Budapest, Hungary is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Above is just one tiny example of the amount of architectural beauty that abounds. Everywhere one looks, down hundreds of streets, towers, facades, statues, etc. can be appreciated. And all of the buildings are massive. It felt a bit like Washington DC in the fact that there are so many areas with landmark buildings and squares. I can see why most of the city is an UNESCO World Heritage site. I can’t believe all of the buildings survived WWII and the communist era.
The international school is also spectacular. It is set about 7 miles out of the city amidst orchards and villages. The K-12 campus is huge and it looks like a university campus. If I was working at the school, it would be nice to live in the village near the school.
Now the bad side – The over 3 million inhabitants of the Budapest metro area and more than 20 million tourists make the city feel crowded. Every where we went, from the cinema, to the grocery store, to the zoo, was packed with people. We felt it and it must increase the stress level of everyone. It will be something to consider when we make our next move to another international school. Many international schools are located in large cities and this will be a consideration. Belgrade is a nicer size. We also saw many more homeless people in the streets. I am not sure where they are in Belgrade, but you just don’t see them. Only the occasional gypsy, but they usually have a home. We also noticed that the street people were drinking publicly, bottles full of a yellow alcohol.
Our first hotel choice was hilarious. Nadia picked it over the internet and it looked like a nice family apartment. When we got there, it was in the middle of the red light district. They did not accept credit cards – only cash and I had to go to an ATM. While walking to the ATM, a prostitute said hello to me. Nice, with the family in the car 10 meters away. We called the owner and got out of our obligation and found a nice suite hotel in a better part of the city.
The Hungarians were much nicer this time than when we went in Christmas of last year. They make a big point of helping tourists and I had locals explain the IKEA parking lot ticket machines, people apologize for rude salespeople, etc. I imagine tourism brings a lot of money to the city. We saw tour buses and groups everywhere!
The country is much more developed than Serbia. The standard of living and cost of living are both much higher. This is good and bad, especially for expats living in the country. In talking with the international school’s principal, childcare and domestic help would be too expensive there.
The Hungarians look central European and Slavic, but their language and ethnic background is distinct from their neighbors. The language is very complex, with most words having over 10 letters and lots of symbols above the vowels. it is related to Finnish, but distantly related and the Finns don’t understand it. There are around 10 million Hungarians and the country is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world. With the architecture, wine industry, thermal baths, history, I can see why.
This was our second trip to the city. Our first I blogged here. There is still more to explore and we will definitely return.