By Kristen Hornbaker
Breakfast was a quick grab and go as we left our apartments to catch a suburban train. I still managed to buy these adorable mini donuts that were needed to start my long day.
Our first full day in Budapest was very interesting.
We started the day at the Regional Environmental Center (REC). Professor Schenk used to work at the REC when he lived in Hungary. The first speaker was Gabor Heves. He discussed smart cities (quality living environments, good governance, people, energy, mobility, and environment), Heves explained the importance of changing the transportation systems to better the economy and environment. He provided many case examples, including evidence that adding lanes to roads doesn’t help traffic and that instead, we should close off main streets to only pedestrians and public transit. Although a lot of planning is involved, the flow of traffic will run more smoothly, and walking will be promoted. Hungary has a long term plan to make their transportation more sustainable. One of the goals is to increase walking from 2% to 10%.
Heves also showed us the REC’s showcase state-of-the-art conference center, which is energy neutral and includes a lot of other sustainability features.
The second speaker at the REC, Jovanka Ignjatovic, spoke about water policy. I found it very interesting that the REC works on difficult issues not only in their own region, but also in areas with acute water challenges like Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia. Tensions are high in areas like the border regions of Jordan, so getting to the water sources to test is difficult.
We then had lunch in this cute little village. Our meals were really filling but delicious. Although the apple strudel in Ostrava is still my favorite. After we finished our meals we got to look around the market and shop at little boutiques.
Our afternoon lecture was the most interesting to me. Professor Frank Zsigo spoke to us about the political problems Hungary is facing, specifically around the refugee crisis. I’m a political science major, so this topic was an example of problems I would love to work with and fix after I graduate. The Hungarian government is only allowing five refugees in a day, which is ridiculous given how many migrants are seeking refuge. It is even more so since Hungary has many jobs to fill because so many Hungarians work elsewhere. This lecture was frustrating because there is just no simple answer that everyone agrees with. Right now the social spectrum of Hungary is not sustainable, and the sad part is I think Hungary is moving in the wrong direction.
Dinner was at a restaurant named Stex, and I loved that we got to sit outside where we could enjoy the view of the city. The food in Europe is amazing and always seems so fresh.
The night ended with a celebration for the other Kristen’s birthday! It was very neat to see how a once abandoned complex is now a brightly lit place to eat, shop, and go out. A bunch of us enjoyed the night life in Budapest!