A short bus ride led me to Budapest for a weekend, where I explored on my own and was shown around by my friend from Emory, who is also doing a semester abroad. Not anticipating such warm, sunny weather, I carelessly got a metro pass but ended up walking everywhere. I learned that the capital is a union of two former cities: Buda was west of the Danube and Pest to the east.
I saw the largest synagogue in Europe, the Dohany Street Synagogue, in the heart of the old Jewish Quarter. Hebrew was all over the walls and my friend told me that there is a substantial Israeli community, which I found unusual, considering the historical antisemitism and current politics in Hungary. I went inside the Buda Castle and learned more about historic tensions between Austrians and Hungarians during the time of the Hapsburg’s empire. Near my hostel was the House of Terror Museum, the site of the Hungarian Nazis’ headquarters, and then the Hungarian Communist secret police offices. The museum felt a bit gimmicky and it was difficult for me to pay my respects to the people who suffered and died because of the regimes, but I learned more about how German and Soviet powers functioned in Hungary. My friend and I went on a walking tour focussed on Communism in Hungary and our tour guide told us stories of his family from the time of Communism. We visited the Shoes on the Danube Bank memorial, remembering the estimated 20,000 Jews who were forced to remove their shoes before being shot into the river.
Newer developments do not overshadow the city’s history, but contribute to a changing culture. There is the “Budapest Eye” ferris wheel, hip coffee shops and murals. My friend and I enjoyed drinks at a few ruin bars, which were abandoned stores and revamped in recent years. Tourism and globalization shape Budapest similarly to other European cities, including Vienna. Younger generations speak English and there are American brands everywhere. Still, in my short time being in Budapest, it seems to me that the city has a lively, unique culture and it has been my favorite trip outside of Vienna.
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Naomi Keusch Baker
<p>As a math and computer science major and music minor at Emory University, my passions range from increasing diversity and inclusion in technology industries to advocating for arts education. I want to combine my skills in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) to work toward social justice in my community and beyond. On campus, I am involved in Girls Who Code, the Interdisciplinary Exploration and Scholarship (IDEAS) Fellowship, Refugee Revive, Hillel and the Media, Literature and Arts Outreach (MLAO) themed house.</p>