Sunday, May 28, 2006

Blue Danube

Things have changed since I was a foreign student in Communist Hungary nearly 20 years ago. I am on my first visit since, hunting for memories of the old time, in between the lectures at the Institute: thermal baths at the Gellert hotel, the commuter rail I used to take everyday to the dorm, passing by the ancient roman ruins of Aquincum, the Castle of Buda, the Gerbaud cafe' in the middle of Pest. A new country mixes and overlaps with an old familiar memory.

My body is no longer 18 years old. It carries the scars of accumulated stress: after too many flights, long hours at the computer, jetlag, lack of sleep, overwork, manic depression and a couple of benign tumors removed, I have lost my youth somewhere down the line. I enjoy the warm water of the Hungarian thermal baths all the more because of that.

Budapest is one of the most pleasant cities in Europe. If you are a young scientist shopping around for a postdoc opportunity somewhere on that continent, or a student looking for some interesting learning experiences, check out a couple of institutions there. I know that the idea of learning Hungarian scares the hell of out any spaker of Indo-european languages (or of any other non Ugro-finnish linguistic group). Nonetheless, one can go a long way without the language (today easily with English, but even a long time ago, when one had to make do at times with a mixture of English, German and Russian) and get a good exposure to the country and its intense cultural life.

Some related links:
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Renyi Institute
Central Research Institute for Physics - KFKI
Budapest Semester in Cognitive Science
Budapest Semesters in Mathematics (for undergraduates)
Budapest general Info