by Noemi Szadeczky-Kardoss
Bus Number Eight shudders to a halt at its final stop at Gazdagrét and gives a big sigh.
“Pssssssssshhhhhh,” he says and opens his doors.
His passengers clamber down the steep stairs. One of them, an old lady carrying a large basket, heads for the grocery store across the street. Two young mothers with strollers and gurgling babies help each other get off the bus, then walk towards the park hiding among the eleven-storied apartment blocks.
It is the morning of a no particular weekday in the spring, and there are not many people whose destination is this building estate on the outskirts of Budapest. But the more passengers are waiting at the stop to get on Bus Number Eight. They all need to go to work or school at inner parts of Buda or in Pest.
A group of noisy students jump up the stairs, and Bus Number Eight tilts to his side. Many well-dressed women and men get on and gossip loudly about their colleagues and bosses. Soon, all the seats are taken, and those who arrive later, have to stand. A cell phone rings. Most passengers stop talking and check their phones. Then the bus driver comes back from his break. He sits in his seat behind the massive steering-wheel and starts the engine.
Bus Number Eight starts to tremble and sounds his bell to indicate that he is going to close his doors. A woman, already late from work, comes running and waving at the driver to wait for her. She takes another sip of her cigarette before she throws it under the bus’s tire. After the doors close behind her, Bus Number Eight pulls out and starts his journey through the hills of Buda.
Where Nature Still Rules
On the hill above Gazdagrét, large houses stand in green gardens. It is the twelfth district of the city of Budapest. For most of his time, Bus Number Eight works in this friendly neighborhood.
“What a beautiful day!” he thinks as he turns right to Gazdagréti Road. Ahead of him is Ördög-orom and to the left stands Rupp-hegy, two small hills where families go on picnics on the weekends. “It is getting really warm, and the almond trees will soon start to bloom!” Bus Number Eight loves running under the blooming trees. As he passes them, their little flowers swirl up in the air, then slowly fall down the sloping streets. It is snowing in the sunshine.
He stops at his first stop. Nobody wants to get off, but another girl with a heavy schoolbag is waiting for him. She gets on at the front door, and as soon as she spots her friends standing at the back, she elbows her way through the crowd to get to them. Bus Number Eight closes his doors again.
In the Middle of Action
Meanwhile, Bus Number Seven is standing at his stop at Blaha Lujza Square in the heart of Pest. He’s been standing there for five minutes, and he can’t close his doors because there are about ten passengers having one foot on his stairs and one foot still on the ground. They can’t get on because he is packed with people like a can with herrings.
He’s also been ringing his bell all this time, and he can’t stop it until he closes his doors. The sound of the bell is not very pleasant and everybody is starting to get impatient.
“Why don’t you wait for the next bus, Miss?” shouts a gentleman from the herring can, balancing on one leg and clutching his briefcase.
“Because I don’t have time!” the Miss from the door yells back. “Excuse me, but I really have to get on this bus,” she says, and with an unfeminine move she manages to push two other women behind her and get on.
Bus Number Seven has to agree with the Miss. “It’s easy to say ‘wait for the next bus’ once you’re on one,” he murmurs to himself. Finally, he closes his doors without leaving a few arms outside and continues to rattle along Rákóczi Road.
Both sides of the wide road are lined with tall, dirty buildings. Crowds are swarming on the pavements. Everything is gray and pale; only the gaudy advertisements bring some color in the scene. Bus Number Seven wonders if people are hurrying so much because they are late, or because they quickly want to get somewhere where the air is cleaner.
“I hate Wednesdays!” Bus Number Seven thinks as he is approaching his next stop. He already sees the large crowd of passengers waiting for him. They are craning their necks, and when they see him, they start pushing each other aside to be the first ones who can get on the bus.
The View from the Postcards
At the same time, Bus Number Eight runs down the hills and arrives at the buildings and hotels of the Congress Center. The old chestnut trees in the park greet him friendly, and he is happy to see them again. He says hi to Tram Number Fifty-Nine as their routes cross each other, and then he stops one more time before he arrives at his favorite part of his route.
“Good Morning, Gellért-hegy!” he says to the large, green rock that bears the Citadel and the Liberty Statue on her top. “You look pretty today!”
And Gellért-hegy draws herself up proudly as if to prove that she indeed deserves to be called a ‘mountain.’ The trees, the playgrounds, the benches, the lovers walking along the little paths, and even the Citadel on her top rise a little higher.
As Bus Number Eight runs down her side, the most beautiful view spreads out in front of his passengers. They see the Danube, meandering at the feet of Gellért-hegy, the bridges that span the old river, and the Royal Castle to the left, watching her own reflection in the slowly flowing water.
Many of the passengers are tourists. They live in one of the hotels of Buda and are on their way to the check out the sights in Pest. They look out the window, talking excitedly about where they will go first and what they will do. For the first time, the picture they have seen so many times on postcards and in guide books, is alive in front of them.
Bus Number Eight has seen this view a million times. He sees it at least fifteen times a day. But he loves seeing it again and again. After he drops his passengers off in Pest, he can’t wait to turn back to Buda and run up the green hills again.
Meanwhile, in Pest, Bus Number Seven is rolling along Kossuth Lajos Street. He is tired. He has come all the way from Bosnyák Square, from the fourteenth district, and has been through the morning rush hour in the downtown. He is relieved to see the Erzsébet Bridge.
As they pass each other in the middle of the large, white bridge, Bus Number Eight and Bus Number Seven quickly glance at each other.
“Why is Bus Number Eight always in a good mood?” Bus Number Seven wonders.
“Hm. I wonder why is Bus Number Seven always so cranky,” Bus Number Eight says to himself.
Then he turns right after the bridge and pulls up at his final stop at Március 15 Square.