Ah Budapest! Which, roughly translated, means city of rotten luck.
Listen. I’m going to try to explain this complicated city as best I can.
There was this bunch of restless barbarians from the steppes of Central Asia, see.
And they decided to follow a bird. Nobody knows why. Until the bird (legend has it) came to rest in the hills overlooking a river.
So these wandering barbarians put down roots there. Having no clue that their new home would subsequently be coveted by every tribe, empire, nation, regime and motorcycle gang that happened along.
Century after century one invader after another came along and said “Hey! This is a great place! I think I’ll take it.”
Soon the Christians happened by. Being pagans our barbarians nabbed a bishop and rolled him down a hill in a barrel. On the plus side, the bishop became a martyr and got a statue high up on a hill.
Later the Ottomans took over and turned the grandest Christian church in the city into a mosque.
One day there was a big explosion and a wall in the church-turned-mosque collapsed, exposing a hidden statue of the Madonna. This so creeped out the Ottomans that they fled the city. (Hey, I don’t make this stuff up).
Then the Hapsburgs muscled their way in.
I only bring all this ancient history up because our guide told us that Hungarians have become pretty much accustomed to being losers in their own country. And being cynics they adopted a saying:
“Blame it on the bird,” she said. The foul fowl that led the original Budapestians (that can’t be right) to this garden spot in the first place.
Then the Hungarians threw in with Hitler. There is a poignant exhibition of bronze shoes on the Danube, a tribute to all the Hungarian Jews who were executed there. Don’t blame that on the bird.
Hungary was liberated by the Soviets, which led to 40 years of communist occupation. In 1959 Budapest tried an ill-fated revolution. Hence this statue of Peter Mansfield, the youngest victim of the student-led uprising.
Eventually Hungary would lose two-thirds of its once impressive land mass. And the locals still speak an obscure dialect that almost nobody else in the world understands.
But I digress. The point is that today’s Budapest has evolved into one of the great cities in Europe. This despite having a “rough history,” as our guide put it.
It is a city of high art and low culture. And city founded in religious doctrine but whose people are more agnostic than they used to be.
A city of glitter and commerce.
And an easy city to get around in. They are so obsessed with statues in Budapest that they even erected one to the father of the Segway (who would later Segway himself off a cliff). Curse that bird!
A Mercedes made of Christmas lights. A really tiny car. A bicycle. Name three things you can find in Budapest.
I did mention that they’re pretty agnostic when it comes to matters of religion.
Aphrodite #1: Waddya wanna do today?
Aphrodite #2: Hey, let’s ride the glittering Ferris wheel right behind us!
I do not know the legend behind these Hungarian super heroes.
There is a statue on the Danube of a sitting poet who wrote a poem about sitting on the Danube. And they have a whole staircase inscribed with the names of Hungarian poets and their poems.
Ah Budapest! A great city of culture and taste..with a slight penchant for self-destruction.