Episode 16: Budapest, a new perspective

As I close out my time in Budapest, Hungary I have found myself reflecting. Reflecting on what I’ve seen and what I have experienced along with what I know has been going on two metro stops away from where I’m staying. I started this trip in Barcelona and the only English TV I could find was BBC World News. I’m okay with being in silence but I love background noise while I’m doing nothing. Over this last week I have watched the news develop and the refugee crisis get worse. While I was in Brussels, I saw the Keleti train station shutdown on the TV. And that’s when things changed for me.

I landed in Budapest nervous. I hate to admit it but the last time I went somewhere that had some level of unrest, there were riots and I had to stay in a hotel that had a security check point before you could pull up to the actual hotel. I arrived by bus and train and from what I saw, there was no unrest in my area. Over the few days that I spent in Budapest, everything I heard about on TV was just that. Stuff I heard on TV and not anything I actually experienced. I was wandering on my last day and saw the buses that take people to Keleti and it really dawned on me just how close that train station is to me.

After my long day, I went back to my hotel and as I was crossing the street I saw a police officer with his sirens on and driving very slowly. I remember thinking … Well that seems counter intuitive. But didn’t think much else and headed up to my room. When I arrived I heard shouting from the street and looked out my window. Hundreds of people were marching through the street, shouting and a line of police officers following them. I’ve seen marches in Seattle before. This was so much more than what I’ve seen. The line of officers was the same length of the march with only about a foot between each officer. There were 8 police cars and vans following the march with a whole other set of at least 15 officers. All in riot gear.

I immediately took to Twitter to see what was going on. It looked like it was an extremist group protesting the refugee situation. In fact I had seen people wandering the city in the shirts of that group but I can’t read Hungarian so it doesn’t register for me. I looked further and this was a group that had started problems at Keleti earlier in the day before the refugees began marching through the city toward the Austrian/Hungarian border. As I went through Twitter and saw the events of the day, I realized that the route the refugees took passed by places I had been that day just minutes to an hour before them.

I’ve been watching the news ever since and listening to sirens after sirens since. It’s a strange feeling because I know I’m safe in my hotel but what about all those people who are walking 150km because they want a better life? No. They need a better life.

It made me think about the fact that I showed up in Budapest the day after Keleti shut down and I’ve been to all the tourist locations in Budapest. There are hundreds of tourists I passed, tour groups, people with their selfie sticks, shopping, standing at corners with the tourist maps, hopping on and off the tour buses. And… I feel like what was happening in the exact same city just a mile or two away didn’t impact them at all. Did they know it was going on?

It made me really reflect on the interesting contrast that I experienced. I went along on my merry way and if I wasn’t watching the news, the march would have been the first thing I knew about what was happening two trains stops away. I can’t say that I’m the most well versed in the world events and how things are going. But it has me thinking. I don’t quite have all my thoughts together but it’s a weird moment to experience when you realize just how different a city can be when you’re in a little bubble…

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