Article on the "Eurocompetence II: Project Management" Study trip, June/July 2015.
Budapest. The city of Castle Hill. The city of the Ottoman baths. The capital of Victor Orban's empire. The city of ruin bars and of the of the third largest parliamentary building in the world. But more importantly it was the destination of the study trip of the 2nd semester Euroculture students.
We spent five wonderful days in sunny Budapest to learn more about the developing political situation in Hungary under Orban's rule and to enjoy the rich cultural world that this former imperial city is. We met with the socialist party (MSzP) and the ruling Fidesz party in the gorgeous parliament of Hungary. We spoke about the constitutional changes that Fidesz pushed through parliament with their two-thirds majority. We also met with civil society to hear their experiences with the government. We talked to the Centre for Independence Journalism, DemNet (an NGO that supports development efforts), the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, and Republikon (a liberal think tank). Where Fidesz denied that they were fundamentally changing the democracy of Hungary, the socialists and some members of civil society were arguing the opposite. Fidesz is testing Hungary's relation with the EU, but, according to some NGO's, was never clearly crossing any lines.
While the political field of Hungary is a complex mess, the cultural field of Budapest is a clear example of Hungary's splendid history. In the National Gallery, which is located in the imperial palace on the Buda side of the Danube, we explored the rich collection of medieval, 19th century and 20th century Hungarian art. We enjoyed the amazing view from the Liberty statue on its hill above the city. During our city tour we learned about the fascinating mixture of architecture of the city which is the consequence of the complicated history of Budapest. The city was part of the Hapsburg Empire, the Ottoman Empire, it was occupied by the Nazi's and the Soviets. All these events left their mark on the city. One of the consequences of the Soviet occupation was that many buildings in the Jewish quarter of the city were in bad condition. These buildings have now been turned into the ruin bars that are the center of Budapest's characteristic nightlife, which we enjoyed to the fullest as well. In short, Budapest has it all, this trip had it all, and the Euroculture students enjoyed it all!