Budapest — oozing with culture, cobbled streets, courtyards and the Chain Bridge—it’s an art and architecture junkie’s dreamscape.
The Danube River separates Buda (old Turkish capital) and Pest (where the bars are), and under the regal faÁades of its restored handsome Gothic Revival to Art Nouveau buildings and endless monuments lies a city that –just last century– was destroyed by Nazis, lost a large chunk of its population and then, after “liberation,” endured communist rule for over 40 years.
Communist Magyarorszag’s (Hungary’s) terrorizing of “enemies of the state” and the thousands killed during Budapest’s 1956 bloody uprising against Soviet rule forced rightly paranoid Magyar (Hungarian) gays into actions as covert as the regime’s ¡VH (secret police).
Now out from the chilly underground, gay Budapest –thanks in part to its glorious bathhouses and spas (a leftover from 150 years of Ottoman rule)– is a magnet for a budding yet still slightly invisible LGBT community.
The legal age of consent has recently been lowered to 14 to equal the hetero law and events like the LGBT Cultural and Film Festival and Gay Pride Budapest, the Lambda Budapest’s monthly mag Masok (Others) and HattÈr support group’s gay helpline also give the capital a friendly expression.
Budapest is a cool and inexpensive place to party, so beware of its latest foreign invaders – the scary British stag weekend (bachelor party). Ignore the wasted lads and enjoy the splendors and funkiness of this resilient city, the “Pearl of the Danube” that has risen from ashes of war and revolution to lead a striking Eastern European revival.