Friday, July 04, 2008

Political Truths (Budapest Taxi Driver Style)

Above is the splendid view of the Parliament and the Danube River from our hotel in Buda.

Our final morning in Budapest would have been uneventful if it had not been for the precious insights offered to us during our last taxi ride in town. Our driver was a 55-year old man – when he said his age, I did a double take – I will be 55 this Sept and thought, “do I look that old?” Ageism is becoming a constant challenge in my life, and as I have looked at the extraordinary and diverse beauty of the youth wandering the streets of Budapest, I have been filled with a complex set of feelings. More on the latter in a bit, for I am digressing.

We asked our taxi driver about the traffic in Budapest and he was quite poetic in his description of the decades-long factors that have led to the various delays. This discussion led to a dialog about the end of communism and how those who were in power before have become the mafia (only now the uniforms have been replaced with everyday clothing, so it makes it more difficult to tell who is watching and who is ripping you off). Corruption is pervasive in every aspect of life. So this was the sad story of how the more things change, the more they get worse. Things continue to be very unstable in Hungary, and there is a sense that those who have managed to migrate to Austria and Germany have a much more stable life. I'm sure that our driver would have happily expounded further on whatever topic, but it was an unfortunately short ride.

Below gives some evidence about the corporate influence in the Budapest airport.

Now that we have arrived in Paris, the economic poverty in former communist countries we just visited is that much more palpable. I will write more about Paris...but I will say briefly that taking Sam on a walk to rue Cler for his first baguette from a Parisian boulangerie was a pleasure I did not expect. AND it is such a joy to experience July 4th without fireworks & loud explosions. We are in a quiet neighborhood...and it feels so luxurious to sit in a cafe on the street with barely any traffic interrupting the calm.

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