I visited Budapest in December 2003. It was bitterly cold, but lovely in the way that only an old European capital could be. I remember a city filled with quiet restaurants, lively bistros and cosy cafés exuding plenty of Old World charm, little independent galleries/shops selling beautiful Art Nouveau-style furnishings. And most of all, I remember a city full of stunning, eclectic, early twentieth century architecture. One did not need to see the guidebook-listed grand buildings for wonderfully flamboyant examples of the Bauhaus, Secessionist, Art Nouveau and Deco movements. Wandering around its broad boulevards and streets, you would be hard-pressed not to stumble upon any number of hidden architectural gems, usually in various states of (dis)repair – too many for the guidebook to mention.
It occurred to me much later, once I had returned to the West, why I had also found Budapest so peaceful, and beautiful. It was the complete lack of advertising. It was 2003 and Hungary would not enter the European Union for another 6 months. There were no posters exhorting you to buy this, or that, in order to be a better person and live a perfect life. Where a billboard would have been, there was only brick, or carved stone, or an unblemished roof line – a wonderful, healing respite for the eyes and the soul.
I don’t imagine Budapest is much the same today.
These images below (from here) communicate a similar spirit of non-consumerism and anti-advertising.
And I’m taking the ‘if it plays, it stays’ line to heart. My cheap, distinctly lo-fi mobile (it doesn’t even have a camera!) will do me for a long time yet.