I’ve mentioned my friend Agnes here before. I’ve also mentioned the fact that, with the two of us, seemingly unconnected events or experiences always manage to somehow come together and become intertwined and coherent.
And so it was this time, when I visited her in Budapest.
The previous time I saw her, at the beginning of the summer, I stayed at her house in Budapest, like I did now. My trip then continued to Berlin, where I first stumbled upon the so-called Stolpersteine (literally – ‘stumbling stones’) – small bronze plates installed in the ground in front of buildings, which documented individual victims of National socialism who lived in those buildings before they were deported to concentration camps. Later, after doing some research, I found out that there were hundreds of these plates all over Germany and Europe, each engraved with the name of the person who had lived in the specific building, their date and place of birth, followed by the year and the place they were deported to and the year of their death.
During my last visit to Agnes, I must have come in and out of her house at least a dozen times, yet I simply did not notice the plate installed into the pavement right in front of her building’s entrance.
Or, rather, I noticed it, but didn’t think much of it. Perhaps because it was in Hungarian, or maybe because it was a single one, making it less conspicuous than the series I later saw in Berlin, I must have thought that it simply indicated when the building was built, or something to that extent.
This, it seems, is a classic case of the so-called Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. There is a rather detailed explanation of it here, but basically it describes the experience of happening upon some obscure piece of information and then encountering the same subject repeatedly, again and again. I’ve experienced this a few times – the strange feeling of becoming aware of something that then appears over and over in different settings, and wondering if it is a coincidence, or if it always there and I simply didn’t notice it because I wasn’t aware it existed. Funny that there is a name for this feeling too.
In the explanation, it says the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon is somewhat related to synchronicity, which is the experience of having a highly meaningful coincidence, which in turn has something to do with serendipity – the propensity for making fortunate discoveries while looking for something unrelated, which I am also quite prone to do.
And speaking of serendipity, remember the yellow cobblestones in the center of Sofia? Considered to be a symbol of Bulgaria’s capital, they were actually cast in Budapest and gifted to Tsar Ferdinand I from the Austro-Hungarian Empire on the occasion of his wedding. I only discovered this after Agnes and I took a picture of our feet standing on them in the spring, when she visited me in Sofia.
So, you can imagine my surprise when, as we drove through Buda, we came upon a small street covered in the exact same yellow cobblestones as the ones gracing Sofia’s center. Agnes indulged my freak-out and stopped so I could take a picture (which turned out to be a pretty horrible idea, as it then took a good part of 20-minutes and the help of a random dude to un-park the car). So, here they are again, the symbol of Sofia: there – polished and shiny, here – a little neglected and worn, covering an obscure street in Budapest.