So why Budapest?
Where I am from in Canada, most people haven’t been to Hungary, and usually they get the capital city wrong by saying Bucharest and not Budapest.
They may have tried ‘Gulyas’, usually misspelled as Goulash, and most think it is a stew served over pasta, mixing up Hungarian ‘Paprikas’ with our country’s most adored soup served in bread bowls, which is often cooked in a ‘Bogrács’; a cauldron to cook over an open fire. It is a soup not a stew.
I would tell people proudly that my parents are Hungarian, and some would ask me,
- Are you a communist?
- Do you ride horses by standing on their backs?
- Did your family know or are they related to Ferenc Puskás the famous and best soccer player of all time?
To be clear
- No, I’m not a communist. The only party I have ever officially endorsed was the Green party, being that I strongly believe in saving our planet! Although I have voted for Conservative, NDP and Liberal candidates in the past. I prefer voting for people, not parties.
- I love riding horses but by the usual method, sitting on a saddle. Not as interesting but hey ho!
- Sadly no, there is no relation to Ferenc Puskás although everyone admires him in Hungary so don’t slag him to a Hungarian whatever you do! Which explains how terrible I am at soccer!
I am first generation Canadian who spoke a mixed dialect of English and Hungarian growing up, Englarian or Hunglish until Mother learned to speak English. And no, my mother is also not a communist to my knowledge, nor were my grandparents who escaped communism in 1956. I guess their escaping was the key there.
The propaganda spread about communists back in the day were that the refugees and immigrants from the Eastern Block were spies working for the KGB and not to be trusted.
I was just imagining my very straight father as an undercover James Bond style agent with a gun, and a fast car, all debonair, with all the gadgets like a poison pen.
But no, my family is of the ordinary working variety…
Harmless enough Dad was a baker for Canada Safeway until he retired and my mother is working for a Costco doing food demonstrations.
Although as an agent those might be the best disguises. Changing out of their floured whites in the phone both like superman and sending information about Safeway management back to Hungary.
Sorry still laughing at my tangent…
They are average Canadian converts, who speak English, remarried Canadians and assimilated nicely.
To me growing up Hungarian in Canada was always about food. Home cooked meals my parents would make or bake; those delicate pastries and delicious nutty cakes, served after rich saucy meat dishes covering nokedli with pickled cabbage on the side.
My double kiss culture translated to family revolving around gluttony, and at some point someone would break out in song; usually after a few shots of palinka.
Those were the days my friends, I thought they would never end! My childhood was about cousins, camping, and cooking.
I have never lived in my Grandparent’s Hungary, those heartbreaking war years and the ‘when I was young people never did that kind of thing‘ stories that brought tears to their eyes.
When we visited Europe throughout my life we gave gifts like Santa Claus, and everyone waited upon our arrival.
My uncle showed me the museums and artifacts left over from the war. He shared our history telling me how important it is to never forget where we came from. I listened to every word and respected Hungarians and understood why they are the way they are.
There were trips to all the local hot spots; Lake Balaton, the City Park, the countryside, the best cities…. until communist Russia finally released their hold on my people, there was a suppression and silence and fear among the Magyars. No one dared to speak out against the government as they knew too well what the Russians were capable of doing, as they saw terrible things first hand.
Now, things have changed.
Nearly three decades later, change has been slow, at least to my western eyes.
Mafia took charge for a while, but good changes have more recently occurred since joining the EU.
The economy is booming, construction is everywhere, and the tourists are arriving by the bus, plane and boat full! 300% increase in tourism in the last 2 years alone, making Budapest the hot spot of Europe to visit! It is where the cool people go.
Also, Budapest has seen the biggest increase in the housing market in all of Europe in 2016!
Some Hungarian stereotypes are harder to shake.
Remember Hungary went from Nazi rule to Communist rule, right from the frying pan into the 60 year fire…
They traded one horrible situation for another. A few hard breaks, and the residual effect is a sceptical and untrusting nature from the older generations. Sadly they are almost all gone and with them hopefully some of the stereotypes as well.
What is left are multi-lingual young folks who don’t even remember being born into communism. They don’t remember the lines to get sugar and meat… oh wait that only happen during the war. Hungary remained the most modern and western of the communist block countries. Our fellow imprisoned neighbours used to come to vacation on our 100 km long Lake Balaton to eat meat, drink palinka and buy cigarettes. They loved Hungary.
Hungary was somehow luckier than the rest.
Since 1989 I have watched Hungary enough to live here.
It took a while to have someone not completely corrupt run the country again. Directly after the fall of the iron curtain, the ex-communists in government put on different hats and sold it as democracy, but their politics really hadn’t changed.
Today we have Orban, which to me has one thing on his mind; keeping Hungary from being absorbed by Europe, by Arab culture, by Gypsies…etc
He wants Hungary to remain Hungarian. Xenophobic? Perhaps.
I think of it like this.
It is easy to call a nation Xenophobic when you have 528,700,000 people of all sorts of cultures in a melting pot of multiculturalism in the Americas.
Hungary is made up of mostly Christians. They speak their own phonetic and scientifically accurate (if not complicated) language. Recently it was proven to be the oldest language still in existence. At 10,000,000 the likelihood of losing their culture, language and traditions are actually at risk.
Survival for Hungarians is an important issue.
I find it very arrogant when people say,
Why don’t Hungarians just speak English and make it easier on themselves?, which believe it or not has been said to me.
I find nothing more ignorant than supporting the death of a language, especially being a language teacher!
Our languages are tied to our history and the evolution of our people.
The most often asked question of us, pretty much on a daily basis…
Why would anyone move to Budapest when they can live anywhere in the world?
I guess it is like most things.
The background noise of one’s life that after a while you cannot hear. When the people cannot see the beauty, and they think the grass is greener somewhere else. I can assure you the grass is mostly just different…
Those beautiful mountains I lived between my entire life in Canada that just became the mountains that I stopped gasping over.
Southern France became such a thing. After 5 years the fabric of our life was the same as anywhere else, and the backdrop was something you hardly even noticed anymore.
I love the mountains in B.C. and I can see them in my mind’s eye as if I were standing there right now, and the same goes for the Canal du Midi, the endless vineyards and the Mediterranean Sea in southern France.
At the end of the day it matters not where you live but how and with who.
My home is not a place.
It is the space between us, a little circle of four that I love with all my heart. In the middle are the comforts and the support we need, our home and the feeling that goes along with family.
So why Budapest? Why not?
It is as stunning as both my other countries.
Hungary has many activities.
Hungarians are interesting people. Super intelligent, logical, proud, loving and strong. And boy can they cook!
I love driving up my street in winter and witnessing the elderly salting the walkways for pedestrians. The same people in spring clean up the garbage and keeping their little sidewalks neat and tidy. Autumn they clear the falling leaves. So civilized. And every morning they have purpose and are keeping themselves busy.
Everyone says good day as you as you pass by, and hello when you enter a store. People seem open, and giving, and ready to experience new things and yes new people like ourselves.
I watch families in their gardens planting and laughing as I walk by. The same families take long walks in the evenings rain or shine. It seem the little things are important here in Hungary, the moments with family.
There is a supportive community on our street too. If we have a question or problem they are always eager to help. They even lent us a lawnmower this week so our weeds would not take over the garden! (We happen to be going on vacation with five families who live on our this very street! I will be posting Easter Monday)
Everyone seems well dressed, even first thing in the morning just to step out for their morning paper or a fresh loaf of bread; they wear their nicest clothes at all times. It is so refreshing to see people take such good care of themselves.
Their cars are washed inside and out; the lineups for the automatic wash is busy every day of the week. They seem to take good care of their things.
Their homes are always spotless. I thought this was just a family trait. I used to visit my aunt in Langley and you could see the vacuum tracks on her carpet at all times. I never saw a speck of dust during my entire childhood. You could eat off our floors. It was a thing to be proud of.
Here if you pop in unexpectedly, you won’t find chaos behind closed doors. It seems the standard and not the exception to the rule.
And of course the views from our windows are nothing short of stunning. Just like the sea I used to walk along each morning in Kits, I find something new and interesting in the formation of the clouds hanging over the mountain range. Rain, shine, snow, sleet or wind, the weather is exciting as change is to me. In the evening the lights go on and I imagine other people looking towards us happy to see the views of our mountain.
Fishing and eating the fish fresh out of the rivers and streams is something I had never done before moving to Hungary.
The greenery reminds me of Germany with a million shades of green; my favourite is the first almost baby green of Spring.
I didn’t even know how much I missed the changing seasons until I lived here. After all how can you appreciate a season without living through it.
The smell of the rain on the fresh earth brings me straight back to my childhood living in Duncan on Vancouver Island. Everything is washed clean away with the rain and ready for a new day.
The flowers I plant in my garden have already doubled in size! Their giant blooms hang heavy on the stem, as they quickly fight to survive knowing the weather may or may not last. This year we have had summer like conditions reaching highs of 28° in March and April!
The people are about as resilient as those blooms; deep rooted searching for sustenance, and as beautiful and complicated as all humans are.
Hungary is many things to me but nothing like I imagined.
I am having more of a culture shock living here than in France.
Probably because the things I thought I knew about Hungary for sure, are simply not true and when I moved to France I had no expectations therefore no disappointment.
We lost the connection to my first cousins with the loss of my grandmother. I guess Santa Claus wasn’t needed anymore…
But quickly they have been replaced with new family connections grown stronger in the last 6 years; my second cousins, Alfonz cousins and childhood friends. I am so very grateful for them. Beyond words.
I have met some very open minded teachers from my workplace. I can see some good friendships developing.
My grandparents Hungary never actually existed since they left in 1956. That ideal simpler life that I thought I would find.
No matter where we go, we seem to connect to the same kinds of people; happy, healthy, good, loving… I’d like to think the law of attraction is at work.
I will keep my Polly Anna views of the world, and then just maybe they will become reality.
‘We are more alike my friends, than unalike.’ Maya Angelou
Perhaps this time I will plan for a long haul, or not.
You can never tell with us!