Budapest, Budapest is Still Nice!
by Dr. David Mandler
Having just returned from the city of my birth, Budapest, (yes, in Hungary), I want to reflect briefly on my experiences there.
Anyone who’s read some of my articles here can see that I’ve been consistently concerned about the direction Hungary has taken since the election of Victor Orban’s FIDESZ Party three years ago. I don’t need to rehearse all of the anti-humanitarian measures this government has taken in the name of humanity and “the nation.” The record is as clear as it is dire.
So, what kind of Budapest did I see on my very brief trip? Decidedly, the answer to that is simple: a very beautiful one! Despite my expectations, I saw no signs of the far-right (i.e. neo-Nazi) scourge that has plagued Hungarian public discourse for many years. Surely, that is not to say that the numerous members of the Jobbik Party and the banned Hungarian Guard with its various incarnations have disappeared. But if you are a tourist in Budapest, it is very likely that you’ll never see them in the streets at all while you are enjoying your time in the various hot entertainment spots scattered around in the center of Budapest. What you will see is an increased number of renovated houses and buildings (mostly financed by the very European Union the FIDESZ ruling party never misses to disparage).
I was astonished by the sheer number of young tourists having a wonderful time in various parts of Budapest. The neighborhood where the Jewish district used to be before World War II is now a tourist magnet with a plethora of restaurants, bars, and so-called ruins-pubs (romkocsma). My childhood best friend kindly took me to one of these fashionable ruins-pubs called “Fogashaz.” Inside the large tenement-style house (in ruins, as it ought to be), a very comfortable space with a well-appointed bar, an adequate (though mostly empty) dance floor with a trendy DJ, and a ping-pong table greeted us. Clearly, those who like nightlife will find what they seek in Budapest’s nightlife in like places as well as an almost endless variety of entertainment venues.
So, am I plugging tourism to Budapest now? Could that be considered a betrayal of the fight against those who have replaced Hungary’s democratic constitution with one that all but guarantees their political and economic dominance as far as the eye can see? I would hope not. My delight with Budapest can never replace my absolute loathing for those who would selfishly want to take everything away that makes Budapest great.
Despite the encouraging signs of life, most of my acquaintances in Budapest were uneasy about their own situation (be it economic, political or religious) in today’s Hungary. Some have talked about leaving Hungary while most want to stick it out. None discussed the possibility of active resistance, and I can understand why.
The patient is gravely sick but not hopelessly so. I sincerely wish that this extremely beautiful city remain vibrant for decades to come and that the rest of Hungary begin to appreciate what Budapest means.
Were that to happen, the restauration of Hungarian democracy would surely follow.
“The Loft” Publication Announcement:
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