But while in between these phases, I took a new turning point and went to Bucharest. I had heard much about this wild, intriguing, far-off place and simply had to go regardless of outcome. Shortly before making this particular 18-hour clickety-clack train ride from Keleti train station, I was given a very good tip by a Budapester at a downtown bar. "Before going, first go to Dunaújváros," I was advised.

The suggestion was that this "rehearsal" beforehand would be good preparation for what to expect concerning the architectural parallels between the Hungarian town and the Romanian capital, albeit on a far smaller scale. This was good advice that I fulfilled before the epic voyage, which also came with the bonus of travelling through the high scenery of Transylvania before eventual arrival.

To put Bucharest into a very brief perspective, it was, at least then, a contrast to Budapest in every sense. This city 800 kilometres south-eastwards was formerly known as "the Paris of the East" (as have been other cities in this region, Budapest among them), but it was difficult to imagine this bewildering tourist cliché when actually there.

Regrettably, the place had been "re-converted" (to put it mildly) from being a pleasantly atmospheric city into a mass bombastic Socialist architectural metropolis on a very large, elaborate scale. Fortunately, late dictator Ceausescu's monstrous whims eventually came to an end, and nowadays I hear better things about Bucharest. The city is more up and coming than before and I sense that the edge it once had has gone

I will look forward to returning one day to see whatever architectural vestiges of vintage period Bucharest remain or how much has been done to restore them.

#

Ten-plus years later, I still recall with fondness that particular time. Had I not come across that person in the bar that night the culture shock would have been far greater. I don't know how dated this information I am passing on is nowadays, but at least from an aesthetical point of view I am sure it is still valid and relevant enough.

Recently, I made a return "pilgrimage" to Dunaújváros to see what has become of this dingy Socialist-era town and recapture its essence. Despite the passing of time, many unusual artefacts from a bygone era remain in place and worthy of attention.

Dunaújváros, which translates as "New Danube Town" (being situated by the riverside), has a short history and is clearly an industrial town. Early on it was known as Sztálinváros (named after Stalin). Construction and development of a high-capacity integrated iron and steel metallurgy works began in earnest in 1950 to change the structure of the Hungarian economy, on the outskirts of a nearby village called Dunapentele.

This was a new phase of heavy industrialisation of Hungary under communist rule, and the factory was finally opened in 1954 and employed thousands of people. In addition, various sport and cultural facilities were built.

After the 1956 Uprising, the government renamed the town Dunaújváros. But, like Bucharest, the general atmosphere is a continual reminder of those times, and can also be compared to the Csepel Művek factory on Csepel Island in southern Budapest. (See my Budapest Times article www.budapesttimes.hu/2019/06/11/track-island-has-its-treasures)

Fortunately, there is a new lease of life at Dunaújváros and the town is now attracting outside industrial business enterprises, such as a South Korean Hankook factory, which specialises in tyres, and Hamburger Hungaria, which produces container-boards Europe-wide, alongside other companies.

The official and obligatory architectural style, or lack of, during communism was always based on Socialist realism, communist ideals and general immaterialism, as clearly seen around the town. There remains a steady flow of surreal ornaments and odd, stray statues representing the union of workers, peasants and intellectuals, embroiled with folk motifs, all redolent of a very distinct bygone time.

Probably due to Bauhaus inspiration, the general array of buildings constructed then such as the cinema, theatre, hospital and schools are minimalistic. But remarkably some were "characterised" by occasional touches of classicist ornamentation, as seen with various columns, pillars, archways and entrances. This imposing, suggestive but still fairly minimal "style" became known as Stalin's Baroque.

In addition, there will be a new power plant, which is under construction. This will be Hungary's largest biomass power plant, having an installed heat capacity of 160 megawatts and an electric capacity of 50 megawatts.

Some of the half-century-old buildings have historical protection orders, which recently has been doing wonders for film companies and tourism. Despite whatever early impressions this place has, Dunaújváros, with its university, is on the move and has a future.

I suggest to make this unusual step back in time. For a successful outing, first make your way to the town's main Intercisa museum, just off from the main central Vasmű Street and its impressive green landscaped, promenade. The Városháza (Town Hall) is close by and a distinguishing wall clock. From there, further information, as well as a "Socialist map" is available. There are plenty of relics relating to those times on display, as well as a not-to-be-missed, tall Lenin statue tucked away in the courtyard. The assortment of historical items dates to Roman times, with various garments and other objects relating to the local folk-lore period.

From this central area all the other places to see are within easy-going strolls There is a tourist information bureau on the main street.

My final impression is that Dunaújváros, although remote from and clearly different to most things I have seen in Hungary, has value. The strong sense of recent time history is clearly there as well as a worthy sense of local community that well reflects a far calmer pace of life than in a city. For those curious onlookers with an open mind, Dunaújváros makes a great day out and comes highly recommended. But for those seeking something to excel Szentendre, don't bother.

For those from Bucharest, you might like to make this day trip too and compare notes. From Budapest, reaching Dunaújváros is very easy. It's 80 kilometres directly southwards, either on the number 6 road or by rail from Déli railway station, with frequent trains.

To get to equally intriguing Bucharest requires more planning but can be done, and it is very much worthy of an article for another time.

See – http://budapesttimes-archiv.bzt.hu/2016/06/25/how-to-become-a-real-budapester/


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