Warning: Extreme Sappiness Ahead

Tomorrow I leave Budapest and in 24 hours I’ll be physically back in the home country. My room is basically empty, my suitcase is basically at capacity, and my heart is basically overflowing with love for this city.

There’s a phrase I’ve see a lot on signs or rugs in tacky home goods shops. It goes something along the lines of “home is where the wifi connects.” Today as I wandered around I was slightly amused to see how many areas of the city my phone seemed to be at home in. It was a little technological memoir of my time here, and it was nice to know that I covered so much of this place in such a small amount of months (it’ll also be nice soon to not have to ask for the wifi password everywhere I go).

I don’t have words to sum up my experience here, so I’m going to tell you about the #2 tram instead. Why you ask? Because it’s the most fucking beautiful ride you will ever take. Not because the tram itself is beautiful (it’s actually an ugly yellow colour) but because the view across the Danube is absolutely breathtaking. If you google it I think it’s been ranked in the top ten best tram rides in the world, so there ya go.

I took this ride 2 times a week to get to my internship, which was at the very end of the line. I got pretty familiar with the trip but the view never failed to impress the hell out of me. I saw it on warm sunny days and cold foggy mornings and it was never any less spectacular. I didn’t take any pictures though, because I was too busy looking out the window so you’re gonna either have to take my word for it or come to Budapest yourself (I highly suggest the second option).

Over the course of these commutes I started compiling songs that evoked the feelings I felt while on this tram looking out at the beautiful scenery. Eventually it expanded to include how I felt walking around looking at the beautiful architecture too, and culminated in a playlist of #budapestfeels from the semester.

I’m listening to it now and I’ll probably listen to it every day while crying a little bit after I return to the states. I’ll also probably get sick of the songs soon but for now they very much sum up Budapest for me (and no, I didn’t include George Ezra).

Anyways, I thought I’d share it here as a last farewell to this extraordinary city.

Viszontlátásra, Magyarország ❤ ❤ ❤

spotify:user:dapersaud26:playlist:6UoMIx4Dl0ZkfY7RXKlgnm

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1956 And All That

My last post (waaaaaaay back when) about life here was pretty baseline, but now I’m coming to the end of my stay (t-minus two weeks and crying).  Obviously I can’t say I’ve truly inhabited Budapest since living in a dorm with lots of Americans obviously gives me a buffer to real real Hungary. However, I can say that I definitely have more insight on how this country works and what it’s like to be here.

I honestly knew nothing about this place when I stepped off the plane, so it’s been interesting to see how Hungary’s history fits in to all the general western Europe stuff I learned back in AP Euro (the names of all the Hungarian famous people are hard to pronounce, so it was almost a relief when we got up to Maria Theresa in my history class).

Most of Hungary’s history is about getting invaded or taken over because they’re in a prime geographical location for that. They were constantly fighting off the Turks or under the rule of the Habsburgs. Then World War I rolled around and they lost 2/3 of their territory (Transylvania) because they got punished in the Treaty of Trianon. Then, after World War II they became a satellite state of the Soviet Union.

Over the years the Hungarian people have tried to overthrow their oppressors. One of the most notable dates of this was October 23, 1956 when they attempted to overthrow communism. It failed miserably.

It was a hugely defining moment in Hungary’s history, and as a result pops up everywhere. In my literature class we’ve read many stories that either allude to or are explicitly about the revolution. If you walk around the city you will find memorials in a fair amount of places commemorating the fighting and the lives lost.

For my internship I’ve read a lot of first-hand accounts of people witnessing the revolution, and it’s incredibly strange to read about the role of streets and squares that I now frequent on a regular basis. These stories give these areas a completely different meaning that’s not noticeable unless you’ve read or learned about the revolution.

For example, I pass Kossuth Lajos Tér on the tram every Tuesday going to my internship. This square contains the Parliament building, where everyone gathered in ’56 to sing protest songs from the 1868 revolution. Standing in it now it is hard to notice anything else but the beauty of the Parliament building.

You end up paying little attention to the actual square that at one point contained thousands of protestors trying to remove communism from their country. (If you look closely around the square you can even see the filled-in bullet holes still present from “Bloody Thursday” – the fateful day where Soviet troops and Hungarian secret police fired into the crowd killing many).

As of a couple days ago this square now houses a cute Christmas tree and a nativity scene.

Another example is Corvin Negyed or Corvin Quarter, which has a large mall and a movie theatre at the centre. It was the site of one of the bloodies battles during the revolution in which people almost entirely under the age of 20 fought against Soviet tanks. There’s now a monument there to the kids who took up arms and died for their country, but apart from that it’s a pretty hip area with some good shops.

Basically, life goes on.

It’s also extremely interesting to see how the culture of Hungary has been so defined by communism. At first glance it’s quite a normal place, but it’s only been free from communism for 26 years. That’s virtually no time in the grand scheme of things.

Most grandparents of Hungarians my age were the around the same age in 1956, and can recount stories of where they were and what happened to them. Most parents of Hungarians my age were around the same age in 1989, and can recount stories of the regime change and how their lives were before and after. Hungarians my age have grown up hearing about communism and its lasting effects, but now it’s relatively second-hand knowledge.

This country has been through a lot but it’s persevered, and isn’t doing too horribly nowadays. Obviously there’s a lot to be improved but it’s working on it!

Now, I started writing this post a while back and then got caught up in life things so I never ended up posting it when I meant to. However, I still feel the need to connect all this to what’s been going on in the US and the world recently, so here goes:

The ’56 revolution is known as a valiant struggle agains the oppressive communist regime. People rose up and died fighting for an almost tangible cause. I think the issue that is happening in the present day is that we are forgetting history, so we aren’t getting as angry when things start to repeat themselves.

So many people want to ignore or just simply haven’t experienced the “oppressive regime” that is racial injustice, so it’s not a big deal and shouldn’t be focused on.

Many people just claim that the death threats towards black students on Yik Yak or Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims is simply free speech so they have every right to support and continue to engage in these hurtful actions. They’re dumb.

Hungary isn’t the most diverse country, but there are still prejudices held against the Roma people and sometimes even Jews (and most recently a little bit against the migrants). Regardless, it was easy for Hungarians to start a revolution because they were all experiencing the same oppression of communism.

Unfortunately for many people of colour (e.g. black students, Muslims, Syrian refugees, etc), their concerns are being waved away by old white people who still run a lot of the world. Their oppression is being swept under the carpet with little thought or, in some cases, purposefully intensified (seriously wtf Trump).

Honestly, that’s pretty scary to me.

The ’56 revolution was spurred on by students posting “16 points” which was a list of demands of the people, all around Budapest. Some of the first-hand accounts of the revolution were by people my age, so if they (and even children) could literally fight the Soviets for freedom, I think our generation can handle a little bit of speaking out and putting our own power to good use.

I’m not saying let’s start a revolution (cue Beatles lyrics), I’m just saying we as a generation need to start paying more attention to our world so that we can find creative solutions to these issues that somehow keep cropping up.

Anyways, that’s the end of my rant.

Stay tuned for some probably very sappy posts in the future about me having to leave this gorgeous city 😥 😥

 

 

 

Keeping Up With the Hungarians

I’m here, I’m alive, and so far so good. This place is really cool, and not at all what I had expected. Even though I don’t actually think I had any expectations. It’s really interesting because the streets are squeaky clean and beautiful, but the buildings range between very decrepit and very new. The signs on some shops are kind of beat up and scruffy, and they kind of remind me of overcrowded signs on stores in India, but less crowded.

The city is beautiful in both the day and the night, but I have to say the night gives it a certain quality that is indescribable. A lot of the buildings get lit up from below so you can see all the cool shadows created in the enclaves of the buildings. The Parliament at night is one of the coolest things I’ve seen. Not necessarily because it’s gorgeous as shit, but because the lights attract dozens of birds that end up circling around above, lit up from beneath. From far away they look like small paper birds being sent up from the roof of the building. Check out photos on Facebook re: birds, even though I couldn’t fully capture the beauty of it.

I had my first Hungarian class a couple days ago and I kind of like the language. I didn’t understand the pronunciation method at first but once you sit down and someone shows you, it’s more intuitive than you would think. I can now say that I am an american student (amerikai diák vagyok) but I think my favourite word so far is probably pingvin (guess what that means). Also fun fact the inventor of the Rubik’s cube, Rubik Ernő, is Hungarian and he’s still around and teaches at a university here. I still can’t solve those little buggers though.

As for the nightlife, this city has some of the coolest bars I’ve been to. I don’t know a whole lot of Budapest’s history yet, but I do know it’s been burnt down/destroyed way too many times. Because of this there are at least a couple ruin bars where bars have been built among ruined buildings. They’re sort of outdoors and have strange decor and furniture and vibe is absolutely fantastic.

Basically, this city is awesome and I’m so glad I’m here for a while so I can keep exploring. Obviously I’m going to travel other places in Europe, but having this place be my home base is probably the best idea I’ve ever had.

Classes start on Monday so stay tuned for some history and art lessons in the near future!

Also if you’re feeling particularly generous, feel free to mail me stuff! My address is:

Dharani Persaud
Corvinus University of Budapest
ISP – CIEE Study Center
Room 140
Fővám tér 8
1093 Budapest
Hungary

And send me your address if you want a postcard or something. I haven’t figured out post offices or stamps here yet but it’s on my to-do list.

Until next time!