Hungary - Ancient new world
Written by Megan
I am not exactly sure what I was expecting when I stepped off the train in the Pest side of the city but on a cold December morning I stepped headlong into a surprising assault on my naive senses. Hungary is the seat of my ancestors as my paternal line comes from the far reaches of Eastern Europe, including; Romania, Hungary and the once nation state Transylvania. I think I was expecting to feel some sort of kinship with the people from the get-go. The language had not been passed down from the previous generation so the language and culture had been lost to me.
The first thing that struck me was that the language was different so anything I had ever seen. Of course I had experienced Asian languages, which at first glance appear vastly different from English, but I had the good fortune of studying those during my formative school years and so they were not so foreign afterall. Hungarian, or Magyar, is completely unrelated to any of the romance or germanic languages, instead it springs from the Finno-ugric language base of which the only other modern day inclusion is Finnish. The two languages are so different in fact that they are thought to have developed entirely independent of the dominant languages we know today.
I recall being so overwhelmed by everything that one night for dinner I ate a package of processed meat and some other snacks that I vaguely recognized. It was also one of the first countries I traveled to that I could not drink the water. Before the days of google translate I had to fend for myself. I was particularly vexed when I accidentally purchased soda water instead of normal water, I spent the next 4 hours ruing my mistake.
All that aside it was the complete juxtaposition of the Buda side of the city that was confronting to me. The price of food and clothing seemed to meet and in some cases exceed the cost in my native Australia, I was astounded considering the country has a GDP of $14 thousand USD per person. There was an obvious disparity in wealth in some areas, which should hardly be surprising as the country was only liberated from the Soviet occupation in 1991. So for a large majority of Hungarians the effect is still within their living memory and will continue to affect the country still for some time.
From the stunning bastions to the hardly concealed brothels, Budapest surely was a feast for the eyes. My recommendations would be a good day or so exploring the Castle Hill area, crossing the Lion Bridge and heading over the Pest side to experience modern Budapest. Check out Parliament, one of the most impressive political buildings I have ever seen. Let yourself be swallowed in by one of the most occupied cities in Europe, and because of that it has influences from many countries predominantly because it was central to many trade routes.
Budapest was one of those cities I was over excited to visit and ended up having an experience that did not meet the expectations. It happens, even to the most prepared traveler, which, at the time, I was not. My problem was that I did not know where to start, and when that happens you can become easily overwhelmed. Upon my departure I vowed to return, armed with knowledge, and once again explore the catacombs and fascinating heritage of my family and the Magyar people.