Thursday, November 30, 2006

Budapest, At Last

So it seems a bit strange to finally be getting around to writing about Budapest almost two weeks after having been there, but things have been busy and it is worth some attention.

So yes, Budapest is great. I have to say the architecture really impressed me. There are certainly some similarities with Vienna, but Vienna is much more about Art Nouveau and Baroque (Austria was run by a girl for a while and she built a lot of pretty pink things, its true and it shows) where Budapest is much more about Gothic Revival. I really like the Gothic Revival style. Okay, so we all know I have my imperial fantasies so it isn't really that surprising that I would like building in Gothic style but built on a much grander scale to show imperial grandeur, but I do, so there. If I were to build a city there would probably wall to wall impressive imposing buildings and not one supermarket, I'm practical like that, but I digress.

So the architecture was amazing and when I was walking around Saturday the weather was beautiful, but what really made my trip fantastic was the family I stayed with. They were just amazing. Now of course, staying with people from the country you are visiting is almost always nice because they can tell you how to do things, help you with the language, and give you the run down on things you should do, but I was just blown away by the musicality and multi-lingualism of the family I stayed with. Almost in the whole family from a 9th grade on up could express themselves fluently in English, German, and of course Hungarian. But even the younger kids could talk, they weren't just passively listening they were expressing opinions and not just nodding along (something I know I have done). The one exception was the great aunt who is in her nineties, she couldn't speak English (not exactly the easiest or most important thing in communist Hungary), but her Grandparents were from Vienna and she had always spoken German with them and her German was excellent. Then came the music. They would sing grace before and after the meal in Hungarian in beautiful harmony. When you were having a conversation someone would sit down and just start playing something fantastic on the piano, but would get upset if you stopped talking, it was meant to augment the conversation and I have to say that because of that the moments were all the more memorable. Even the great aunt when I was waiting for my friend to some over would play the piano when she felt things needed to be livened up. The things is, she couldn't read the music anymore and would just play the most amazing pieces from memory. It made a very big impression.

So once again I found I have written a big old block of text and wondering if anyone is still reading but I'll continue anyway, what really impressed me was the degree of culture, multiculturalism, and music from the days of Austria-Hungary that can still be seen in Central Europe. The family I stayed with was obviously a musical one, but in Europe at least traditionally the approach to music is different. You didn't just pick up an instrument in school, music and songs were passed within a family from generation to generation, imparted as a part of family heritage. That for me is something very Austro-Hungarian. It certainly wasn't the only place that valued music in that way, but it is something I associate with it, Vienna was, after all, the music capital of the world in its day. My Bulgarian voice teacher also cam from that sort of a family, but the only American families I have known like that have been Jewish, which would at least to seem to make sense as many American Jews have their roots in Austria-Hungary. What also struck me was the surprising diversity of Central Europe. If you look at statistics for Austria or Hungary they make the countries look very homogeneous, but once you start talking to people you find out about how they are half Croatian, Czech, Slovakia, or any of a number of a number of other nationalities but were forced by laws or circumstance to cover up that diversity in the years after World War I pretty much to the fall of communism. Food for thought.

To Review



Also, there was this poster for an electronic store:

I have no idea why they are all men and in really bad drag, but I liked this guy:

Who one of my friends pointed out is pretty much dressed like Freddie Mercury in this music video. Funny.


The Country Bumpkin said...

Wowzer! Sounds like you had a blast. Did you go alone? I want more Ian stories!

Barbarossa said...

I did go alone. It didn't realy bother me though since I was staying with people, so I still got plenty of people interaction. It was also interesting because there have been some big protests against the govt. there so I got the inside scoop (and got to see a smaller demonstration and how all the buildings were barricaded). Well Chosie, since you are my only comment leaver than I will be happy to oblige with some more stories.