Visiting Hungary and ‘The Grand Hotel Budapest’
My family and I were recently looking for someplace to visit. When Hungary’s leader said he would not discriminate against Israel or its products, we put aside the jokes my dad used to relate about Hungarians, and we bought cheap tickets for a four-day R&R at “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
We were not seeking to walk in the steps of the movie stars, because we’ve rubbed elbows with enough celebrities to know that real life usually beats what’s on screen. In Europe, real life — and very real death — have been grand and tragic.
As a proud Jew, I don’t want to visit a country club or a country that doesn’t want to welcome me as a member, a tourist, or a visiting professor.
As Paris and London have become more uncomfortable for Jews, our family has stayed away from them. As people masquerading as Europe’s leaders hold parades to fight Arab-Islamic terror, Arab-Islamic terror grows. Many “leaders” prefer to hug each other in public as a sign of combating allegedly man-made global warming rather than fighting a real and proven terror danger.
Hungary does not want to be part of the group hug. It wants to make cars (for Skoda, Vokswagen, etc.), and it wants to welcome tourists, not “refugees” who want to transfer their war against “infidels” to a place where they get free meals and medical treatment.
Hungary does not want to play host to the latest round of the Sunni-Shiite murder competition. Hungary also does not want to pick sides between the Ba’athist Arab socialists (Assad or Saddam) and the Salafists (Al Qaeda, ISIS, etc.), nor the misogynist Muslim murderers of Boko Haram, the Janjaweed in Sudan, the various sects in Yemen, etc.
Hungary’s citizens want to enjoy their hard-won freedom from the occupations by Nazism (1939-1945) and Communism (1945-1993), and they do not want to be occupied by Islamism, even as Barack Obama is more worried about Islamophobia than stopping Islamic terrorism.
Hungary has its eyes wide open.
Yes, there has been Jew-hatred in Hungary, and there are many monuments to it, including the remnants of the wall of the tiny Nazi-built ghetto where one-quarter of Budapest’s population stayed (yes – one quarter of Budapest’s population was Jewish).
Seventy thousand people were stuffed into 4,500 rooms. That’s 14 people per room, including bathrooms. Many died of hunger and disease or in death camps. There is another monument featuring metal-cast shoes on the edge of the Danube, where hundreds of Jews were thrown into the water to drown.
Today, the Danube hosts great scenic boat tours, featuring audio translations in Hebrew, while the beautiful river-side markets cater to Israeli and Jewish visitors.
Today the Jewish quarter is the heart of Pest (pronounced Pesht), Budapest’s trendy downtown, and there are several working synagogues and good kosher restaurants.
Hungarians also know a lot about music, and we saw a great rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” ballet at the beautiful Opera House, only a short walk from the Corinthia Hotel, where they prepare their own specially wrapped chocolates bearing the hotel’s grand trademark insignia.
The buses, metro, and surface trolleys are spotless, and the Hungarians are justifiably proud of their medicinal spas and Sulphur baths. There is actually a law requiring a spa in each neighborhood.
We did not have time for the much-ballyhooed sauna and spa treatments, but we are planning on it the next time we skip Paris, London, and San Bernardino.
Dr. Michael Widlanski is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat, published by Threshold/ Simon and Schuster. He teaches at Bar-Ilan University , was strategic affairs advisor in Israel ’s Ministry of Public Security, and was the Schusterman visiting professor at University of California, Irvine for 2013-14.