Hungarian is a caressing language. There is vowel harmony to it. It is syllable timed, fluid and melodic; with many “e” and “sh” sounds. It doesn’t sound like any other language I have heard. One would imagine it to be a blend between alien and elvish. As I walk through Budapest, being stroked by the words that people are speaking, I imagine that Hungarian would be one of the languages that sounds the very best when spoken at a whisper.
The Danube River is affecting in its width and strength. It meanders through the landscape, dividing the cities of Buda and Pest. Originally, there were no bridges between the two. But they were joined together in the 1800s and became the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. On the West side of the river, the city of Buda is erected amongst the hills. You can feel its depth in these hills and cliffs and historically rich architecture, including the castle district. It is more residential, quieter, and lends itself to deep reflection. It is imbued with an imperial grandeur that has been lost to time.
On the East side of the river, the city of Pest was built on flat terrain. Pest is where the action happens. It is a much larger city, full of entertainment, sites, commerce and industry. It is true city life, Hungarian style. If Buda is all that was savory about the past, Pest is what is alluring about the future.
The central area of Budapest is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Aside from architecture that will take your breath away, Budapest boasts the second largest synagogue and the third largest parliament building in the world. It is absolutely brimful with geothermal springs. An absolutely massive thermal water cave system. It is these thermal springs that bring people from all over the world. The geothermal activity that is inherent to this land, upon which Budapest is built, makes this land particularly sacred. Here, the energy from deep within the earth, rises to the surface of the earth; supercharging the area with vital force. It is a power source and a therapeutic resource for healing. This area of the globe has very special water. I am going to go so far as to say that it is medicinal.
But coveted land and coveted resources are a double-edged sword. They invite as much conflict as they offer wonderful things. And Budapest has seen an absolutely dizzying amount of wars. Conquest after conquest after conquest after conquest. More recently in history, the domestic policies originally imposed on Hungary by the USSR, including communism, came to an end in 1989. But the scars of both the rise and the fall of communism are as written into the architecture here as they are into the mentality of the people.
For the people of Hungary, communism is a hotly debated topic. Many Hungarians feel that the people struggle more and are worse off now economically speaking than when they were under communism. The struggle and also the poverty is palpable in this country. Many Hungarians cannot afford basic resources. And many young people feel they have no future in this country.
So much about Budapest echoes the tragedy of conquest. Taking the ferry upriver, you can see the perfectly preserved white gothic features of Matthias Church, and the Hungarian Parliament Building. And at the same time, dilapidation has ingrained itself into so much of the city. The Hungarians covet and caretake and show off these historic buildings as if they were trophies amongst the debris, proving that there was a time when they were truly great. As the sun sets, sunbeams streak through the clouds directly onto the grandeur of the Castle district. It lights up the entire expanse of the winding river water with a golden glow. And it is like you are peering back through time at that great empire that once was. It is like a scene brought to life straight from the pages of a fantasy novel.
The dominant negative vibration of Budapest is: Heart Break. The people here are heartbroken. It is this heartbreak that makes the Hungarians so somber, despite their love and use of humor. Their heartbreak is in the loss of what was. To generalize, they are a past-oriented people. In their hearts, they know that in times past, they were truly great. They had power and glory and good. And it was taken from them. The ironic synchronicity is not lost on me that I am here right now, because the Hungarians were victims of ‘cancellation’ before it was ever a modern term. They were beaten down again and again. They were stripped of their greatness and then prevented from getting it back again. They were set back in such a way that it would be hard for anyone to accept what is. And even harder for anyone to look forward to what positive might be ahead. The Hungarians in general are a disillusioned people. So many of the things that they placed their hope in regarding a better future, turned out to be a letdown. It is a strange feeling being here after being all over the rest of Europe. Honestly, it is somewhat surprising that Hungary is part of the EU, because Hungary feels a bit like “the kid that doesn’t fit into the family”. It feels like Hungary has plenty of enemies and very few friends.
I understand now, having finally been amongst them, why I have such a large fan base here. The Hungarian people resonate with me because they are not in an overlay at all about life. They are serious people who are not afraid of looking directly at problems and who are more than willing to admit to what is painful. And they don’t find it hard to find fault with themselves (ie: recognize unhealthy patterns or shadows). They hate vagueness. They have absolutely no time for pretense or for fluffy, abstract, overly positive spirituality. The Hungarians suspect reticent individuals who conceal their internal thoughts and feelings. And they prefer you to give the truth to them straight and hard and give them all the details possible, which happens to be my specialty.
The thing about a broken heart is that a heart can be broken, and it still keeps on beating just the same. Even when it feels like it should not be able to. And so, the people here have just kept on going despite. I feel very torn about this because there is so much shadow and light inherent in this way of being. On the one hand, there is a cultural identification here with suffering. People in this culture perceive suffering to be something that imbues a person with a kind of virtue and grace. And as a result, suffering is woven into the core of their positive self-concept. They wear it like a badge of honor. And they keep on going despite this and despite that, even when they shouldn’t.
A broken heart does not make a person cheerful. It makes a person lose their stomach for ‘niceties’. It makes them a little bit serious and grouchy and disgruntled. It makes them able to find the bad in very good and therefore pessimistic. And it makes them suspicious until they know you well. Being here, it is obvious that you have to gain a person’s trust. But if you do, their loyalty is there forever and they will be both dependable and honest. It is easy to see that they do not think that one person can replace another and that personal relationships are a kind of social capital here.
On the other hand, the Hungarians are very, very special because when a population is beaten down and when their hearts are broken, they often sink into a state of defeat. When you walk amongst the people in such places, there is a high degree of dissociation. And people are almost sleep walking due to a lack of commitment to a life that they did not want in the first place. The Hungarians are a rare exception. To generalize, they are very much alive. And they are very much still determined. They are full of Dignity. And dignity matters a lot to them.
Their eyes are very striking. And completely ablaze with spirit, no matter what has happened to them. They are very much committed still to doing the most from where they are, with what they have. Despite being so past-oriented, they are very present and very ‘here’ and they are consistently seeking. Also, they have very little fear of death compared to most people on earth. To generalize, people are so afraid of death, that you can feel it in the background of the consciousness of most populations. Here, it is imperceptible. And this will give the people here a serious advantage because he who is not afraid of death is not afraid to truly live.
The dominant positive vibration of Budapest is: Moxie. The people have a force of character, a determination and a nerve that is truly something to behold. With his moxie that they have, they are incredibly resourceful, clever, creative, flexible, adaptable and innovative in their willingness to change and move forward. But they don’t do any of this in a codependent way. In fact, to generalize, the people here are proud, straightforward and headstrong and have very strong opinions that they aren’t afraid to assert. And they argue ALOT. They are absolutely determined people. And they will not hesitate to show their discontent. This moxie is what got them through all the hostilities and tragedies they experienced over the centuries. It is what keeps them going and going, despite a broken heart.
I find the Hungarians to be highly talented. They seem to recognize and value talent as well. This, combined with their absolute flair for creativity and improvisation makes it so you would want them with you in a survival situation. They could make something out of nothing. I imagine that there are a disproportionate number of artists, tradesmen and craftsmen here.
Hungarians employ direct eye contact with a fervor that is foreign to many other cultures. They will look you straight in the eye and expect you to do the same so as to openly assert your sincerity. It is intense and would be intimidating to people whose characters don’t fall on the assertive side. People coming from a Japanese or Korean culture would find it very hard to deal with. In alignment with this, they prefer meeting face to face and they prefer direct person to person contact rather than any other form of contact. I love this. In fact, a technological takeover would be very slow to set in here. There is not the same separation between people that is so apparent in so many other places in the world; where people stare at their phones rather than talking to the person next to them on the sidewalk. People here seem to grasp that talking to someone via text or on WhatsApp is not a substitute for being with them in the flesh and looking them directly in the eye.
In the grocery market here, I found more variations of paprika spice than I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world. I spent a long time holding each packet, trying to discern what made each of them unique. They love their paprika here so much that you can buy it in every single tourist store you pass. In honor of being here, tonight I made a roasted red pepper soup spiced with classic Hungarian style sweet paprika. From this day forward, whenever I use paprika, I will forever think of my time in Hungary… and smile.