One of my favorite things about living in Budapest is wandering through the narrow old streets. They always seem to be full of surprises. Sometimes these unexpected treats are pleasant, and sometimes they’re, well, not so nice.
We were heading to a bar late Friday night, and I started to notice that the sidewalks were dirty. At a big intersection, there was giant pile of garbage and some homeless people digging through it. As gross as that is, there isn’t really anything unusual about it. I wouldn’t say Budapest has more street people than any other big city, but there are plenty of them to go around.
Then, I noticed how clean these guys looked. Their clothes weren’t worn, they looked like they’d showered recently, and they didn’t have that crazy look in their eyes that homeless people always seem to have. As I looked closer, I realized that they were dressed just like me.
Wait a second, are these just normal people that decided to dig through a pile of garbage at midnight on Friday? It seemed like a strange hobby, but then baseball looks kind of weird until you actually play it. We just kept walking, and I tried to push it out of my head.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t just forget it. I had to dodge at least one giant pile of garbage on each block, but there were usually more. Some of the streets – especially the smaller ones – were completely covered. They looked like the buildings had exploded and their contents had toppled onto the sidewalk.
I asked my friend about it, and she told me that this happens once a year. It seems that the garbage men will collect anything and everything on this night, so it’s the perfect time to do a little cleaning and get rid of some unwanted stuff.
For everyone else, it’s a good time to do a little shopping. Who knows what you might find? It mostly looked like trash to me, so I wasn’t interested. The only things that could’ve been worthwhile (that I saw) were some pieces of furniture. If you want an old chair or some cool crates, then the price is right.
It seems some people hope to find antiques or other valuable items. I assume it’s rare that you would find anything too expensive because those treasures aren’t usually tossed on the sidewalk. A discovery like that would probably take a lot of luck.
Friday night was the perfect time for this event, though. There were plenty of people wandering the streets, and they had various types of alcoholic beverages flowing through them. When you mix these two things, you get to see some funny people dressing up in trash. I even saw two guys relaxing in chairs with a beer – on top of a giant pile of junk.
Hungarian word of the day:
Pronounced “Sem (like “Stem” without the T) – Ate”. This is the word for “garbage”. I guess some people would have called it treasure – or at least toilet – but not me.