Sunday, September 4, 2011

Reopening for business

Well, as most of you know (since most of you told me to restart doing this when I arrived), I am now in Budapest. And rather than go through the whole creation of blog process, I figured the best option would be to simply re-utilize the existing system we had going. Of course, the Adam Ant song lyric based title is no longer applicable. I could theoretically use a song lyric from "Budapest" by Poni Hoax; however, that song is sort of creepy. Somehow I don't think people would want to read a blog called "What is soaking is now croaking in Budapest." Though "Street cars tearing up the skies" out of context is a little poetic and not so disorienting.

Youtube, as always, an effective resource if French electronic with odd Budapest references intrigues you.

Lyrical digressions aside, this will be my first long term foray abroad since Freiburg. I've attended a couple conferences in the interim, so I have made brief returns to Prague and Bratislava and visited Vienna for the first time, but I didn't find it to be a cohesive enough experience to coherently write about at the time. Maybe I'll devise some thread for incorporation into a larger, retroactive thematic element in the future, but either way, this is a new chapter. And though I've only been here a few days, Budapest is already proving to be a completely different animal than Germany was.

The differences from the United States are predictable and perhaps a bit banal. They are what you would expect. That said, the differences from Germany are a lot more interesting and suggestive of the diversity of Europe. After all, the distance between Budapest and Freiburg is roughly similar to those between Tulsa and Minneapolis.

Language and food aside (again, those differences aren't surprising), in my first 30 hours, Budapest has thrown a few curveballs at me. The most interesting to me has been wardrobe: shorts and flipflops appear to be perfectly prevalent attire. The long-stated French/Italian/Spanish aversion to them appears to not be in effect here. More than anything, it makes me immediately regret packing decisions. The idea of fanatical disgust at the idea of shorts is one long-enduring European stereotype in the minds of Americans, and it had been reinforced in my own mind after spending 95┬║ days in Florence, Madrid, and Paris surrounded by locals wearing dark jeans. Don't get me wrong: I'm thrilled if this is a socially acceptable wardrobe choice (as long as the weather is appropriately summery, presumably), but it was certainly an unexpected development.

The most positive difference from Germany has been more of a conception of a service culture. I landed in Budapest late on Saturday, which in Germany would have meant I couldn't go to a store with any measure of success until Monday morning. Here, grocery stores and malls are open on Sundays, allowing me to accomplish errands I was afraid I would have to leave until my lunch break tomorrow.

I live in Budapest proper, though I live in the Xth district. Budapest X is the biggest district in Budapest and is outside the center of the city (though another layer of districts is still beyond Budapest X). I have not quite figured out the subdistricts of the area yet, but live past the end of the Metro line by three bus stops. I've spent minimal time going into the city thus far (There are two malls in the Xth and school is downtown so I'll be spending more than enough time there to not rush in until I get my student passes for travel), but I have walked to where the Metro station is several times. Needless to say, the walk is rather different than I was used to in Germany. On the occasions I walked to the IES villa instead of taking the stra├čenbahn in Freiburg, I walked past old buildings, an occasional vineyard, and the Dreisam. here, I walk past communist apartment blocks, decaying light industrial facilities, and car dealerships. At least urban planners can take solace in the fact that major apartment blocks are indeed concentrated around the end of the metro line to maximize ridership.

German walk to school
Hungarian walk to school

Another major shift is in the student facilities. The student housing in Freiburg certainly had its sets of rules and regulations as much of German official society does. But underneath all of that, Vauban retained a bit of its anarchic spirit: not so much in check-out procedures and room inspections, but at least in terms of self-expression. Rooms were extraordinarily nonstandard within the same complex (and building at times), they were decorated differently, and you never really got the sense of significant oversight. CEU's student housing doesn't have the flexibility or even pretend to encourage personalization of any sort. We are forbidden from putting anything on walls at all. And there certainly aren't pirate ships, hippie vans, or multicolored rolling metal grates. (Sadly, the system of linens with only a duvet and bottom sheet - no top sheet or blankets of any sort has remained).
German Room
Hungarian Room
German Building Complex
Hungarian Building Complex

In an especially minute difference that became apparent to me very quickly, CEU actively discourages you from opening your windows. This is completely opposite from the German system of wanting you to open your windows all the time to get good air into rooms, regardless of the weather outside. (For a comprehensive account and explanation of that apparently-peculiarly German routine, there's a well-written summary here by a travel blogger based in Freiburg:
German apartment view
Hungarian View

With time, I might acclimate myself to the Hungarian apartment situation better, but so far it seems like some of the more endearing qualities of the German WGs (like having a kitchen! and that whole pirate ship thing) are going to be difficult to replicate. School responsibilities will begin in the morning, so my next post can take me further afield from the Xth district if you want to see pretty things. Of course, if you're wanting immediate Danube and Parliament gratification, you can scroll back in time and see my first go round from Budapest while living in Germany to tide you over until the next time I am able to blog.

1 comment:

  1. matt, you're in budapest, crazy! i'm in turkey for the next 10 months, so we may need to meet up...