Chain Bridge, Budapest

Monday, April 12, 2010

Election Day

Another weekend has ended. How productive was I? Depends on your prospective. Many of the math kids had midterms and homework due on this past Thursday and Friday. I myself had my algebra midterm on Friday. Let's just say that I'm glad its over with and I can move on to making a strong second-half semester push towards that A. While I studied for test in the days leading up to it, I realized that I had clearly allowed the lecture material to slip away over the past few weeks without understanding it. I will try not to make the same mistake in the coming weeks. So, after the test was over I joined dozens of other BSM'ers letting off steam around the 7th district on Friday night.

Our first stop was the "basement bar." It was a tiny, smoke-filled room with a couple of tables occupied by students. There are many places like this all around the city. They are characterized by their claustrophobic interiors, disregard for second-hand smoke, and cheap drinks. Many people were drinking pints of Arany Sozok, the Hungarian Bud Light (but worse), for 200 forints, 1 dollar. I sipped on a shot of Johnnie Walker Red for 350 forints, $1.75. It was severely watered down which made it taste too-smooth-to-be-true. Later we left the basement bar to go to our old favorite, Mumus, which had just opened up its courtyard for the Spring. The Mumus courtyard was a real treat. There were many tables with heat lamps positioned alongside a long bar with a handful of bartenders. A projector displayed static psychedelic images onto the blank wall of the adjacent apartment building, casting a trippy glow over the crowd outside. Cool. Just one more reason why I love coming here.

Saturday I woke up late and went with Christy and Mike to the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art to see the Glenn Brown exhibit. Glenn Brown is an artist from the UK that I had never heard of until two months ago when prints of his paintings started appearing at tram stations advertising the special exhibit at the Ludwig. This was the last weekend of the exhibit so I wanted to go check out the guy who had the weird paintings. See for yourself.

Suffer Well

His paitings are full of swirls of color, providing a sense of motion to the pictures. Many of the scenes and objects he paints are surreal or futuristic, and in fact he mimicks Salvador Dali's technique and expands on it, at least that is what the brochure said. I had a great time spending a Saturday afternoon looking at pretty pictures and checking out a neat museum on the Danube. 

The Ludwig Museum

View of the Danube from the Ludwig Museum

Hey! You found me!

Sunday was election day in Hungary. Since I've arrived here I've tried to understand Hungarian politics in order to gauge how people view policy here. There are campaign posters scattered throughout the city. Hungary has a parliamentary government so there are many political parties each vying for your vote. On the sidewalk outside my apartment in the 9th district there are campaign posters on every street lamp and every kiosk. Many posters are ripped down overnight and a rival party's poster is put up the next day. I have been looking at online news and blogs about Hungarian politics to get a feel for the local political climate. A good website is

However, I couldn't vote and had different priorities on Sunday afternoon: cleaning my apartment and my room and finally washing a load of laundry out of desperation. For those in America reading this blog: appreciate the convenience of your huge washers AND dryers. I do now. My room now clean, my clothes now hanging on the drying rack, it was time to do some homework. I had to catch up on some combinatorics and attempt the MPS homework so I headed out with Andy to eat, study, and check out election day festivities. We stopped by the Humus Bar first to eat some falafel, then went to Deak Ter to see if we could find some political rallies. By now it was 7:30pm, thirty minutes after the polls should have closed, but all we found at the city's main square were a some couples sitting on park benches and kids rolling around on their skateboards. We went by parliament and found nothing there as well. Hmmm. We decided to find a coffee shop, do some work, and then come back and look for a rally. Of course, as we searched for the California Coffee Company, our favorite study area, we ran into the Fidesz rally in Vorosmarty Ter. There was a big TV screen and a stage set up for a band. There were about a hundred people milling around but nothing was happening at the moment. We left the rally, found the coffee shop, got our homework done, and returned to Vorosmarty Ter to catch the start of the election results on the TV. I suppose it was just our luck to run into the rally of the victorious political party. For more information on the recent Hungarian election, check out these links.

The second time we came to the rally there were many more people. Many were waving Hungarian tri-color flags and Fidesz flags. Fidesz won the election with 52% of the vote. They are the center-right party, not to be confused with the extreme nationalist Jobbik party that I profiled earlier. Jobbik came in third place with 17% and the Socialists were second with 19%. I'm glad that Jobbik didn't do as well as some predicted, but its still scary to see an outwardly racist, anti-Roma, anti-Semetic, homophobic political party do so well in the first place. Many of their votes came from rural areas which have been hit hard by the economic recession. 

The Fidesz rally in Vorosmarty Ter

Me at the Fidesz rally

A political campaign poster for the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF), a conservative Christian democratic party. Here they are comparing the other parties, MSZP (Socialists), Fidesz, and Jobbik to cigarettes. I don't think this sends the same message in Hungary as it does in America. I'm not sure about the exact translation. I'll get back to you on that.

Political poster for the winning Fidesz party. April 11 is election day. The caption reads: "Only the Fidesz!"

Andy and I stayed at the rally for a while to soak up the political fervor many of the supporters around us were expressing. As we left to go home I saw a guy selling various Hungarian pins. I wanted to buy one but many had the Trianon-era Hungarian Empire or the tural bird on them, both of which can conjure up some nationalist images. While I thought about which pin to take we met some American college professors who were looking to buy pins also. One professor asked the merchant how much for a Hungarian flag he was selling. He said that the Hungarian flag costs 2000 forints, the Fidesz flag costs 1000 forints. The market has spoken. The professors were from Nazareth College in Rochester, NY, and were looking to open up a Hungarian campus in a town near Lake Balaton. They all taught in the liberal arts and were a little shocked when Andy said that we were in Budapest to learn math. Some of them picked up a Fidesz button and stuck it on their coats. I wasn't ready to choose sides yet, so I chose a politically neutral pin with Petofi Sandor on it commemorating the 1848 Revolution. Maybe Austrians might take offense. Just don't tell the Governator. 

For more pictures of the Ludwig Museum, the election night rally, Memento Park, Paris, or Switzerland, check out my Picasa Web Album here or click the permanent link in the upper right-hand corner of the blog.

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