If you come to visit Budapest in spring or autumn during the clear out period, you may witness a quite surreal phenomenon. If you see piles of garbage unloaded in front of the houses on the street, you don’t need to worry: it only means that it is clear out period that takes place twice a year in every district.
Clear out means that at a given time, usually on a Friday or a Saturday, people can put the things they no longer need on the sidewalk in front of their house, junk of any size or material. At this time, a lot of garbage is gathered on the streets in no time, but they are loaded into garbage trucks at dawn and disappear as if they had not even been there.
So the inconvenience takes only for one day while the piles of junk are lying on the street. Since the junk is often placed on the sidewalk occupying quite a large area, it makes it difficult to walk and the piles need to be got around.
Clear out has many written and unwritten rules. I would like to share them with you so you won’t be surprised if something unexpected happens.
Theoretically, no one is allowed to touch the dumped waste until it gets carried away by garbage trucks. In practice, however, this is not the case. Some people make a living from clear out by searching for valuable loots and occupying streets, which means that what they take out of the trash is already their “property”.
In this case, they settle down next to a pile of garbage and pick out what they could sell. As strange as it may sound, a lot of high-value things are thrown away, e.g. paintings, custom furniture, etc. Dumpster divers select and put them aside, then wait for their companion to collect the acquisition in the evening.
If we like something from the garbage heap or the stacked values, we can’t just get it, we have to bargain with the guardian of the heap to give it to us. They usually give away the chosen bric-a-brac for some money. To tell the truth, I have already obtained several valuable items in this way.
Get around the piles of garbage carefully, but always have one eye on the pile to see if you can find something valuable for you.