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Budapest is grey in January – temperatures relatively un-modulated between 20s and low 30s Fahrenheit, and the days have been variations of fog, drizzle, and snow showers.  I miss the sun – even in the snowiest times in New Hampshire it is sunny — but still the grey has its own kind of moody appeal.  Along the Danube the boats and bridges remain beautiful clothed in the mist, and the Buda Castle and steeple of Matthias Cathedral remain magnificent even against the grey sky.  In some ways the refracted and hazy reflections of the Chain Bridge lights are even more beautiful. But when you get into the neighborhood streets — removed from the tourist sheen along the riverfront or Andrassy ut — the greyness of January mixes with the decades of Soviet neglect of the city and the more recent decades of economic disappointment, presenting an image of the city more like the one I had formed reading about Hungary in the 20th century.  It was a grey century: the “trauma of Trianon,” the treaty at the end of WWI that reduced Hungarian territory and population by two-thirds with the stroke of a pen; the Nazi occupation in WWII with the Arrow Cross and extermination of Hungarian Jews, to be followed by the brutal and repressive Soviet occupation; the failed Revolution of 1956 – a result due in large part to US betrayal and Western Europe’s indifference; and the promises of democratization following the collapse of the Soviet Union as yet unfulfilled.  It is a history the city wears on the surfaces of everyday life. Grey suits this history that is too easy to forget in sunny April and along the riverfront when Budapest is truly the “pearl of the Danube,” the “Paris of the East.”  In January you can’t help but see how Budapest is so much a work in progress.

1 Comment

  1. I particularly enjoyed this entry…

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