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.
Artists perform on Liberty Bridge in Budapest, Hungary, July 22
“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.