In the WittyLeaks series, written by ambassadors accredited to Budapest in Diplomacy & Trade, it was the Macedonian ambassador to Hungary, Igor Esmerov who gave account recently of how he sees the Hungarian capital: like a huge open-air museum.
A year has passed by since I moved to Budapest, and it feels like I have been here much longer. I say this simply because life in Budapest feels calm even though, it is a large and busy metropolis. People are pleasant and their peaceful mentality infuses the city and sets rather cool atmosphere. The climate is soothing and it gives you comfort in any month of the year.
The authenticity of the architecture is preserved almost completely in most parts of the city. The wide boulevards, spacious parks and squares represent the urban conception of past generations whose thoughts were far ahead of their time and succeeded to make an impact in the future. With just a few walks around Budapest, you can get a flavor of the thousand-year history of Hungary, the traditions of its inhabitants, the relationship to art and to civilized values. I see Budapest as one huge open museum, unlike any other European city.
Each atrium and each square represents a special room which is set for a special story about the urban life throughout history. When I walk the streets in the night and when there are no people around, it gives you a feeling as though you have entered a time machine where the surroundings rise up to perfection and history unites with the future. Every street, every corner and every aisle tell the story of their time. I usually walk a lot, I avoid using a car.
In every walk, I notice something different, even though, I have walked the same path several times. Every detail I discover makes you think, it evokes thoughts, it makes you pay attention more, you get the feeling as though you have entered the soul of the city and you can’t get enough. Even when I talk to Hungarians about Budapest, they admit that even though they have lived in Budapest for years, they discover something new still.
What has made tremendous impression on me is the kindness and the peace in the Hungarian people. I would say this is the main reason that makes me feel safe in this city. During my academic career, I had the opportunity to live in several European cities and I can freely declare that Budapest is amongst the safest one in Europe, which is a top imperative and huge success for Hungary as well as pride of the citizens of Budapest.
The relationship between Republic of Macedonia and Hungary is very good, sincere and friendly. This encourages me even more to work harder on reinforcing and enhancing the political and economic processes between the two countries. I would like to use this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude for the constant support given by the state of Hungary to Republic of Macedonia in the process of the European integration, for the fruitful cooperation in the field of education and the possibility for master studies of Macedonian students at Hungarian universities through the Hungaricum scholarship.
I am particularly pleased that more cities of Republic of Macedonia are twinned with cities in Hungary, and the cooperation is active in all fields of policy of local government. There are several agreements signed and entered into force between the two countries in the sphere of culture, social welfare, transport, health care and agriculture. Such close and friendly cooperation makes my stay in Budapest more motivating and most importantly it makes me feel more happy.
Because my origin is from the Balkan peninsula with a rich history, different empires and kingdoms are intertwined in the centuries back where one can see striking similarities in the historical dimension. If you walk across Hungary, the biggest impression will remain the medieval fortresses and sacred objects. They make Hungary special.
If you walk around Macedonia, it is inevitable to visit medieval castles, numerous archaeological sites, most of which are well preserved and available to the general public, as well as the monasteries, some of which date from the 11th century. These two aspects observed from a historical distance give a lot of similarities between the two countries. For me, it was very easy to study Hungarian history due to the fact that in parts, is quite similar to that of Macedonia which I am familiar with very well. I would like to invite Hungarians to visit Macedonia to explore these similarities from historical distance, old monasteries and traditional Macedonian cuisine, which has its own specifics, but at same time also very similar to Hungarian cuisine.
When I first went to a traditional Hungarian restaurant, I noticed that Hungarian dishes are very similar to the Macedonian, even spices used are the same, except the names, of course. An interesting taste of Hungarian Goulash, which in Macedonian cuisine is known as potato stew, or Hungarian ‘galuska’ (noodle), which we call Shaggy Kata. Yet, it is one less remote region where the customs, history and tastes intertwined through the course of history.
However, my view is that history teaches us many things but we should live in the present and we should share all civilization benefits and strive jointly for stronger cooperation in all fields. Although, apparently, it seems that we have come so far and many things are solved, yet, there are still challenges we must take upon. As our past generations left this cultural heritage and sacred treasure, so shall strive to influence the next generation, leaving them with more humane and more prosperous societies. In my deep conviction, such projects would be a fast railway connection along the Budapest - Belgrade - Skopje route and facilitation of transport of energy resources, mainly gas.
The priorities for increasing the trade between the two countries remain. For the time being it is on a satisfactory level, but certainly, the tendency for improvement must be present in the economic relations.
Cooperation in joint scientific projects is for me the ultimate challenge, especially because I come from the educational and scientific university profession. In this field, the cooperation is not yet on sufficient level, which means that we have work to do. In this respect, I would mention the cooperation in the field of agriculture through application of new methodologies and varieties which would increase food production. We are aware of the fact that Hungary is a leader in this field, but still, we can offer our experience in the field of early vegetable production, where we show excellent results.
Republic of Macedonia is proud of its high level public and private health, perhaps the best in the Balkans. Nevertheless, we welcome the Hungarian experiences in the area of private health insurance, which is not existing in Macedonia in which we need exchange of experiences from Hungary where this is present and working well.
In the field of culture, we have established fruitful cooperation, especially in theater relations, but when speaking of art, sky is the limit and there is always room for improvement and deepening the relations.
In the field of transport, there is already enviable cooperation with Hungarian WizzAir, which will be crowned with the opening of direct flights Skopje Budapest later this year, and that will significantly bring closer the countries in terms of distance.
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