While I would always prefer that putting out sub-par blog postings and procrastinating on improving the design of It’s My TV….It’s My Peanut Butter was my real job…it’s not. But occasionally the real world comes with benefits beyond the paycheck that keeps me fed, clothed and connected to the net. The current benefit? I’ve been sent to Budapest on business.
So far, it’s fabulous. I mean, aside from the part where I have to work. Other than that, this is an amazing city. I’ve only had time to explore a very small fraction of it, and sadly, work scheduling looks like I won’t get to see much more.
I’m in the city center area, on the Danube (which I find neither beautiful nor blue…it’s muddy green-brown), Pest side between the Elizabeth and Chain bridges (which I would type in their proper Hungarian names, but the butchering would be too much). This means I’m getting a lot of the tourist-y stuff. In a way this is disappointing. I’d like to be immersed in Hungarian culture….but on the street I hear as much German and British-accented-English as anything.
There are definitely Hungarians here and there, down the side streets I wandered off on this afternoon. You can spot them easily if you know what to look for. I’m sad to say that Eastern Europe maintains a standard of dress that I can’t help but mock, at least a little. The women favor the highly unnatural hair color with a good 2 inches of dark roots and seem to cling to the 1980s fashions (although, that’s oddly not far from current fashion in some ways, so they’re doing okay there). The guys, well, despite Hungarian pride, the guys all seem to dress in track-suit type apparel with slicked hair (or close cropped) and gold chains around their necks, kind of like you’d picture an Italian-American low-level mobster from New Jersey to dress. Nothing to be proud of.
But, they’ve all been really polite. Quite reserved, but I guess that’s because I keep getting them in the service context, and I’m sure the whole language thing is intimidating. I did come upon one girl who was really friendly in a tiny little stationary shop on a side street. The place was like a closet and was selling nice journals, pens and paper. I was the only one in there (no one else would have fit–if I held my arms out to the sides, I could easily touch both walls at once) and at first she started chatting with me in Hungarian. She was the first one I felt comfortable asking questions. If I had more time, I’d try to find the place again just to get her to tell me about the city (and also to pick up another journal–I bought one while I was there as my souvenir for myself).
My European experience pretty much consists of this trip, but I can’t help but think it’s slightly cooler than Paris, London, Berlin…..Sure, you see the crumbling facades poorly maintained, and the scars of ugly, communist-era blocky buildings. There are weeds in the cracks of the side walk and graffiti on things that should be pristine, but that almost adds something to it all. A little umph to the place, if you will. Even under the neglect, it’s hard not to appreciate the fantastic architecture that graces the front of almost every building you pass. In the absence of time for museums, I’ve managed to build my own self-tour, recalling as much information as possible.
Here’s hoping I get the chance to post from here on another trip when I have more than a handful of hours to see what this place has to offer. In the meantime, I’ll have to be content to see what I can of this beautiful city.