Budapest And Its People

Of all the places I’ve traveled to in Europe, Hungary has left the biggest impression on me. I could use this post to tell you about the grand St. Stephen’s basilica in Budapest, the enchanting Chain Bridge, the relaxing baths, but you can find all that on any tourist website.

Instead, I want to tell you about the people in Budapest.

While France, Italy, and Spain receive much praise from tourists, Central European countries are often overlooked. I’m ashamed to admit I knew little of Hungary before my visit. I didn’t even know where Hungarians came from.

“Mongolia”, the owner of the hostel where I was staying educated me on my second day in the city; he quickly became my first friend there. Born on horses, Hungarians are traditionally known to be relentless and skilled fighters who mastered infamous archery techniques on horseback.

“My country used to be much bigger,” my friend mourned one night over dinner, not knowing that he was echoing the exact words my tour guide had said earlier that day. Hungarians can recount their country’s history with passion and  precision, including the powerful days of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and the dark periods of the Nazi and Soviet occupations.

At first glance, Hungarians appear to be closed and very private individuals; their stern faces seem to show the suppression of the previous Soviet rule. Although the last Soviet soldier left about two decades ago, the country is still recovering from the whiplash of the Communist government. Walking around the Pest area, across the water from the Buda castle, I saw numerous beautiful apartments up for sale; their  neo-Renaissance  facades damaged from years of  abandonment. The country has had a difficult past; its present shows both signs of uncertainty and recovery.

Having learned about the history of Hungary from locals, I was particularly sensitive to life in Budapest during my sightseeing. Museums were time capsules of pain and suffering; churches became memorials of monarchy and tradition. I’m very thankful to have befriended locals here, for no other accounts of Hungarian history would have been quite as intimate as the ones I received. I also learned that while Hungarians seem reserved on the outside, if you are lucky enough to form a friendship with any of them, they will open their homes and hearts to you with smiles bright enough to warm a cold Hungarian winter day.

Budapest and its people

Budapest and its people

Budapest and its people

Budapest and its people

Budapest and its people

Budapest and its people

Budapest and its people

Budapest and its people

Budapest and its people

Budapest and its people

On my second day there, it snowed in Budapest, which I thought was very fitting weather since I wanted to see how locals saw Hungary.

Budapest and its people

Locals lined up outside the Mayor’s office on Monday morning to meet Tarlós István, the current city mayor.

Budapest and its people

An entertainer and his eagle, by the Buda castle.

Budapest and its people

People leaving St. Stephen’s Basilica

Budapest and its people

Inside St. Stephen’s Basilica

Budapest and its people

Watching a baker make Hungarian pastries. He invited me inside and let me watch while he explained how the bread was made.

Budapest and its people

Budapest and its people

Inside the Jewish synagogue.

Budapest and its people

People enjoying their evening in an outdoor sauna at the Széchenyi Bath.

Budapest and its people

Budapest sights, lit up at night.

Budapest and its people

Budapest and its people

I’ll leave you with this photo of the Chain Bridge at night. Have you ever been to Budapest? If so, I’d love to know what you thought about the city. And if not, I hope this post peaks your interest in visiting Hungary.

This article originally appeared on Just-In-Time Travels. Get in touch with the author @tracyzhangphoto.

One Comment

  • This is a great piece. I’m from Istanbul & there are many similarities between the two [Budapest & Istanbul] along w/ our ancient Mongolian roots. My great-grandfather was of partial Hungarian descent even & was very, very fond of Budapest. He studied there, too; Civil Engineering @ the Politeknikum. He even gave my great uncle an Hungarian name @ birth, Arpat. I feel some affinity to the city & I hope I can visit one day. Lovely writing, too!