David, who is British, married Katalin, who is Hungarian, and they live and work in Basel, Switzerland. As you can imagine, the guest list was very international, with people from Britain, Hungary, Switzerland, Germany and France, to name a few countries. Fortunately, the international language of English made it possible to communicate easily. And of course, everyone we met wanted to know what we thought of Brexit.
As well as the wedding itself, we had time to visit some of the historic sights of Buda and Pest, including the beautiful Parliament building, Buda Castle, and the white turrets of Fisherman’s Bastion. Walking around this beautiful, historic city, it’s hard to believe that much of it was destroyed in the Second World War.
We walked the promenade along the River Danube and crossed the iconic Chain Bridge, but we didn’t have time to try out the famous thermal spas. We did however, indulge my wife’s dark tourist tendencies by visiting the museum dedicated to the victims of Fascism and Communism, as well as the Square where Russian tanks brutally crushed the popular uprising of 1956, and even an underground Cold War nuclear bunker.
Visiting the gothic-revival Parliament building reminded me of my own brush with Communism. Many years ago, a young Steve and David travelled to Hungary on a cheap InterRail travel pass, and made the mistake of stopping to eat our lunch on the steps below Parliament. We were moved on by angry soldiers pointing machine guns at us. That was in 1989. A few months later the Berlin Wall fell, and the Hungarian Communist Party announced that it would hold free and democratic elections the following year.
A lot has changed since that time. There are still soldiers outside Parliament, but they no longer carry machine guns to scare away tourists. Instead they put on displays for tourists and pose for photos to be taken. The whole city has changed for the better – it has come alive. Budapest was always a beautiful, historic city. Now it has reclaimed its rightful place as one of the great European capitals.