Visiting Budapest, Hungary

So I am a bit behind in my blog, so I am going to try to catch up with my trip to Hungary, Serbia, Ukraine, Romania and TechEd Berlin.  My last three weeks have been a little crazy.  So first stop Hungary.  We have a great team of Zoltan, Peter and Judith.  Unfortunately, our team of three is severely understaffed and taking on more work possible for three people.  For a team of three they are doing an amazing job but have a lot on their plate to make significant strides and changes in the business.  With this launch wave of new products (Windows 7, Windows Server 2008R2, Exchange, System Center, Forefront, SQL, Visual Stoudio, Office 2010 and the list goes on), my lead Peter is doing so great outreach and creativity with helping IT Professionals get up to speed, improve their skills and have all the resources needed to help their companies save money and be more efficent.  What makes things very difficult is the current economy.  After long days and many meetings, a little about Hungary…  A great article from the Economist, talks about Hungary is on its way out of this recession just a little exceprt below for detailed article visit- http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14512527.   
 
AFTER years of crisis, Hungarians are used to belt-tightening. Although Hungary was among the European Union members that suffered most in the recession—GDP will shrink by 7% this year, just behind Romania and the Baltics—the outlook is now better, thanks partly to recent austerity measures.  The government has trimmed public spending by fully 3.8% of GDP this year, with most cuts falling on social spending and public-sector pay. These cuts came on top of earlier ones that reduced the budget deficit from 9.2% of GDP in 2006 to just 3.4% in 2008. More are on the way. The Socialist government, led by Gordon Bajnai, wants to chop an extra 1.7% next year to keep the deficit within the IMF-approved limit of 3.8% of GDP. It has also set up an independent fiscal council to monitor compliance with budget-balance targets.  The combination of these cuts and a big IMF loan is having a marked effect. The threat of a run on the currency has receded. The banks, mostly foreign-owned, have not collapsed, as many had feared. The forint is not quite back to where it was before the financial crisis but the central bank has felt able to start cutting interest rates.  What Hungary really needs is a review of all areas of public spending. A slimmer state requires big reforms. Yet the likely election winner, the centre-right Fidesz party, has spent the past seven years zealously denouncing even tiny reforms as sell-outs to fat cats or as disasters that would condemn the country to poverty. As elsewhere, Hungary’s underlying problems arose from wage rises unmatched by productivity growth and social spending that is too generous. It may be optimistic to think that, like the rest of Europe, Hungary has now learnt its lesson.
 
A liitle about the country- Budapest is the capital of Hungary and is split into 2 main areas: Buda-The hilly West side of the Danube (Districts I-III, XI-XII, XXII) and Pest-The flat East side of the Danube, covering the modern commercial core of the city(Districts IV-IX). Top sites:
  • The Parliament Building (Országház). A neogothic jewel, beautifully situated overlooking the Danube. It is very much worth going inside, but you can only do that during guided tours, which are FREE (ignore those trying to pick you up outside the Parliament). Tickets for guided tours can be obtained each day from 8AM. You will have to go in front of the Parliament and queue at the ticket line. Again, ignore those that ask you if you want a guided tour. Just pick up your ticket inside and come back at the hour on the ticket. Guided tours in English are held each day at 10, 12 and 14.
  • St. Stephen Cathedral (Szent István Bazilika). The main church of Budapest is an important example of neoclassical architecture, recently renovated.
  • Great Synagogue and the Jewish Museum (Dohány utcai Zsinagóga) The biggest Synagogue in Europe, and the most impressive in the world. Next to the Synagogue is a small but impressive museum. In the rear of the Synagogue is a memorial for victems of the Shoah. The synagogue was recently restored to its former grandeur. A block away you’ll find a smaller, but nearly identical synagogue built long before the Great Synagogue. The plaque in front explains that this was used as some sort of assembly grounds for those persecuted during the Holocaust before they were deported. It has not been renovated, and you can see through the boards on the outside how decrepit it still is. A chilling sight.
  • The Royal Palace (Királyi palota). The most popular attraction on the hill. Very cool and there is a yummy wine cellar at the Palace- you must try….
  • National Gallery (Nemzeti Galéria) Inside the Royal Palace wings B, C and D houses an astounding collection of paintings.
  • The Fisherman’s Bastion and lookout terrace (Halászbástya). For impressive views across the Danube to Pest.
  • Matthias Church (Mátyás templom, aka Church of Our Lady). Dominant neogothic church crowning Budapest’s cityscape – nowadays is under reconstruction.
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    Couple pictures from the trip:
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