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A Look at the Grittier Side of Budapest

Updated on December 5, 2012

Most travel guides deal with the "nice" things worth seeing in any given city. I guess that's natural. If that is natural, then this hub is going to be somewhat unnatural in its theme. I'm going to look at some of the gritter places in Budapest, Hungary.

Sure, I like the nice places in cities just as much as the next guy. That said, I think it is important to have a look at the not - so - nice areas too just to get a full picture of a place. Personally, I cannot stand hordes of tourists all staring at the same buildings which have been judged "worth seeing" by their guide books or tour guides. This is basically a photo essay with commentary. These photos where taken all over Budapest. I realize that gritty places exist in all cities. This particular piece is about the more run down areas of a beautiful city.

Keleti (Eastern) Train Station (rear view)
Keleti (Eastern) Train Station (rear view) | Source
Front views of Keleti Train Station
Front views of Keleti Train Station | Source

Keleti Station is located on the Pest side of the Danube River and is the largest train station in Hungary. It was once the hub of a national train network that was significantly larger than today's. Up until 1920 Hungary was three times larger than its present size.

Although the building is magnificent from the inside as well as outside, it and the area around it is in a state of disrepair. Construction of a new subway line under the station has also added to a look of desolation in front of the building.

Apartment parking
Apartment parking | Source

Many older style apartments in Budapest obviously were not built with underground parking. Those who live in the building can oftentimes park in the courtyard of the complex entering through gates originally made for horse drawn carriages.

Old mill
Old mill | Source

Many old mills have been converted to other uses such as for loft apartments, offices, and film studios. However, some have been left to stand vacant, such as the one above. Most of these mills are found in District IX of the city, called Ferencváros or Francis Town.

Abandoned century old apartment building
Abandoned century old apartment building | Source

Many beautiful 100 + year old apartment buildings right in the center of Budapest have been abandoned due to safety concerns. Repair and upkeep of these buildings is very expensive. Sometimes the residents are relocated by the city, or they move away on their own. Most of these apartment buildings were built at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. They were considered extremely modern at the time, and are now historically important to the city. Because of this it is unfortunate that so many are falling apart.

Suburban property for sale
Suburban property for sale | Source

Many older houses in the suburbs are simply torn down and the land is resold. Oftentimes this land is bought by developers who built new apartment blocks. Sadly, many lots just stand empty for years due to a lack of investors. Many of these older houses are were built in a country style because these areas of the city were separate villages before they became incorporated into the vastly expanding city of the end of the 19th century.

Abandoned public restroom
Abandoned public restroom | Source

Public restrooms can be notoriously hard to find in most European countries, and when you do find one they sometimes end up looking like the one above. This is in the City Park. I'm happy to note that the building has since been refurbished into an office. Many old, decrepit public toilets in Budapest have recently been refurbished to their original use. There are two types of old public toilets in the city:

1. Separate ornate buildings usually found in parks

2. Underground toilets accessed down a flight of steps

Both of these services cost money to use. This money is paid to the usually older women who spend all day working at these spots and keeping the facilities clean.

Old factory
Old factory | Source

Many old abandoned factories and warehouses can be seen in Budapest. Some are left to rot, whilst others are torn down and replaced by new structures. Then there are the ones that remain in limbo like the one above. The building was only torn down halfway and all plans came to a halt because of lack of funds. These can be an eyesore for the city and add a feeling of decrepit creepiness to some areas.

Main entrance to a courtyard
Main entrance to a courtyard | Source

Many old buildings have become subsidized housing for the poor (usually gypsies). The entrance above belongs to one such building. These are usually brought into an even higher state of disrepair by their inhabitants. Even though subsidized it is often the case that water, electricity and natural gas services are shut off by the providers because the inhabitants either don't pay for the services, or steal the services.

Protected air conditioner
Protected air conditioner | Source

The photo above shows an air conditioning unit protected by a small cage to prevent theft at a small convenience store right next to the subsidized housing discussed above. The shop is called 'Mini ABC'. ABC has become a generic term for small food shops found on almost every street in the city and throughout Hungary. These types of shops were called ABCs during communism.

Communist era public sculpture
Communist era public sculpture | Source

Many areas in the former Soviet bloc have prefabricated apartment buildings which were cheap and quick to make. Unfortunately many people still live in these. The communist regime attempted to make these vast areas more friendly by providing them with socialist sculptures, mosaics etc. These were usually in the socialist realist style showing heroic workers, soldiers and peasants. There were also abstract structures seemingly designed by mentally challenged children, such as the one above. Today, these are almost all defaced by graffiti.

Abandoned car
Abandoned car | Source

These prefabricated apartment areas had no underground parking either. Nowadays its is common to see vandalized cars parked throughout these areas. Sometimes we even see the huge contrast of luxury cars parked in these areas in which case the cars are worth more than the owners apartment.

Prefab apartments
Prefab apartments | Source
Prefab entrance
Prefab entrance | Source

The two photos above were taken in the district of Budapest called Csepel, which is a working class area full of prefab apartments.

Csepel parking lot
Csepel parking lot | Source
Old city slaughterhouse
Old city slaughterhouse | Source

Above is the old ornate city slaughterhouse. Architecture for these old buildings was ornate, unique and well built, unlike today.

Csepel: city hall
Csepel: city hall | Source

The spot where the red star used to be on Csepel's town call is still clearly visible

Thank you for taking the time to see the grittier side of an otherwise beautiful city.

Hungarian pop song

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