Hungarian high-wire artist pulls off daring stunt over the Danube

Multi-award-winning high-wire artist László Simet Jr became the first person to cross Europe’s second-longest river, the Danube, by tightrope in Budapest on Saturday, as part of a project by Hungary’s National Circus Arts Centre.

The spectacle marked the grand opening of the 10th International Theatre Olympics on World Circus Day.

“It is a bit symbolic that we are passing on our cultural values, because what is the task of art in wartime, in the post-Covid-period, but to carry the values of our fathers and grandfathers to the other side, to pass them on to our children, to posterity. It is a team effort, a miracle in the making,” said Péter Fekete, director of Hungary’s National Circus Arts Center.

Simet had spent weeks preparing for the performance. And while the sun failed to make an appearance, the stunt star said he was relieved that the wind and rain held off too.

63-year-old circus artist Laszlo Simet hugs a relative after walking on a tightrope across the two banks of the river Danube in downtown Budapest on Saturday, April 15, 2023

“One of my main concerns was how much the wind would push the pole. The cameras fixed on it gave an extra surface area. The pole itself was light, but with the cameras, it ended up being quite heavy,” he revealed afterwards.

But Simet managed to hold his nerve on a rope measuring 300 meters long and just 22-millimetre-thick, without the insurance of a safety harness.

Hungary’s National Circus Arts Centre has stepped up efforts both nationally and internationally to promote the circus arts and integrate them into the wider performing arts.

The walk also commemorates the 150th anniversary of the unification of the independent cities of Pest, Buda, and Óbuda, into Budapest.

Simet has appeared in Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba and also played an important part in the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics closing ceremonies.

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