Sunday, 11 October 2015


20th Anniversary

Cross the Margaret Bridge after dark in Budapest from the Pest side, and facing you on the lower slope of Rózsadomb there used to be a large, crimson, illuminated sign blazing across the nearer rooftops:

This stood on the Youth hotel of the Socialist Workers' Party, quite a nice place to stay actually. I did once, and found that I was not the oldest youth there, particularly noticeable being middle-ranking Soviet Army officers having a whale of the time in decedent down-town Budapest.

I was reminded of the Ifjúság hotel by a story in today's Budapest Times. Following the fall of the old regime the Ifjúság was surplus to requirements and ownership transferred to the state. The Council of Europe was looking to establish a second youth centre, somewhere in the former Eastern Europe, and in 1995 the old Ifjúság was reborn as the European Youth Centre Budapest. It is now celebrating its twentieth birthday in that role, with more than 40,000 young peoples from 72 countries staying there on average every year mediate the basic European values – human rights, democracy and rule of law – to the next European generation.

I hope that they have a much fun doing this as it looked like everyone was having when last I was there, a long time ago.

I would like two women...

I recall a warm evening some time in the late eighties, shortly before the regime changed. I was no longer staying in hotels by then but using the small studio flat that the Foundation maintained close behind the Hotel Budapest. I wanted to catch two visitors to Budapest whom I knew to be staying at the Ifjúság hotel: disability activist and CE pioneer, Angie Smith; and her travelling companion, Janis Firminger (of Hereward College in Coventry).

It was late and the entrance foyer was a mass of people, many in jolly and vocal mood. There were two blokes on the desk, rushed off their feet, looking very hot and altogether overwhelmed. I has to shout to make one of them hear what I wanted, in my clumsy, home-made Hungarian 
Szeretném két nőt – egy fekétet, egy fehéret 

The poor bloke rolled his eyes heavenwards, presumably guessing my meaning from his experiences of guests there, and answered wearily –
Én is

I didn't find them.

I cannot see from the picture in today's Budapest Sun whether the outwardly most prominent feature of the old hotel persists, the big, inviting welcome sign on the roof, Ifjusag – an Hungarian word that invariably brings a smile to the lips of Brits (and possibly other English-speakers too) when they hear it.


Kalkum, B. (2014) On behalf of human rights, democracy, rule of law: European Youth Centre Budapest celebrates 20 years, Budapest Times, 11 October

Sutton, A. (2014) Fight the good fight. Meet Angie Smith, aet. 52, Conductive World, 13 August

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