|Vol. 18: Clock Neon Signs at East Budapest Station|
Our first port of call in Eastern Europe was Budapest in Hungary. Having left Vienna by train, we set off for East Budapest Station. While gazing out of the carriage window onto the vast cornfields and with memories of the brilliance of Vienna still fresh in our minds, we began to wonder what the situation as regards neon signs was likely to be in the former communist countries. Upon arrival in Budapest, we were greeted by the enormous clock which decorates the front of the station. We felt somehow relieved at seeing the sparkling neon which borders the character face. As we had imagined, the extent of diffusion of neon signs in the streets of Eastern European cities was no different from that of other European countries.
But there was more to it than this alone: the beauty of the city and the splendor of the buildings were equal if not superior to Western Europe. Hungary and the Czech Republic thrived until the beginning of the 20th century under the Hapsburgs as parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and had their own illustrious cultures. It was only after the Second World War that their economies began to falter under the oppression of the Soviet Union and their communist regimes. Our young guide was full of happiness at having been liberated from the dark political age from which Hungary had just emerged. We ourselves felt a strong desire to see these countries regain their past vitality and enjoy real prosperity once again.