Capitals, pubs, landmines

There is a thing you must know about me before reading this article. I am from a small Hungarian town called Szolnok which has roughly 70.000 inhabitants. When I was 16, I had the opportunity to spend a year abroad, no matter how wild it sounded, I chose to travel to Japan.

I had been to many capitals before, but the only one I had visited more than once was, not surprisingly, my own: Budapest. However, as I recall my childhood memories, it was dirty, smelly and my mom always reminded me to watch my step to avoid ’landmines’. Well, with this image in my head, I travelled 13 000 km away, to a city with 23 million, to the capital of Japan. It was, obviously, totally different from what I had experienced in Budapest before. It was clean, organized, brand new and huge.


After a year I came home, knowing that the only two universities with a Japanese major were in Budapest, so I needed to move there in a few years. At Tokyo I got used to the crowd, the tall buildings, the fast pace of life, so as there was no better option, I was kind of waiting to leave Szolnok behind for the second time and move to the capital of Hungary. I had absolutely no high expectations. I was expecting , to be 100% honest, atrocities, homeless people, dog poo and dirt in a city which was old, and I felt it was rotting away. At first it was just as I had imagined before, but being a flexible and adaptive person, I did not really mind. I had my friends from Szolnok, I had my new friends from uni, I did not care about the environment that surrounded me. It wasn’t until a few friends came to visit me from abroad and I was showing them around, that I felt pride of my city for the first time.

A year passed, then another, and another. I just realized a few months ago that I call my small apartment near Petőfi-bridge ‘home’ over my Szolnok family-nest. Then this year I got accepted to MA, and I met a bunch of other people who had just moved to Budapest from other cities and I caught myself showing them shortcuts, best soup places, party places, helping them with transportation, etc.

And after having lived here for the past three years, I have come to prefer this over my small town. There is always something to do: a new exhibition opens, they show more movies in the cinemas, it has more pubs with wider range of customers (not just the ‘usual faces’). And last but not least, even though our economic situation is deeper than the Mariana Trench, Budapest is still full of opportunities. Living in Szolnok I imagined myself working for a fancy magazine or radio station even though it seemed really far away, and now here I am, interning to the ‘most popular radio of Budapest’. Who knows what the future holds for me in the ‘cheapest party capital of Europe’?

— Fruzsina Katona

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