Tinker Tailor


In May of 2013 my wife was finishing her artist residency in Slovakia and we decided to take a short trip to Budapest.

The train from Košice left very early in the morning, so when we arrived in Budapest we were groggy and disoriented.

I should preface this by saying that as a diplobrat I grew up all over Asia. But aside from visiting relatives in Stockholm I had never been east of Berlin. Over the 3 months my wife spent in Slovakia (with me visiting periodically) we became pretty comfortable. On every corner there was a DM, the organics-inclined German drugstore. Swedish grocery stores. Austrian DIY stores. Košice is a company town, and the company is U.S. Steel. I still remember eating at the only Indian restaurant in the city and sitting near two women speaking loudly with thick Southern drawls. Košice was comfortable because there were so many fragments of familiarity.

But when we arrived in Budapest it was completely unfamiliar. The language was totally foreign. We arrived on trash amnesty day and there were mountains of garbage on the street. Many piles had people presiding over old TVs and records, looking to make deals with anyone making eye contact.

After walking to our hotel from the train station we decided to wander around a bit.

One immediate irritation about the city was the number of tour groups, tour buses, people trying to get you to go somewhere or look at something. But to orient ourselves we decided to tail one group from a distance.

The group headed towards a building with “Parisi Udvar” written on the outside, the entrance cloaked in intricate metal chain. We waited until the group cleared out and went in. The building was empty and it was spectacular. But it struck me as a place I’d visited before.

In the 80s I lived in China and family back in the US would send us videotapes of TV programs, mainly mysteries and spy dramas. So I enjoyed the original BBC Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. And when the movie came out a few years back I enjoyed that too.

It finally came to me as we we were walking back to the hotel; the opening to the Tinker Tailor film was shot in this all-but-abandoned building.

The building was stunning regardless of its part in the film, but being in a completely foreign place and able to draw a line all the way back to my childhood made the experience all the more exhilarating.

Image: Aktron / Wikimedia Commons



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