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Proud Hungary – Perfect Budapest

Budapest is a weird place. So weird that it is impossible not to fall in love with it. I have always thought that cities or countries are like people. Their location determines their look and their culture forms their personality. Some countries are beautiful but boring, some others are not that attractive, yet super interesting. Some are gorgeous but weird. The last one is the particular case of Budapest.

When I first arrived in the city, I came for an adventure. I crammed my life into a suitcase and came to an unknown place. I had heard about Budapest before and I had seen pictures of it, but I had never really felt the desire to even visit it as a tourist. This time, however, I found myself moving to Hungary with a bag filled with wanderlust and another one with fear.

Budapest, Hungary at night with river Danube, Chain bridge, St. Steven´s Basilica

For somebody who used to live in Western Europe, it was a big shock to arrive in Hungary. The metro that takes you from the airport to the city instantly transports you to the socialist era. As a Latino you expect the whole of Europe to be spotless. Perfect. Budapest was far from it.

I stayed in the 8th district for the first week and on my way to the apartment people stared at me with disgust and some others harassed me for cigarettes. As soon as I was safe, I took off my shoes and started making plans to leave. Then I took a deep breath and decided to give it a chance.

I was lucky that week. My host’s flatmate had other guests that wanted to see the city. I freshened up and left the house with them. I don’t really like being a tourist. It always reminds me of loud and tacky people. Instead I prefer to move from country to country and really get to know a place. Unfortunately, it is inevitable to be a tourist when it is your first time in a new city.

Budapest Castle at Sunset, Hungary

After walking a few blocks, I realized that my first impression was wrong and I reminded myself that I shouldn’t be so judgmental. We took a free walking tour and I did not take any pictures. I wanted to see everything with my own eyes. The architecture was mesmerizing and the history was overwhelming. I did not want to miss a word of the tourist guide either. His accent was heavy and new for my ears, so I had to pay a lot of attention.

We returned to the apartment at night. I was exhausted; I had not slept for almost a day and a half and walked the streets of a new city. I had sore feet and my stomach hurt, but I was ready to spend the first of many nights in Budapest.

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY – 25 JUNE 2014: Szechenyi thermal baths in Budapest. The Szechenyi Bath is the largest medicinal bath in Europe

The following weeks I learned my way around the city and got to meet new friends. They were mostly foreigners and they all seemed to have agreed on something: they all had a warning for me.

“Do not trust Hungarians”, “Hungarians are rude”, “If you are a foreigner they will hate you”, “If you don’t speak Hungarian they’ll discriminate you”.

Maybe I was lucky or maybe they were wrong, but my experience was completely different. Some people were joking about it saying that it was because of my positive attitude and my constant smiling. Some others thought that I was naive and I didn’t realize that I was mistreated, but the truth is that they misjudged Hungarians as well. It is always difficult to adapt to new cultures and the Hungarian one is especially hard to understand.

Years have passed since then and I still remember how I felt on my first day here. That excitement and fear is still alive and the beauty of the city still takes my breath away.

Depending on how long you stay, you will see Budapest differently. After almost three years, I still don’t dare to say that I understand or know the city. It gives me a different feeling every day. Some days I want to leave, some days I want to spend the rest of my life here. The only thing I know for certain is that I wouldn’t change a thing in it. Budapest is perfect for me now.

Author: Orlando Hurtado

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