Down and Out in Budapest

With every Christmas comes new decorative fads, and Budapest is no exception. Last year seemed to be the year of mini-Santas climbing towards windows like jolly little gremlin-burglars. This year, they've grown and they've taken to hanging around outside shops, doing little jigs.
Just take a trip down the körűt and you'll see a few. Some just stand there; others shift from one leg to the other, to keep warm; one even has a saxophone, although he didn't bother to show up when I went to see him yesterday. Busking's not for everyone.

The one thing they all share is that they don't exactly exude Christmas - or Mikolas - cheer. Jingle Bells couldn't have been further from my mind. Several of them look like they've been standing outside for too long; like they have no homes to go to. In fact, I saw a disturbed-looking homeless person outside 'Plus' supermarket the same morning doing much the same thing, instilling a mixture of pity and repulsion in the passers-by.

Left out on the street, Santa isn't bearing up so well, and he's not even real. The guy outside "Plus", however, is as real as you or I.

So for anyone who's interested, there are several charities who are working to improve the lives of the homeless in Budapest. The Hungarian Maltese Charity is one of the most visible and has information in English here. Alternatively, you can donate direct to the homeless foundation, Fedél Nélküliekért Alapítvány, who are the ones who sell the papers on the streets. ("Számlaszám" is the account number.)

There, that's as much Christmas spirit as you're likely to get from me.

Andy Sz.



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