Saturday, October 14, 2006

Coping with oppression

Our guide in front of the kings on Heroes Square

We tourists are not the first in history to find Hungary alluring. The country has seen a series of conquerers sweep over the place. The Hungarians seem never to have lost their sense of humor about this -- or their determination to wiggle free.

Guides point out that the square which features the gigantic Red Star statuary of the Soviet era is called -- LIBERTY SQUARE, an intentional irony. Likewise the old headquarters of the dreaded Soviet secret police is today a museum on terrorism. The Budapestians boast that while the Turks stayed 500 years in the Balkans and elsewhere, they were repulsed in only 150 years in Hungary -- and the Hungarians got the cool baths and Ottoman buildings for their tourist industry.

Hungary had to submit to the rule of the Hapsburg kings, but they didn't have to be happy about it. In the fantantic Heroes Square each of the Hungarian kings gets a statue in a niche -- until we get to the Hapsburg. In those niches are statues of such real Hungarian heros as Lajos Kossuth, the leader of the 1848 Revolution that introduced such ideas as freedom of the press.

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