Enjoy the View

Ah, Budapest! There are few cityscapes that come close. From the Fishermen’s Bastion, I cast my eye down the riverbank at the rich architectural tapestry: the splendid parliament building, the curvaceous Gresham Palace, the slender Chain Bridge… then, all of a sudden: blam, blam, blam! My vision is shot to pieces by three hotels.

Three monstrosities: huge luxury chains, I might add. Now, the Sofitel
architect was somewhat worse than mediocre but at least it’s set back a little from the river. The Intercontinental, clad in brown plastic, swears blind that it’s not as bad as it might have been. And then there’s the Marriott.

“Enjoy The View” runs the slogan. I’m just searching the small print for “but don’t take the blindfold off until you’re inside.” The cheek of it! A few moneyed customers enjoy the view, while the rest of us enjoy an enormous grey slab of concrete. There are better-looking multi-storey car parks, and they don’t usually park them so badly. The glossy pamphlet rather glosses over this by bravely showing the exterior by night.

Only one other hotel in Budapest can compete for the title of City’s Greatest Eyesore, and that’s the Hilton. Positioned precisely 1 millimetre away from the Fishermen’s Bastion, it’s the choice of the truly discerning culture trampler. As invasively located hotels go, it could look worse: its tinted, mirrored windows do at least deflect attention away from it, and the roof design tries to capture something vaguely historical.

Of course, if you’re actually interested in history, you might be slightly aggrieved to find it buried under the hotel or at least consumed by it. 13th-century Dominican church ruins merge seamlessly with 1970s hotel design, so much so that they’re easy to miss.

So it's difficult to see whose crime is the greatest in this whole sorry affair: the former Communist State; the multinationals that own the hotels; or the tourists that stay there. Whichever way, I look forward to the "futuristic-looking yellow building" that will soon grace Clark Ádám tér. That, my friends, is progress.

Andy Sz.



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