It was only 8am on the Jokai Ter in downtown Budapest, but already uncomfortably hot. I caught sight of a half-naked and barefoot young woman a few metres away and deliberately didn't stare. Too late. She'd clocked me and approached with a few incomprehensible Magyar words. "Sorry, I speak English only" I responded. "Oh Aye, me too!" she responded, and asked for a ciggie. She turned out to be a 'party organiser' from a small village outside Edinburgh. "I drink for a living" she said, and I thought she might want to consider a career change, given that she'd mislaid her mobile, handbag, shoes and a good proportion of her clothes the previous evening. I gave her another ciggie and off she went to try to find the apartment she'd ended up in. The looks of frank disapproval from passing Hungarians made clear that they didn't welcome Budapest being a party city at all. Unless the party is Fidesz, of course; with a two thirds majority in Parliament, this is the party of "a new social contract based on the pillars of work, home, family, health and order". It's like National Socialism but without the drinking and smoking and with the bierkellars all turned into gyms. I made sure I wasn't smoking near a bus or tram stop - an offence in Budapest that will earn you a £100 fine.
Budapest is EU city central. The circle of stars flies everywhere on every ter, utca and korut (square, street and avenue) and you can't travel far without finding a building project hoarding proclaiming it as EU funded. The streams of cars could be on any road in Europe; the same mix of vehicles, most under ten years old. I wondered if the EU wasn't actually being run for the benefit of the motor manufacturers. The retail multiples were also the same as throughout Europe - Tesco, Subway, Dolce et Gabbana, Starbucks, Gap, Debenhams (yes, really, all of them) - and only the rail infrastructure gave a taste of the old Soviet Hungary that vanished after 1989, with heavy, massively over-engineered locos and rolling stock running on suburban stopping-lines, stations still with their post-war makeovers and undeveloped stations still free of terazzo floors and tie-rack booths. Though Lenin's statue has been removed from Dozsa Gyorgy utca, other hideous monumental soviet public art remains in place, not at all incongruous in the new Hungary.
And yes, I really did pick up a feeling of threat. Not on the streets, at any hour - the people have picked up the 'order' part of the new public mantra with enthusiasm, and even beggars were invisible. It was the thought of the EU being dominated not by the naive, intellectually flabby well-wishers of the liberal left but by the right with a core remit of "work, home, family, health and order". And that's really scary.