The Malling of Hungary

Most things had not changed all that much in the dozen or so years since I had last visited Hungary.  The food is just as heart-attack-inducing (but oh so delicious) as ever.  The exchange rate is actually about the same as it was back then (thanks to the weak dollar).  Hungarians still put corn and ketchup on their pizza (this is actually quite good). Some things have changed, though.  Mostly the changes that I noticed were commercial.  The first time this struck me was my first day there when I went to get a bottle of water.  It used to be that when you asked for a bottle of water, you got sparkling mineral water.  Some Americans I knew didn’t like this very much, but I got quite used to it and even enjoy my sparkling water every once in a while.  So anyway, I wasn’t expecting it when the guy at the counter asked what kind of water I wanted and rattled off a couple of options with which I wasn’t familiar.  Turns out you now have several options in your bottled water, including plain old (probably tap) water.

A bigger change, architecturally speaking at least, is the proliferation of Western-style malls around Budapest.  There were a couple of new malls in the city when I lived there, but they were all out around the edge of the city and pretty hard to get to if you didn’t have a car.  The new ones are right in the city at mass transit crossroads.  A friend of mine took me to one next to Nyugati Palyaudvar (a train station and intersection of major Metro and tram lines) that you enter from right off the Metro stop.  I could have been in any mall in California.  The food court served the same food (well…except for the corn and ketchup on the pizza), there were the same type of stores (if not the same brands).  It was remarkable. This picture is of the new mall that is in Örs vezér tere in Budapest, right next to where my first apartment was on my mission.  The picture is taken from one side of the square where a bus mall is and where we spent endless hours street contacting in the freezing cold (Oh, the memories!).  The mall itself sits on what used to be the other half of the bus mall.  I went in just to look around.  As I was wandering around, I thought to myself that 12 years ago to the day I was probably slipping and sliding on the icy path that crossed what used to be the field between the bus stop and our apartment.  Just to make the picture complete, in one of the stores I went into they were playing a song that was popular when I was in my greenie area but I haven’t heard since.  Some things don’t change I guess.

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