My Neighborhood

 I’m was having difficulty understanding my neighborhood Ujbuda or Buda District XI on American terms. My immediate neighbors are called “private houses” by Zsuzsa which means I live in a building where the landlords have a large flat on the ground floor and maintain their postage stamp size front and backyards. There are six flats in the building but I am the only tenant. I understand a small apartment on the ground floor is rented by an elderly German man who visits once a year.–> Slide show

The neighboring houses are about the same era and size. All are older brick or stucco houses that appear to have been built in the early 20th century . Most are small scale apartment buildings or houses with two apartments. A very few appear to be single stand-alone homes. Most neighbors meticulously maintain their yards some contain miniature orchards with grape vines, flowers and a few even appear to be growing vegetables.

We are surrounded on all sides by what the Hungarians refer to as “housing estates.” We would call them giant, gray concrete apartment buildings. For a long time I was trying to understand the placement of the “estates” in relation to the houses. It finally occurred to me that we are a fairly orderly grid of small streets and major thoroughfares. The apartment blocks are mainly on all the busy streets and the houses are filler between the major streets. This is a generalization because the apartments sometimes extend back several in a row into a small street or sprout up unexpectedly. I understand most of these housing estates were built between 1967 and 1983. There are still large complexes under construction but they are on a smaller scale and NEVER made of gray concrete. Pink/orange is favored now but I have also seen new ochre and blue buildings. 

I asked Zsuzsa how this pattern of development came to be. She said that in the socialist era there was considered to be a housing shortage so they tore out old areas of the city and built the new ugly concrete housing estates. I’m sure they pack in a lot of people. If people in a neighborhood like mine did not want to leave their family home it was not forced. Houses of aristocracy, lawyers or other “enemies of the state” could be seized but in general they didn’t come in and displace a neighborhood if people put up a fuss.

Apparently during this time period many homes and apartments were divided so they could hold more families, although I can’t imagine that my house could ever have been a single home.  

Odbuda (Old Buda) the most ancient part of the city was torn-up and replaced by miles & miles housing estates.  Wounds are still fresh where the destruction of Obuda is concerned.  What was the old city is a couple of blocks of cobblestoned streets and ancient houses.   They did move the Roman ruins to a museum. 

Reminds me a  bit of what we hear has happened in China to make way for the Olympics, but then these houses were probably never considered slums so things are a little different.

The tulips have come and are going and the trees are leafing out and the lilacs are about to bloom so I’m glad I got most of these pictures weeks ago when you could see everything clearly.



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