Friday, January 18, 2013
By Theresa Hubbell
Though I’ve always been fascinated with Central and Eastern European history, I don’t know a lot about it. Well, besides the fact that many of the countries seem to disappear and reappear on the map from time to time (with no respect to cultural geography, of course), and many of them were once behind the Iron Curtain. I’ve only been in Hungary for exactly 8 hours, but I think I may like it even more than Vienna. Ironic, really, when the whole reason I wanted to come on this trip was to visit Austria (it is almost a rite of passage in my family), but true.
It was my first time riding a train today, and—like everything in Vienna—it was very modern (which was a little disappointing—I kind of wanted the Hogwarts Express experience to be perfectly honest). At first, when we crossed into Hungary we were crossing farmland, so naturally there wasn’t a lot of visual difference between the two countries. However, once homes started to crop up, it was easier to detect the more folkish—and, in my case, homey—feel to this place. Being from a very Polish hometown, I immediately identified with the bright pastel pink, purple, orange, and yellow houses. Thanks to my mother’s own personal style, my house is currently a pretty banana color, complete with green trim. So it was a homecoming, really, as if something inside me recognized a familiar spirit about this place. At the same time, once we got off the train in Budapest, it automatically felt foreign in a way that Austria never did to me. Despite the language barrier—because, let’s face it, my German doesn’t go that far—and the awe-inspiring architecture, Vienna is well settled into the 21st century. Budapest, however, looks like something out of the 19th. Not that it lacks culture, but rather it exudes it. As if the ambient world hasn’t been able to steal away its personality yet. Everything here is a little less shiny and polished, and it feels more lived in to me.