Budapest, August 14, 2014

★★★ Dark, rippling clouds overspread the city. The trees tossed. Then rain streaked the balcony doors and the sun came out. People walked under umbrellas in the sunshine, casting umbrella-shadows on the wet pavement by the square. Then the sun and rain were gone again and it was chilly, surprisingly so. A sport jacket, pulled on at the last minute for appearance and in case of air conditioning, was an unseasonable necessity. In the middle of a panel discussion, inside a covered-over courtyard, rain lashed the roof so violently that faces peered upward at the sound. The noise moderated a bit and then surged back, again and again, like the first blast of a storm repeating. Water clattered down the galvanized drainpipes, now indoors and flanking the stage. It was a long time before it subsided. The chill was deeper than any European climate control; a couple of people wrapped their bodies in the blankets that had been left folded on the backs of the chairs. Outside, the rain was dripping. Walking in it was possible, looking warily at the sky, letting a scowl be one’s umbrella, affirming one’s basic consent to be rained on — this much, and no more, as if an admonitory look would warn off any escalation. Nevertheless it did escalate, gently, until the balconies stacked overhead began to provide noticeable islands of shelter. Finally it stopped again, and light from the west lavished attention on all the details that the builders had lavished their attention on. Bright things gleamed on the dark dome of the basilica. The illuminated city posed dramatically under the heavy gray sky, and then the darkness gave up and fell apart into silvery shreds on blue.