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Budapest, Hungary Travel Guide

Updated Spring 2004

Budapest is a big beautiful city, changing very quickly right now in part because if the influx of foreign investment.  

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My Travel Story

Hungary was the first ex-communist country I've visited since Vietnam, and I was surprised and interested to see the differences in the way the old regime seemed to have impacted the culture and the people.  In both Vietnam and Hungary we felt it was hard to scratch the surface and really get to know the culture - that people were very closed off. 

Each place was different though - in Vietnam, people live their lives out in public, you can walk around and see everything out on view, but people are very cautious about talking to you and often have very strong ideas about your role (buying things) and theirs (selling things) that are difficult to get past.

In Hungary, we found that life was mostly behind closed doors.  Even in restaurants, we had a difficult time finding good, packed, local places.  As a result, we had a very difficult time getting a picture of modern Hungarian culture.  The contrast was that as soon as we scratched the surface with the people (who can sometimes come across as cold at first) they really opened up and were friendly, and willing to go the extra mile to help out.

Money and trade seem to be coming more quickly to Hungary than to the other ex-Communist countries we've visited - perhaps in part due to the proximity with western Europe and the fact that cultural and language barriers are easier to cross.  There's a ton of renovation going on right now - hotels, restaurants, apartments, shops and more.  The result (in part due to the fact that we looked like we could be locals) was that while there's a healthy tourist industry, it isn't necessarily the best or only way for locals to make money, and we were able to walk around easily without being disturbed by people wanting to sell us things.

Like almost everywhere else in the world, western (and mostly American) music was playing in most every taxi and shop.  We asked a few people about this, but they didn't really seem to even consider that they might be  listening to Hungarian music instead -  just that some people listened to American oldies and some people listened to newer music.

The real standout for us on this trip, though were the beautiful buildings.  Just walking around town was a treat.  We fell in love with the parliament building and the tiny but ornate opera house - don't miss either.

Questions and Answers

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