St Martin is a big deal in Hungary. I go for dinner with the cousin of a friend and the restaurant has a special menu for St Martin’s week. Goose is traditional, so I have goose liver pate.
Talking to Gergo, he mentions the five million or so Hungarians who are living outside the country. Two million are in neighbouring Romania. During the Austro-Hungarian Empire the borders looked quite different.
Fortified with goose fat we go for a drive around Budapest. Gergo and I agree the West Station, designed by Eiffe, must be one of the finest in the world. It’s iron work and glass and lit up from inside on this dark night it looks incredible.
‘The country was quite rich at this time, the nineteenth century. These parts of the city were built to celebrate one-thousand years of Hungary. They’re based on Paris.’ He tells me.
One thought I had about this blog was that it might look at the shifts in culture along the way from Western Europe to the East. Then it seemed a ridiculous idea. Arriving here from the old capital of the Roman Catholic Hapsburg Empire it seems to make more sense.
Gergo tells me the Romanians are palpably different and I’ve done well to stop off in Budapest rather than Bucharest. They jump queues apparently and suffer corruption.
‘Is there an idea that the difference is to do with the split between the old Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman one?’ I ask him.
Yes, he says.