Until researching for my trip to Hungary, I did not know that until 1873 Budapest had been two separate cities, Buda and Pest, existing across from each other on either side of the River Danube.
The architecture is beautiful. The food is delicious. The many natural thermal spas are fabulous. The culture is fascinating.
While walking through this city, you get the sense, that even though it is 25 years since communism fell, it is still maturing into a democratic society . There is a tinge of hesitation in the air; as if the people are still discovering that they have choices and are still learning how to make those choices for themselves.
One thing that there is no hesitation of is the remembrance of those who resisted, fought and were persecuted by the regimes that ruled so harshly over this beautiful city. There is the House of Terror on Andrássy út. There is the The Great Synagogue and adjacent museum on Dohány út. There is the Shoes on the Danube memorial.
And since July 2014 there is the monument erected in Szabadsàgtèr Park to commemorate “all the victims” of the German occupation. There was so much opposition to this monument that it was erected in secret during the night. The controversy is that it absolves the Hungarian state itself of their own role in sending 450,000 Jews to their deaths. To protest this monument the people have erected a “Living Memorial” in front of it which has remained there for two years. It is maintained by individuals who go every day and gently sweep up dust, replace/re-position the images and objects that are part of the “Living Memorial”. My friend and I stumbled upon this while looking for a different monument and were moved to tears while reading the stories, looking at the photos and seeing the care being taken of it.
Yes, Budapest is still a “young” democratic society, but the fact that the people created this public manifestation of their opposition and that it still exists today shows that democracy has grown roots and there is no turning back.
I look forward to hearing the future tales that Budapest will have to tell as a generation growing up without communism continues to flourish.