Budapest is a city full of alluring sights, spots and places. Countless strikingly beautiful buildings and interesting museums. What to show friends and family who drop by for a short visit? To make a choice between the numerous possibilities is harder than you think. Of course a visit to the parliament, the most beautiful building of Budapest in my eyes. Of course a walk on the Gellert Hill to get the tremendous view of the city. Of course eating and drinking in the lovely 7th district. These places are nothing new and the one’s you would expect and everyone suggests. But there is one place I always drop by for a short visit that you wouldn’t expect; the post office at Móricz Zsigmond körtér. Why? Not because it is such a beautiful building, far from it (as you can see in the first picture). Not because of its long and lasting history. The reason I go there with my guests is because it gives a glimpse in a long gone past.
University professor Ferenc Hammer (teacher of the course ‘Everyday Life in Socialst Hungary’ I attend) advised us to go to the post office at the Móricz Zsigmond körtér if we wanted to get an idea of how things worked during the socialist era. As a foreigner from the ‘west’ I’ve always been interested in life during that period, as I grew up in a world totally different from it. Therefore I once decided to go there for a visit and to get a letter posted. When you’re in the post office it indeed looks like the time has been standing still for the last 30 years; the building itself, as well as the interior. The first thing you have to do is to get a number and wait in line until it is your turn. All the times I’ve been there it is insanely busy and it takes at least twenty-five minutes before it is your turn. Of course no one can speak English, so I have to make myself clear through sign language and with gestures. The system of the post office is inefficiency at its best and it seems like no innovative idea has been implemented the last thirty years to improve the system to make people wait less longer. So it still works the same as it used to during the socialist era. But where in the Netherlands everyone already would have complained about the long time it takes before it’s your turn and the inefficiency of the whole system, here all the people at the post office saw it as a sort of social gathering and started to chit-chat with each other for the time being. It seemed to me like the post office is a place where the hurry and impatience that surrounds the life in the big city is forgotten for a moment. I always like to go here for a short visit with my guests precisely because of this reason and to get a glimpse of the past.