UF in Hungary Day 1: A forbidden career, minority rights and thermal baths

Szia!

How great that you’ve found your way to the UF Travel Blog of Fall semester 2018. Here we will write about our experiences during this semester’s trip – taking you from Budapest, to Belgrade and finally Pristina. Some of the topics we navigated with when deciding who to meet are relations to the EU, minority rights, press freedom and authoritarian leadership (in Hungary) and identity and reconciliation (in Serbia and Kosovo). The travel group is made up by 14 active UF members, including travel coordinator Fredrika and travel assistant Embla.

Let’s start from the beginning. The 8th of December we arrived in Budapest, Hungary, after rather exiting flights. Some of us had the priviledge of visiting Warsaw airport for an exiting 40 minutes, while the majority of the group got to drink some turkish coffee in Istanbul due to a cancellation of the original flight. Settled in at our hostel in Budapest, the reunited group went out to get a taste of hungarian night life – some dancing their feet off until the early morning.

Meeting with Andrea Petö (second from the left).

On Sunday, our first day in Budapest, we took the train to meet Andrea Petö who is a professor at the department of Gender Studies at Central European University (CEU) in Budapest. We met her in the Pest part of Budapest, famous for its modernity (for instance where the first elevator was found). While eating delicious meze she informed us about the situation of LGBTIQ+ people in hungarian society, the expulsion of CEU from the country and the attitude towards gender studies in Hungary – a subject the government recently announced now impossible for one to obtain a degree in. To our surprise, her view on the situation wasn’t completely negative, as the removal of gender studies from possible careers in Hungary has sparked a much needed discussion about gender in the country. She also explained why it was especifically gender studies that was banned in Hungary by saying that it’s both a global trend, but also a obvious threat for the hungarian government as it’s the link between academic freedom and reproduction – two sensitive issues within the current hungarian society. Andrea also talked about her podcast where she invites scholars to tell interesting stories about science. If you are intrigued by this, you can find her podcast at the website of CEU – or come to the lecture UF Uppsala is arranging with her in February!

Ebba and Lovisa by the Holocaust Memorial Center.

After the meeting with Adrea Petö, some of us visited the Holocaust Memorial Center. It is a memorial and museum for and about Hungarian Jews and Roma who were killed in the Holocaust. The Holocaust Memorial Center explains the situation of Hungarian Jews and Roma in Hungary before and during the German occupation (1920-1945).

“All that happened here is a scandal insofar as it could happen, and sacred without exception insofar as it did happen.“ – János Pilinszky (poet)

The travel group and Neil Clarke in the middle.

In the afternoon, we had a meeting with Neil Clarke from Minority Rights Group (MRG), an international human rights organisation that works globally with securing rights for minorities. Although they don’t do much work in Hungary it was very interesting to talk to Neil as we got a lot of knowledge about the situation for minorities in the country – one of our main focuses on the trip. He also painted the international picture telling us about increasing xenophobia and decreasing rights for minorities in the world. Lastly, he told us about the hypocrisy of the European Union as it – rightfully – demands excellent treatment of minorities in the countries aspiring for membership while at the same time many member states treat minorities very badly.

Some happy travellers enjoying Széchenyi’s warm thermal baths.

To finish up the day, some of us decided to try out the essence of hungarian society (or so they say to us tourists) – thermal baths! Floating around in the mist we discussed the impressions of the day and agreed upon our excitement for the days to come.

Stay tuned for the continuation of the trip!

Fredrika Andersson & Prandies Soheili