A few years ago, I came across a diary I had written when I was 16. The certainty of my writing left no room for discussion. I had obviously given a lot of thought to what I wanted from life and, in that innocence peculiar to 16-year-olds who have never been given reason to question why life wouldn’t deliver exactly what was expected, I was sure it would all go to plan.
I was reminded of all of this when I took this photo of my ‘sitting room’.
When I first started imagining how the flat would look – during that rather anxious period of time when I’d signed the papers, paid the money and was about to start renovating – I had envisioned my dining table in this corner. I had it wired for wall lights so that when dining, I could just light that part of the room, creating a more intimate atmosphere. And then, of course, the table turned out to be so gorgeous that I just couldn’t hide it in the corner. So this became the ‘sitting room’.
I searched for a long time for the sofa and armchair. I wanted it to look old but not be old (sitting on horsehair never appealed to me, particularly when the provenance of the horsehair was in doubt). I wanted it to look stylish but not modern. And I wanted it to be green. My mother’s eagle eye spotted these in Domus (a relatively upscale furniture emporium in Budapest). I ordered them in November and they arrived in late January (Hungary has its own internal time clock).
So much of Budapest is ‘happened upon’. I found this Chobi rug while walking down Rákóczi út, which separates the 7th and 8th districts (Budapest has 23 districts in total) between Astoria and Keleti (the Eastern) railway station. In 1906, it was named after Ferenc (Francis) II Rákóczi, who led the Hungarian uprising against the Habsburgs from 1703 to 1711. He had the rather cumbersome title of ‘The Prince of the Estates Confederated for Liberty of the Kingdom of Hungary’ (so, what does your fellah do for a living? Well, he’s the prince of the…..) and he was also Prince of Transylvania. The uprising didn’t go to plan and the poor chap was exiled. He spent the remainder of his life in Turkey. Back in 1906, when his remains were brought back to Hungary, the funeral marched along this street. Today, you can see remnants of its former splendour with some truly amazing buildings. Some, like the Volksbank building, have been beautifully restored. (If you ever get a chance to see the conference room in No. 7, have a look – it’s fantastic.)