Monday, July 4, 2011

In Defense of Budapest

So in my last post I mentioned how beat up this city is, and I still think this is true for the most part.  I am frequently reminded of something the war photographer and Budapest native Robert Capa said upon returning here after WW II.  He remarked that it was "like a beautiful woman who'd had all of her teeth knocked out."  Of course it was much worse then, with the city half in ruins, though it does still feel as though it is struggling to regain former glory.  This is hampered in part by the fact that the population of the city has dropped by about 15 percent since its peak in the 70's and 80's.  This helps explain why the rents are so affordable here.  There is plenty of empty space.  Just last night at a small party I met three different Americans who had all moved here because of the city's affordability.

But back to my original point.  After the party I took a nighttime bike ride around the city, cruising along the Danube and stopping to look at the view from my favorite spot, midway across the river on the Liberty Bridge, and while vast sections of the city may be run down, there is an indescribable beauty here as well.
Looking up at the castle hill, and the lights reflected on the water, it is easy to slip into a sense of peace and reverie.  A large section of the city center has also been refurbished since the last time I was here, with new streets and sidewalks and art installations.  The new metro line will be finished in a few years.  Granted it is already a decade behind schedule, but hey, they're trying!  The bottom line is, this city does have a place in my heart.  I wouldn't have come back otherwise.  The grittiness you find here is all just part of the charm.  (This photo borrowed from Hannes R on Flickr)


  1. It does look lovely, lit by what is the midnight sun at this time of year. I bet the beautiful woman gets her teeth back in the winter though, and bites down hard. Best you are seeing the best of Budapest in July, Kenneth.
    Have fun!

  2. It is an awfully nice place on a summer evening. Here it gets dark around 9 p.m. now, which is a big change from Finland where it hardly got dark at all! When I got to Budapest I actually saw stars at night for the first time in a month.