First impressions about Budapest from Marine

8-14 October 2012 - First impressions in Budapest (Marine Mellado Ruiz)

Before arriving to Budapest, all the people I talked to who had visited the Hungarian capital had very good memories of the city and after a week here I definitely share the feeling that this place is charming travellers with its atmosphere, dynamic, people and places. I am really glad I have to opportunity to stay for a month as a member of Mindspace from the Climate-KIC program and already had this thought that I wish to stay longer! I discovered the place as a tourist amazed with the lights at night brightening the edges of the Buda and Pest side along the Danube but also with a
particular interest in learning more about how the people living here on a daily-basis, looking at how they interact with each other in their neighborhood and how they relate to their natural environment.

By observing, talking to people and experiencing the atmosphere of living here I discovered that the city has a lot to share with the character of the different districts, the green areas, the Danube river, the very diverse and well represented historic background through the architecture, the hundred of museums dotted across the map and the different types of baths.

Witness of all these evolutions, the Danube (Duna) arises as a central character in the city among the panorama. When I was talking with several people living in Budapest they were explaining to me how very different feelings could be experienced by the generations living in this place from calling it the red Danube half a century ago during the occupation; the Blue Danube if they have been playing by the shores in the green areas, having a drink at the bars or swimming in one of the pools that used to be available to the inhabitant a couple of decades ago; the Grey Danube if they look at the water banks today, surrounded by the highway that gives the priority to the car that covers the shores of the Danube…

Going along the river on the bike during this week, I could glimpse some brave people sitting during the day (see picture above) or fishing at night by the riverbanks in the narrow place of cement available between the water and the cars. It is very frustrating to see how the place could offer much more. Today, most of the people don’t know about it, and probably don’t think or realize what the river has to offer to them. I definitely realized that Mindspace’s approach to facilitate dedicated moments in life where people can share positive experiences about a place such as the Danube could be very powerful to drive their future actions to naturally preserve it and progressively push for a change in public policies.

I was also impressed to discover the number of people cycling all around the city in Budapest. We had the chance to meet one of the ambassadors of the Hungarian Cycling Initiative, Péter Dalos to understand better how they managed in a bit more than a decade to promote this transportation mode among the population. Interestingly, they were inspired by a Dutch marketing initiative called the ‘cyclechic’ movement. They created a blog promoting cycling by taking the most stylish pictures of people biking (http://cyclechic.blog.hu/). They also looked at interactive ways to engage people on their bike with the work bike competition and breakfast initiative. Driving this momentum further, COWI Hungary Consulting and Planning Ltd. where Péter is working is contributing to launch a public bike-sharing system in 2013 to provide an affordable, safe and collective network of transportation. Their journey is also a good example of how interactive methods of communication and bottom up
initiatives can bring innovative projects to reality at the interfaces between the public, private and non-for-profit sectors.

Looking on the Internet at the information about Budapest, I was also amazed by the richness and abundance of cultural festivals programs and events happening during the whole year. By reading about the place and talking to people, I discovered that it used to be the cultural center of the Austria-Hungarian empire, Vienna being the political capital. The diversity of artistic activities taking place today is showing how this heritage is still strong for the Budapestiek and how culture plays an important role in their daily-life. I think it is a very interesting angle of approach to nurture and motivate stronger community feelings. The first impression of the city is also a place at human scale where you can grasp the singular character of some districts with their markets and little independent shops despite the increasing place taken by big supermarkets.

One of the aspects I would particularly like to discover further is to learn greater knowledge about the story of this place, the successful social innovation projects that fit with the needs of the Budapestiek and find good partnership opportunities to further develop a more inclusive, innovative and cheerful city that would realize its vocation connecting people together and enabling them to be active members of community projects.