Posted by: Alex MacGregor | June 13, 2015

Modern Pest

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Once you’ve got the eye-candy attractions of Buda under your belt, it’s time to venture across the Danube to the far more urban and bustling city of Pest.

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One of the first things you notice about Pest is how relaxed it is, compared with other European cities. Its atmosphere is at times beach-like!

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Pest is where you can find the city’s bustling pedestrian promenades.

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And if by any chance you’ve had your fill of medieval architecture, Pest offers an array of styles and a level of a grandeur to match almost any city on earth!

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I’m pleased to report that, culturally, Budapest has pretty much joined the ranks of Western European cities at this point.

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In fact, this food truck festival felt eerily similar to one in Atlanta! Except we normally lack the fabulous bluntness of a “Meat & Sauce Sandwich”. Although that’s normally exactly what I want in a sandwich.

But even though Hungary now feels like it has joined the ranks of forward-thinking, Western European countries, signs of its troubled past abound.

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This monument, for instance, commemorates the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Nowadays a footnote in most Cold War studies, the Revolution, which failed to pry the country free of the Soviet Union’s influence, underscores how Hungary was never a an ideal satellite to the USSR. In the Revolution, the people rose up against the USSR, culminating in the country formally withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact, causing the Prime Minister to be put to death.

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Images of communist Hungary are adorably related through the Miniversium. This scale model shows a children’s summer camp, where they were indoctrinated from a young age.

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It also depicts one of the early breaks in the Iron Curtain, as the Soviet Union’s power was beginning to wane.

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This is but a side-theme of the Miniverse, which is largely a startlingly accurate scale model of several European cities, and model railroader’s dream!

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Resistance to both fascism and communism is now part of Hungary’s identity. This museum, for instance, commemorates Budapest’s suffering under both forms of government.

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Budapest’s large Jewish population was devastated by the Holocaust, similar to what occurred in many other European cities; however, in Budapest the process happened later. The closing-off of the Jewish Ghetto and forcible deportation of the Jewish population did not occur until late 1944, well after cities like Warsaw and Prague, and those across Germany, had their Jewish populations obliterated.

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Because the Soviet forces liberated Budapest’s Jews well before they were completely deported, the community is still a strong force in Budapest today. Most notably in Budapest’s synagogue, which is the largest in Europe.

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How much victimhood Hungary should feel over the Nazi era is the subject of some debate, apparently. Although the Terror Museum and the government depict the Nazi era as a period of control by outsiders, this monument symbolizing Nazi Germany’s dominance over Hungary has sparked a backlash. The protests point out that Hungary was among the earliest countries to adopt discriminatory policies towards its Jewish population, and the reason a significant Jewish population remains is because Hungary voluntarily followed along with the Axis powers, and thus avoided the horror associated with a Nazi invasion and direct control until very late in the war.

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But the city’s tragic history is getting less and less apparent over time–hidden by a relaxed culture, gorgeous parks and architecture, and a cosmopolitan sentiment. Modern Budapest is firmly focused on the future.

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Responses

  1. […] were all that remained of a statue of Stalin that was torn down in the 1956 Revolution, as previously discussed, and once stood in the location of the current, modern monument. They remain a symbol of national […]

  2. […] aggressively for money several times, and the city certainly has a reputation for pickpockets. Budapest isn’t perfect, but it’s far more easygoing in this […]


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