It’s the beginning of spring in Budapest, a rare day of sunshine after the gray winter dormancy of the last few weeks. 

I look out over the Danube and imagine the comparison dozens of poets must have made between here and the Parisian Seine. 

It’s true, the architecture has echoes of other European cities. A walk down these streets is a walk through the ages, a living history museum whose walls breathe and whose hallways thrum with the heartbeat of the past. 

But then there are the small revelations that whisper of a unique history, of the arguments over who came first, of the Hungary that has changed hands, names and faces. 

Today one can still see the Turkish minarets and colorfully patterned tile walls, tall and elegant amidst the more recent Soviet housing blocks. Locals mix with tourists in the historic thermal bathhouses to talk politics, gossip and flirt. 

The language bears no resemblance to the Latin and Germanic roots I’m used to. It holds its own rhythm that swells and falls like a light breeze on the Danube, and carries in the sounds a juvenile sweetness. 

It’s hard to believe I’m leaving this city. I’m just starting to remember the basic phrases that will get me a smile or a laugh at my accent and grammar mistakes. This city has a hold on me. I’ve postponed leaving twice already, but I guess the third time’s a charm. 

Budapest: new sights, feelings and food alongside familiar coffee shops, roads and faces; the blooms of romance and the warmth of friendships; healthy fears balanced by hands of kind strangers; and the mysterious shift from acquaintance to family. 

I remember when I was a kid, all the things I wanted and the grownup lives I imagined living, the way it never occurred to me to hope for happiness because I never imagined all the adult ways I could lose it. 

And now that I’ve grown some I stand in disbelief, that I could be so fortunate, that in the face of those adult concerns there could still be the rich, bone-deep joy of childhood.