Scenes from an internal devaluation

I’ve recently been in Budapest. The city was stinking hot and full of abandoned construction projects, and the Danube was over its banks, flooding the tramway tunnels beneath the approaches of the Chain Bridge, closing the roads on the riverside.

Walking the plank

There were a remarkable number of people sleeping in the streets, although at 35 degrees’ heat, you might have thought they were doing it by choice. Until the incredible assortment of biting insects sailing down the river got to you; I’m still scratching. There weren’t many more than in London or Leeds 15 years ago; in the integrated core of the Euro-Atlantic community, we arrange these things more efficiently. Thatcher never attained a one-year decline of 8% of GDP, which implies that the UK achieved a much greater return of misery per unit of economic recession.


On Erzsebet tel., there’s an abandoned tube station, brand new, empty. The huge stairwell into the ticket hall has been unofficially taken over and used as a nightclub; it’s invisible from street level. I suppose it’s the Big Society, but this doesn’t work as well for cardiac surgery as it does for hipsterism.

Sudden stop

All over there are monuments to the era of EU enlargement and forex loans; huge, crystalline investment ruins in the city centre, shockingly cheap mall developments in the airport suburbs. I stay in the Kempinski, a postmodernist battleship of Zizek’s Happy 90s decorated to please a German privatisation consultant. It’s the architecture of plunk!, not relieved by the cod-jugendstil detailing on the roofline God knows how far above the street, and it has a giant circular glass atrium that renders everything under it intolerably hot.

It’s just possible to make out the outlines of the hopeful era of revolution and accession; you can just about see it, if you screw your eyes up. Back then, the privatisations and shutdowns were justified with the better times to come. And now? The dead malls are often next door to the equivalent buildings of the Communist attempt at a consumer society. There are a lot of people visibly working the streets.

8 thoughts on “Scenes from an internal devaluation

  1. Hello, on Erzs̩bet t̩r teher is no given up tube station. You could have meant the former bus station or G̦d̦r Klub which was buit in the given up construction dig of the national theater Рbut it was given up due to political bullshiting of fidesz and not due to the crises Рthey built the ugliest building of the last 20 years, luckily somewhat out of center:
    Even in kazahstan they would find this ugly.

    Actually if you take a walk in bratislava there the crises feeling is even more shocking, lot of shops closed.

  2. “Hello, on Erzsébet tér teher is no given up tube station.”

    True, the M4 line under construction is a bit south of there, and the three original Metro lines in that area are still working. Mind you, it’s a few years since I was there (I used to live in the middle of Pest back in 1992/3) – they seem to have done something radical to Erzsébet tér in the meantime. Must see if I’ve got any old photos upstairs.

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  4. Pingback: Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Hungary - Paul Krugman Blog -

  5. There is a metro stop one block from erzebet ter. It has been there since 1896 and is still in operation (Deak stop). They never had plans to build a new metro stop (yes, they vetoed the bus stop plans because they didn’t want to ruin an inner city park with a major bus exchange. thank goodness they didn’t build the bus stop) I’m guessing this is just a case of the West looking down on the East again? And of all the gems you could have choosen to pick on Hungary about you pick this one? By the way, hanging out with all the young Hungarians on Erzebet Ter is wonderful fun and I recommend it to all backpackers. (you can change your own city parks to bus stations if you want to Harrowel)

  6. Pingback: Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Hungary « Föhrenbergkreis Finanzwirtschaft

  7. The IMF and other money changers want to do to the Euro zone what is happening to the U.S and all over the world. To quote the American anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist,”Starve the beast down to the size which you can drown it in the bathtub.’
    The wealthy are feeling newfound power and wealth and with it comes corruption and the privilege that money can buy. The cuts they seek always come off the backs of the poor and working class,cuts in social benefits and assistance to the poor and disabled while the affluent continue to accumulate great wealth at the expense of the greater society as a whole.
    Nothing ever changes,it will only get worse until we, the teaming masses decide we have had enough. Take to the streets, raise holy hell and drive the movement for equality and justice. We are the change we have been waiting for.

  8. Pingback: .:: CSL News ::. » Blog Archive » Situacion econômica financiera europea. Dêem-me os cansados, os pobres, os húngaros. Columnista seleccionado Paul Krugman. O Estado de São Paulo.

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