This is the mantra of the ruling Fidesz party in Hungary (for some reason this morning I can hear John Prescott inside my head saying 'Hungaria' but let's allow that to pass ...) and it's secured the party overwhelming public support; they have a two-thirds majority in parliament, sufficient to secure changes to the country's constitution. Budapest is like any developed Western capital, the same brands of cars fighting for scarce parking, the same well-dressed people strolling the boulevards and squares wearing the same clothes as in London or Paris, all made in China. Hungarians have taken to the International Shopping Mall like ducks to a muddy pond; they have blossomed everywhere, each a gleaming glass and steel clone of all the others. Imagine Bluewater or Westfield but with the signs in Hungarian - all the brands are the same. TGI Fridays, McDonalds, Debenhams, Hackett, Joseph, Kurt Geiger and all the rest. It's all really rather disappointing.
You have to poke around a bit to find the pre-1989 Hungary. The granite plinths around the side and back of Nyugati station where the shrapnel and bullet scars from the Siege of Budapest were not worth disguising; the hideous Soviet victory sculpture on the Citadel, the wasteland areas left fallow since 1945 on the outskirts now being mined by assiduous Hungarians with metal detectors for an insatiable US market in 'battlefield relics'. And of course the mass concrete and poor quality steel of the Soviet era that can't be disguised with pretty stucco or brave banners. Amongst the echoes of the old Hungary are the railways - very cheap, highly staffed, hugely over-engineered. Imagine one of those massive EWS freight diesels hauling two or three suburban passenger coaches on a stopping line. But at least the carriages have windows that open and through which you can poke your head - long banned on our domestic railways. The terminals are the same mixture of minor sleaze, dirt and decay that our own used to be before they became the ground floor of commercial office blocks, and I felt a filling nostalgia for Liverpool Street Station circa 1978. There's something about it you could bottle. And here's a picture of a Hungarian train of the most modern sort;