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Monday, October 10, 2016

Budapest.

So this year we were able to go to Europe, and we wisely went to Leiden to visit long time friends and meet their sons, and wanting a second destination after that we chose Budapest. I have to tell you that it was an eye opener for me; I had no idea that it was such a target for invading armies, retakings, and so on. That was prior to the 20th Century. In the 20th Century it went from being a monarchy to being under Nazi control, then Soviet control, and then with the fall of the Soviet Union, a democracy. Hungary has only been a democracy for about 25 years; it's not a young country, but the mantle of democracy is new to it, and the people we spoke to seemed to approach their nation with a freshness, a less "taking for granted-ness," if you will.

We were only Budapest tourists, and I have to remind myself that the people we spoke to may not be representative of others at large. But I felt as if there was a pride in what their country has become, and that's worth applause, because they've been through a lot.

Other random observations:

  • You can generally get by in Budapest without knowing Hungarian. The people in the restaurants and shops seemed to know "trade English," that is, the English that relates to serving you or whatever. If you want to be friendly and broaden the topic to discuss the weather, you'll quickly find language barriers.
  • We were lost at one point in the outskirts, and when Ab began a question for directions with "Do you speak English?" the gentleman replied "Of course I do" and then gave us wrong directions. He needs to get out more and understand that 1, not everyone in Budapest does, 2, he doesn't have a tatoo on his forehead saying "Ask me English language questions," and 3, his directions aren't always accurate.
  • Streets in Budapest are occasionally laid out in a grid, but not always. They are more like London, and main thoroughfares are diagonal and curve. And their names change every eight blocks or so, and I don't know if this is in order to squeeze in honoring major statesmen, but it is confusing. You'll need an app to help you navigate, and a data plan too.
  • Navigational difficulties (if you don't have a data plan) are increased due to the fact that a given individual honored with a street name can be honored with all sorts of streets, lanes, plazas, terraces and so on after them. It is difficult to escape the feeling of "didn't we just pass that?"
  • The city was unnecesarily opaque to us. It was a couple days into our four-day stay that it occurred to me to look for a map app, and quickly found a very useful one which included maps of two of the three main transit maps (subway and tram, but not bus). We would have gotten more out of the city had we downloaded it at the start.
  • All things considered Budapest is a relatively inexpensive destination. But maybe that's how I feel as a New Yorker? That being said, we were told it was less expensive than destinations like Copenhagen (another contender for our second city after Leiden).

We had four days there, in addition to bookend travel days. They were unseasonably cold, with rain on two of the four days. But we still enjoyed ourselves, and took advantage of the diverse offerings: national museums, a House of Parliament tour, an evening cruise on the Danube with brilliantly lit buildings, Roman ruins, a historic cemetery, street meanderings, great food and pilanki. Aside from the weather it was fairly perfect, but hindered by our lack of a data plan and smart phone navigation. If you're planning Europe travel, consider Budapest as an add on.

Home | 9:51 PM (DISCLOSURE: I work for Abt SRBI. My company does polling. My opinions should not be construed as representing those of my employer.)


 
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