Hungarians love order. They like it when things that belong together are effectively together. Any doubts on this score will be successfully dispelled if you take a short stroll through the city’s large market hall (Nagycsarnok). In the stalls here, bunches of parsley roots lie neatly bunched together while strawberries are stacked together in uniform little heaps. And all edible animal produce, to nobody’s surprise, is tidily dismantled into its gastrological component parts. What leaps out of this mass of normality or ordinariness is the systematic method in which duck necks snuggle with duck necks; goose hearts thump against goose hearts; pork brains lie wobbling together looking like an intricately woven carpet pattern, and beef liver is on parade with other beef liver. Sausages are also arranged with military precision in rank and file – and quite in accordance with their formal shape – and to top it all the orderly Hungarian hand has even attempted the impossible with chicken-feet, which must have the most awkward shape of all.
No wonder the city of Budapest, with its rich legacy of Art Nouveau, is a city of ornamentation. Is the ornament a formula to bind things which do not truly belong together with formal brackets and thereby create a indefinable togetherness in the end – or is it, in brief, a formula that dangles chicken feet in rows and segments. The Hungarian language, too, is all about neatly arranging peas one after another, one next to another. Foreigners may sometimes get the impression that the language is like a tanker full of accents that has crashed into the Danube; actually, it’s nothing but an instrument that’s used to make all tones sound the same – this tonal alignment does nothing other than bring together different tones in order to ornament the language or simply pull one strip of tripe next to another.
Such an experience naturally cannot leave visitors to city feeling unmoved. When a guest walks through the streets of Budapest he soon begins to feel he is bogged down, even that he is quite accidental – so he automatically begins to bring order into his ways, and to behave in a geometrical fashion.
First Publication: 28-9-2011
Modifications: 14-2-2012, 20-6-2013