is miraculously saved by the same beast. The dragon is itself an enchanted creature waiting to be freed from a spell. A Japanese Beauty and the Beast?

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