Monday, June 4, 2012

Back to the Future in Budapest

Budapest, 4 June 2012 
It was a dark and stormy night in the city by the Danube. We (Jeanne, Jane and Gail)  have consumed bowls of goulosh and toured the city.  We are trying to answer the enduring question: Can a semi efficient socialist economy transition into a functional and vibrant capitalist system? Our quest began on the "Hop Off, Hop On" city bus tour.  A notable start to the day's travels took us through Castel Hill, where I lived 29 years ago.  We crossed the river and hopped off in central Pest (the other side of the river from Buda), successfully purchased train tickets to Romania, ate soup under the shadow of St. Stephen's Basilka, had glorious gelato and then prepared to hop back on.  Waited for the Yellow Bus.  Noted that traffic and trams were not moving.  Queries revealed that traffic was snarled because the taxi drivers were demonstrating in the heart of the city.  The taxi industry was privitzed when the economic transition occurred.  Now, a number of years later, the tourism ministry has decided that things were running better the way the taxi sytem was in the bad old days.  The proposal is to return to centralization.  No Yellow Bus.

When the Yellow Bus arrived, it was Red.  We tourists ran, as a group of cattle, to meet it; then drove around the square 3 times waiting to catch up with ourselves and the delayed bus schedule.  Finally got on the open second story of the bus, thunder cracked, rain pelleted; we headed down below.  Bus began leaking copiously.  Tourists tried to catch leaks in empty water bottles.  Finally made it back to to our stop, missing the last cruise on the Danube by about an hour.  I have begun to suspect that the system has transitioned from semi efficient socialism to inefficient capitalism.

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