UF in Hungary Day 2: The Parliament, an anti-corruption event and vietnamese food

Hi there!

The weather was sunny when we went out and took the tram to the Hungarian parliament. The building is incredibly beautiful and big, it’s actually supposed to be the biggest parliament in Europe. We were in the parliament to meet Márton Gyöngyösi, the group leader in the parliament of Jobbik, a far right opposition party in Hungary. We sat down in a beautiful room with ornaments and decorations in the ceiling. Gyöngyösi gave a nice impression and seemed like a charismatic person. If we hadn’t known the politics his party stands for it would have been easy to be swept away by his rethorics. He told us about Jobbik, issues and politics in general in Hungary. We got treated with traditional hungarian sweets and got to ask questions. When someone in the group asked a, somewhat critical, question he looked a bit annoyed and sayed “Excuse me, you don’t even have a government!” which made us a bit shocked. Sensitive questions about the Roma people occured and Gyöngyösi admited that the party “have been inappropriate in how they have addressed the issue sometimes.” When someone asked about the climate change he sayed that “I would be glad if that would be the most urgent problem” and claimed that they have so much other things to deal with first.

Wandering around marvelled by the beautiful building.

This is how one of the chambers of the hungarian parliament looks like..!

After the meeting we got a tour of the parliament which generated many “wow!” and “oh!” because of the beautiful decorations. We also got to see the holy crown which is special and protected by two guards with actual swords (!). It’s even prohibited to take photographs in there. I (Alicia) left the building with an unpleasant feeling of being charmed by a politician from a neonazist party and a beautiful building, fortunately I got out in the cold winter weather and was reminded of what the party actually stand for.

While a lot of us went to meet Jobbik, two persons from our group (Prandies and Lovisa) went to meet students from the Central European University (CEU). The CEU is a private university accredited in Hungary and the US, that currently is facing expulsion from Hungary. It’s a graduate-level university and is located in Budapest and Vienna.  Prandies and Lovisa enjoyed talking to the students from CEU and they showed them their university, which is an environmentally friendly building. The students told Prandies and Lovisa about the current situation in Hungary and the debate about CEU in the media. The students really appreciate it being students at CEU, but at the same time they are uncertain if they will stay at the university in Budapest or if they have to move to Vienna.

The students at CEU have protested against the decision to expulse the university – these pins are a part of that.

After a very emotional and confusing (at least for me/Michelle) meeting with Jobbik we went to a place called “Madal” to have some pasta for lunch. We were very hungry so the pasta made us happy! What made us less happy however was the rain that came out of nowhere! When we had finished our pasta we had to take off for the next meeting which was an event organized by Transparency International. The event was about anti-corruption and was built up as a kind of press conference. The event was located in an old building with very cool interior, I think it might be a club or a bar that the company hired for the event. It was organized in a very cool way with a “panel” talking and answering questions. Everything was in hungarian but there were headphones AND translators that translated everything LIVE into the headphones so that everyone at the event could understand what was being said!

The cool old building and an example of the good treatment we got as guests at the press conference.

It was already dark outside when we were done with attending the anti-corruption event. The majority of us decided to walk back to the hostel and have a nap (I might have been the leading power to commit to this decision…). When everybody were awake and back on track we went out in the night to have some dinner: vietnamese! It was really good food and after the dinner we got accompanied by the journalist Jozsef Horvath that talked about how the media is being controlled by the government. He said that independent newspapers are hard to find and that they demand a lot of energy to be written. This energy does not exist because there is so much apathy in people. According to him, nobody goes out on the street to protest as long as their salaries keep rising. The people are in the need of some leadership to create a movement, and this leadership does not exist right now. Something funny Jozsef also told us about was how Orban really likes football and that apparently he built an arena in his hometown so that his wife can watch the games from her window.

A happy travel group with stomachs full of vietnamese food.

Alicia Nathanson Thulin and Michelle Pencarski