Reflections on Budapest

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Ariel Esmailzadeh

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When cool air brushes in and the sunlight dims, I realize that I am not at home. It is six o’clock, and I am in Budapest, a city in a country I’d never imagined I would experience in the middle of my senior year of high school. While I consider myself well traveled among people my age, I have never been to Central Europe, until now. Born and raised in Los Angeles, with a diverse family history, I was taught to value travel, as understanding other cultures and ways of life is important when understanding people.

Buda And Pest

Prior to my journey, I decided to do a little bit of research and learned a lot about the history of what is now Budapest. What most people do not realize is that Budapest was not always one unified city. The two cities that now make up Hungary’s commercial center, Buda and Pest, were completely independent of each other. It was not until 1873 that the Austro-Hungarian empire merged the two distinguished cities.  

Separated by the Danube River, the areas that were once Buda and Pest still seem somewhat divided by the people who inhabit them. Citizens from Buda jokingly make remarks like: “People who live in Buda only go to Pest when they want to see Buda from the other side.” And people from Pest do the same. I believe these remarks, primarily made by the older generation,  originate from pre-unification days.

The People Not the Place

In almost every country I have been, I have agreed with one key principle: the people you meet and the experiences you have with those people is what truly make up your journey.

Budapest is an amazing city, and I only realized this halfway into my trip. As my schoolmates, Hungarian friends, and I made it to the top of the Buda Hills and stood by the famous Liberty Statue, I again remembered. While the view was extraordinary, overlooking the Danube River and the whole city, I understood that it was not where I was that made my experience a special one. It was the people who were up there with me, who had climbed the steep incline to tirelessly reach our destination.

Unfortunately, Budapest has a bad reputation. People often say that the general public is rude and unkind. But that is nothing close to the truth. In a landlocked country bordered by seven other nations, Hungarians, particularly those of an older generation who had seen the effect of Communism, are not the most friendly people. That much is true. But overall, most Budapestians and Hungarians, especially youth, in general are gentle, happy people.