As the sun rises above Budapest, hundreds of people spread out their yoga mats on a bridge over the Danube, at the start of a day when the river crossing turns into a unique venue for concerts, dance and picnics
On four weekends this summer, Budapest’s 19th century Liberty Bridge is closed to traffic, becoming a free urban space for Hungarians and tourists to drink wine, relax in hammocks, and enjoy the balmy summer breeze over the river.
“There is a very special flow and dynamics here,” said Zita Demeter, a yoga teacher who taught one of the morning classes.
“People can connect to the flow of the Danube, the atmosphere of Budapest … and the bridge as a symbol is also present in yoga as it helps to connect.”
After locals took over the closed bridge for days during a temporary construction work in the summer of 2016, a civil organization convinced the Budapest municipality to close it to traffic for a few days again last year.
This proved so popular with tourists and locals that the bridge festival has become a regular event.
“We thought let’s make a public space where nothing costs money,” said Benjamin Peter, the project’s coordinator. “Everybody can bring their own (food and drink) and they can share if they want.”
A few steps down the bridge, a small group set up their barbecue, grilling sausages.
“You see that there are so many people from Hungary and from around the world … they are all enjoying themselves, drinking something, chilling, so this is why it’s a good place: a melting pot in the middle of the city,” said Peter Toth, 29, an accountant who came with his friends.
Later in the day, the bridge is transformed again, as a concert of swing music takes over, prompting several couples to dance, while others sit on the pillars, drinking wine and chatting.
“This is unique that we are on Liberty Bridge: we have this freedom that emanates from the Danube,” said Katalin Rakosi, 40, a financial advisor, who came with her mother as a birthday treat.
(Reporting by Krisztina Fenyo, Writing by Krisztina Than, Editing by Robin Pomeroy)
Keep reading (more images ahead) …