– or, What I Did on My Summer Vacation. This Saturday was my anniversary, so my lovely wife and I packed a small bag each and headed for Budapest. Because both our families live in the US, most of our big holidays are to visit them – or to see them when they are elsewhere. I think this was our first just-the-two-of-us foreign holiday since … well, I don’t remember. Now Budapest is lovely and you should go if you haven’t, but this post is not about that. It is about a strange effect that I experienced in Hungary. See, I know the following about Hungarian history:
That isn’t absolutely true — I did a little 20th century Hungary at university and I recently reviewed it for tutoring purposes. And I suppose I have picked up one or two details over the years. But in general, I haven’t got a lot of in depth knowledge. I thought I would remedy this by diving deep into the guidebooks this past week, but work just kept me too tired and I never got around to it. But I didn’t let this change my usual approach to city-wandering, which is all landmarks, castles and museums all the time (not true; on Sunday we went to the zoo). So I would be standing there, looking up at the verdigrised countenance of a Very Important Hungarian Patriot gazing sternly into the distance and thinking “I have no idea who this guy is or what his deal was.” It was basically like being in Paris, but some weird alternate Paris in a world where I know nothing about French history. Eventually, I went to the Budapest History Museum (admission HUF 2000, and boy does living in Britain spoil you in that regard) and picked up enough of the basics to get by. It reminded me a little bit of my visits to Moscow or Oslo, although my grip of Russian history is sliiiiiightly better. But there were definitely things in Moscow that were clearly Great Big Deals but that I didn’t recognise at all. I recognised Yuri Gagarin in Moscow, though; dude looks like the Rocketeer.