By Brianna Hurwitz
Our class bid adieu to Bratislava on Friday and traveled to Budapest. On our way there we saw the open countryside, which reminded me of home in Maryland. We were ready to study how Hungarians view the media, what role journalism plays in their society, and how it differs from Slovakia and the United States.
We learned the Danube River once separated the city into two separate cities called Buda and Pest. We traveled through the Buda side, over the Danube River, and arrived in the heart of the tourist district on the Pest side. After we arrived we went to the Central Market Hall, or Nagy Vasarcsarnok in Hungarian.
At the market place we had a Hungarian lunch, featuring goulash soup, and a Gypsy violinist serenaded our class! We walked around the market place after lunch and saw some handmade goods crafted by locals.
Late Friday, we visited Central European University, the Open Society Archives, and Freedom Square. The most interesting files we saw in the archives were boxes of reporter’s notebooks of David Rohde, the reporter who uncovered the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia in 1996. Also in the archive boxes are bullets and bloody handkerchiefs found there.
However, I found the new statue in Freedom Square the most provocative sight of all. The monument was built in 2014 to commemorate the victims who died during the era of Nazi Germany. Police guard this monument because of its controversial representation of Hungarians. Protesters have gathered repeatedly in front of this statue, saying that it makes Hungarians appear to be victims of the Nazi era without acknowledging that many Hungarians collaborated with the regime.
On the monument, an eagle, representing Germany, crouches above the Angel Gabriel, representing Hungary. The eagle, looming above Hungary, appears to still be a threat. I read it as also saying history could repeat itself.
Across the street, along the curb, lies a makeshift memorial that challenges the formal monument. It is dedicated to the Hungarian victims of Nazi Germany. Votive candles flicker near victims’ photographs, many sheathed in plastic, hanging from a jagged wire. Stones, shoes, a chair, a suitcase and letters, left by people paying tribute, also line the sidewalk. Police officers patrol the memorial.
After Freedom Square we had some free time to explore the city on our own. We saw the city lit at night from the top the Budapest Eye Ferris wheel and walked across the historic Chain Bridge to the Buda Castle.