Buda...Pest and the Romani Situation

Trip Start Jun 08, 2008
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Trip End Jul 09, 2008


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Flag of Hungary  ,
Sunday, July 6, 2008

Before leaving Pecs I promised the hostel owners that I'd return in the two years when Pecs would be designated the European Culture Capital of 2010.  I walked towards the train station with a feeling of sadness; for I knew that the next stop in Budapest would be my last city on my sojourn through Central Europe.  Though the train to Budapest was a sauna that must have been over 100F inside, I came to the realization that compared to our previous public transportation fiascos this was probably the best train ride we have had yet.
 
Upon arrival in the Budapest Keleti train stations we decided to walk down Rakoczi Utca all the way down to our hotel, a walk that seemed much shorter on our map.  When we finally got to our hotel, we set out to do some nighttime exploring and stumbled upon a music festival taking place on the Chain Bridge.  It seemed that no matter where Johnny and I went in Europe, two things followed us... public transportation problems and music festivals.  Both brought there own unique charm to our trip.  After listening to a couple of local bands and gorging myself on Hungarian sausage and potatoes we decided to call it an early night for tomorrow we would explore the entirety of Budapest.
 
When I woke up and looked out of our window I could clearly see this enormous statue of a woman located at the top of hill on the Buda side of the river; it seemed as if this woman was watching over all the people of Budapest.  It didn't seem that far on a map and looked like it would be interesting enough, so Johnny and I set off on a hike towards The Citadel.  Yet again I failed to read the map correctly, and didn't realize that to get to The Citadel one had to hike up the enormous hill that was in fact quite far away.  We decided to take a few short cuts through the forest rather than follow the properly paved paths, yet another mistake that nearly ended in a few broken bones when I slipped on mud and tumbled face first down the hill. 
 
But when we finally emerged through the forest and dirt and came out right in front of The Citadel we were overtaken by the breathtaking view of Budapest visible from the top of the hill.  It was absolutely beautiful; we could see the river snaking through the city bisecting it into two, with the parliament building perched right on the water.  This is where we witnessed the world's best tour guide explaining to his tour group the intricate relationship between Buda and Pest and how they make up the city of Budapest.  There he was standing atop a stone wall with his back towards the city; he extended his right hand and said "Buda..." and then extended his left hand and said "Pest..."  Best tour guide ever!
 
After roaming about the Citadel for awhile we decided to head back down the hill towards Buda Castle.  We got a little lost but managed to get down the hill and then back up another to enter Buda Castle, where we once again were offered a beautiful view of the city.  It seemed that no matter where we went during the day, we somehow managed to end up in a place that offered us a panoramic picture perfect view of the city.
 
As I previously mentioned, the Romani and Hungarian populations of Pecs managed to forge a close relationship based on mutual respect.  However, the situation in Budapest is extremely different.  Whereas in Pecs the gypsies excelled in the field of music and have managed to create a lifestyle based off of that, the gypsies of Budapest have continued to rely on begging as a way of life. 
 
As we were walking back to our hotel after spending the day exploring the Buda side of Budapest we came to an intersection where a Roma family was sitting on the curb.  A little Roma girl stood up and walked towards a car window to beg for change, but when the driver refused to give her money she walked towards the front of the car and lied down in front of it, effectively stopping it in its tracks.  After beeping his horn for a few minutes and some angry gesturing he threw some change at her, after which she jumped up and hurriedly ran towards her family.  I find the story behind the Roma people remarkable and adore their music, and thus try to avoid discriminating against them and try and understand their lifestyle.  On one hand I understand their fear of becoming permanently settled and integrated, but at the same time they sometimes bring the discrimination onto themselves by the acts I just saw. 
 
I just hope that one day, the problem that the Romani face in Europe will somehow be resolved and they will be able to become productive members of society while also being able to hold onto their unique culture, language, and heritage.  Unfortunately this is just wishful thinking...
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