(Note: This is a follow-up to my post Eastern Europe Trip (Spring 2017): Intro + Krakow.)
The next destination on our trip was Budapest. Krakow was a great experience overall, so our expectations were probably a tad high, so Budapest may not have impressed us as much as it otherwise might have. Still, we had a great time there.
First, let’s talk about culture and people. Again, coming from a Western background, it is refreshing to take a vacation in a homogenous (white) city. While Budapest, even in the fairly central areas, has a few shady corners, we certainly felt a lot safer than in the West. If you think I’m exaggerating, hang out at a place like Alexanderplatz or Kottbusser Tor in Berlin — those are very central locations that are nothing but ugly crime- and migrant-infested shitholes. So, a big plus of Budapest is its lack of diversity. There are a lot of Asian tourists around, but that was an added bonus as this means that I, with very rare exceptions, was only exposed to my two favorite races.
What struck me, though, was that Hungarian culture seems to be a bit noisy. You notice this when you take the (very modern) metro, where people talk rather loudly. People just didn’t seem very concerned whether their loud talking might bother others. In comparison, loud talking is something you only very rarely if at all encounter in Berlin or London, at least during rush hour. In the presence of cultural enrichers, noise normally follows. That being said, Hungarians are nowhere as loud as, for instance, an Arab gang on the metro in Berlin — and you don’t get that sinking feeling either.
Budapest is a rather loud city overall, too, by the way. It’s not so much the people, but the fact that a main road cuts right through the center, so you’ll be exposed to a lot of traffic noise. Once people drive Teslas, that won’t be an issue anymore, but for now traffic noise is quite a nuisance.
In terms of economic development, my perception was that Budapest has a long way to go. You very frequently see remnants of socialism, like substandard housing. That being said, change is happening. Further, as ugly as those buildings may be, they didn’t seem as run down as, for instance, comparable buildings in Berlin. On the plus side, there are a lot of genuinely beautiful buildings and places around as well. A particular highlight is the breathtaking Parliament Building:
…or the magnificent St. Stephen’s Basilica:
The latter is free to enter, and well-worth it. I recommend attending a concert as well as the acoustics are good. On a side note, there is also a synagogue in Budapest, but for that one you have to pay quite a bit of cover charge to enter; I think it was around 10 EUR. Well, jews gonna jew! According to what I’ve seen online, it’s not worth the visit.
Budapest is also a very clean place. Sorry for repeating myself, but Western cities are such abhorrent dumps that I can’t fail to notice it. Just look at the tiles in the next shot. It’s about as clean as in Tokyo!
What I particularly liked was that just by walking around you’ll come across quite a few rather interesting sights. Here’s a particular favorite of mine:
Now you may wonder what’s so interesting about that. Well, this is Satan, holding a lamp. Do you notice the hoofs and horns? Satan is Lucifer, the bringer of light (Lat. lux: light, fero: I bring). I find such details, and such references, great, and not just because I spent years studying Latin in high school.
What I furthermore found noteworthy was that you frequently encounter German. No, I certainly wouldn’t want to make the claim that many people are fluent, but you’ll often find information printed first in Hungarian, and then in German. One afternoon we went to a thermal bath — a particular treat — and there I saw this in the changing cabin:
That’s German. No, that information was not provided in English. Oh, if you’re ever in Budapest, go check out Király Bath. It’s a fantastic place to relax. The following is a picture from their homepage as you were not allowed to bring a phone or camera inside:
We thought it was not as easy to communicate with Hungarians than with Poles. You’ll certainly manage ordering food at a restaurant, but when you go to a local supermarket, it may happen that the cashier is either not able or not willing to speak English. However, it’s not the case that we ever had any issue, albeit I once had to resort to gestures in a department store.
If I could choose, I’d pick Budapest over Berlin any day. It’s a rather nice city already, and it’s only bound to improve. Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán is a hero of us conservatives, and for good reason. You clearly see that Hungary is a country that tries to maintain order, and it largely succeeds. They could clean up a few corners, but it’s already, by a wide margin, a more livable place than, say, Berlin, Stockholm, or London. Based on how I “felt”, I thought that Budapest compared rather favorably with Western cities. Just as with Poland, I’d say that Hungary clearly has a bright future. You know, just being able to walk outside without feeling disgusted has a profound effect on your well-being. You see very few beggars, and you’ll probably have to try really hard to find black drug dealers, or street gangs loitering around, while in the West the challenge is not to get asked whether you need anything from a long laundry list of drugs, or not to get robbed on the way home.
If Krakow gets two big thumbs up, Budapest gets one big thumb up. (The West gets at least a big thumb down across the board.) It’s a pretty nice place. Who knows, in ten years it may be an utterly fantastic place to live in. I certainly see a lot of potential, which is being realized.
The next post in this series will be on Prague.