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10.09.05: Hungary Thoughts

One of the more difficult things to capture in writing is the essence of a city and a place. It’s easy to itemize the places I’ve been (Over Chain Bridge, up funicular, all over Castle Hill, down and then up to Liberation Memorial, around citadel, Parliament), but difficult to tell you what makes Budapest different from Prague or London.

Multiple times in the past I’ve complained about “Generica,” the problem where all of America is looking alike with the same stores, the same houses, and the same sameness wherever you go. The fact is that Europe is having a Generope problem to some extent. Granted Ireland and the United Kingdom have an intertwined history, so it’s not that surprising to see Marks & Spencer’s Department Store in both countries, but the United Kingdom and Hungary? That’s a bit more of a stretch-but there is a Marks & Spencer’s near where I am staying. I’ve also spotted Rossmans (German Drug Store chain) and DM (German Drug Store Chain). Comforting signs advertising not just T-Mobile, but T-Com and T-Online make me think that I’m in the heart of industrialized Germany.

At the end of World War II, Hungary and other eastern European countries were left to the Soviet Union-and the consequences of this abject betrayal by the Western Countries (The United Kingdom, France, and the United States of America) was devastating.

And yet helpful.

Communism was a mixed bag-although people suffered greatly, the fact that Communist governments were poor meant that there was little money available to destroy the pre-existing buildings. Had Western developers been able to get their hands on the hearts of these beautiful cities, they probably would have torn down all the older buildings and build new shopping centers. Consequently communist governance was helpful because it helped protect interesting architecture-although the buildings themselves were neglected and are falling apart (a problem consistently found throughout eastern bloc countries).

As Mateo and I waited to enter parliament, Mateo noted that the EU flag looks remarkably similar to that of Indiana-and the flag hangs in front of Parliament with the same stature of the Red, White, and Green Hungarian flag.

Personally I wonder if the EU flag flies from the same pole that the Soviet flag used to fly from.

It wasn’t that long ago that the Soviet flag used to hang over Hungary, constantly reminding people of who was dominating the country, unwelcomed and unwanted. The communist red, which brought with it unwanted rules and regulations has been replaced by the EU blue, and corresponding rules and regulations that are required. Of course the EU flag is a wanted symbol-it’s a symbol of liberation, freedom, and opportunity, where the communist flag was not.

One of the more remarkable stories that you see in the eastern bloc nations is the consistent story of struggling for freedom. Hungary’s uprising and revolution in 1956 is matched by the Czechoslovakian uprising in the 1960s, the rise of Solidarity in Poland in the 1980s, and other similar forms of resistance in the east. Memory of the 1956 uprising clearly had to be repressed during communist times-25,000 dead; 20,000 arrested; 2,000 executed. Today the 1956 uprising is memorialized and honored.

The old memorials that once honored the “winners” have been relegated, along with all the other old “Soviet Heroic Memorials” to a statue park, climbed on by tourists and otherwise disrespected.

Random Thoughts: While visiting the Castle District, I saw some people with “Canada” tags on their backpacks. “Canadians, or Americans pretending to be Canadians,” I mused out loud to Mateo. Canadians they were, from Calgary-I know because they asked me to take their photo. I’ve been to my first heavy “cruising” bar-complete with a “wet room,” cages, and slings. And yes, I saw a sling being used. Hungarian Men are attractive in general, and many Americans stick out like sore thumbs-Abercrombie and Fitch t-shirts are meaningless here.

2 comments to 10.09.05: Hungary Thoughts

  • Jerry Faust

    Why would Americans pretend to be Canadians? If they like Canada enough, they can always move here. 🙂

  • mateo

    I asked Adam the same thing while I was there, but after thinking about it for a moment, I could think of several reasons to pretend to be *anything* other than an “American”.

    Hey Adam! Just wanted to let you know I am safely back in the US and recovering from having such a fabulous time with you! Can’t wait to get my pictures developed!!!