Postcard from Budapest

BudapestHi, I’m back. My girlfriend and myself got back from Budapest a few days ago. It was great! Beautiful city, kind people, excellent weather, nice beers. I excepted more from the food, but it was ok.

Since I bought a new camera just one day before going on this vacation, I took 300 pictures, way too At nightmany for 5-6 days. I uploaded “only” 137 of them, and they are all available here.

Budapest is a well traveled city, and there are enough guidebooks and websites to detail every possible tourist attraction. Most of our vacation was following the beaten track, so I won’t write too Street Lightsmuch about the scores of monuments, palaces and churches. I’ll focus on more personal experiences and impressions.

Communist era mentality seems to be gone. People are kind and open. Freedom of speech and vitality are seen, like in veteran democracies. Budapest is flooded with cafes, bars, restaurants and German Danubespeaking tourists. The streets are clean and tidy. Also outside Budapest, in Szentendre and Esztergom (which is on the Slovak border), everything looks fine. I haven’t spotted the gloomy and suspicious faces that I’ve seen occasionally in Prague 6 years ago. 

Despite removing almost all the communist monuments, there still is anger over those days. During the political riots Small protests near the parliamentthat were there a few weeks, ago, the protesters attacked the Russian monument representing the independence from the pro-Nazi regime. A sign also compared the monument with a hypothetic monument for Nazi soldiers in Jerusalem.

The “Terror Museum” shows the crimes of Nazi’s and the Soviets side by side. Situated in a building that was used by the Terrorpro-Nazi Arrowcross party, and later on by the secret police of the communist regime, it has a huge tank in the entrance. The museum didn’t succeed in shocking us. Maybe it was the lack of English translations. Maybe after being to Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem (and I’ve also been to Aushwitz), nothing could really shock us. Tortures of hundreds of political opponents? Exile in Siberian Gulags? The Jews, including some distant family members of mine, had a much worse fate.

Jewish templeNowadays, the Jews are back in business. The big synagogue was completely renovated. Built like a church from the inside and a mosque from the outside, it attracts many tourists. The Jewish quarter doesn’t inhabit too many Jews, but it’s shabby buildings have become the residents of the cool Hungarian youngsters. The best places to party and have a beer are there.

Speaking of beer, I had a lot. I wanted to feel like a local (good excuse?) and it’s so cheap and so good! In a bar, I found draught beer as low Beeras $1.25. This was sometimes accompanied by live music which I was happy to discover in so many places. We once went to an enjoyable performance of a Polish Jazz group called Musika Therapia, held on an Ukranian ship on the Danube.

I had high expectations about the fabulous CoffeeHungarian food, and I was quite disappointed. It was no more than ok, and it wasn’t spicy at all. Maybe compared to Polish, Czech and German food it was spicy, but quite dull in comparison with Israeli food, or food from the far east. Some of the dishes reminded me of dishes at family gatherings when I was a child. My taste has developed since then. At least they have surprisingly good coffee.

Well, I guess that’ll be it. All in all it was very fun.