As much as a I love Shanghai, it was not the first city I fell in love with. Getting used to the Chinese megalopolis in 2004 was actually not easy coming from the charming Central European City of Budapest. I have spent more than 5 years walking the paved streets of this XIXth century beauty. I knew about every corner of several districts, in particular the 6th district, home of numerous theatres and cafés where I lived most of the time. Though I left the city about 4 years ago, I have managed to come back regularly (see post in love again), being able to keep a strong link with my old community of friends. The city still feels like home, though the more time passes the more my memories get separated from reality.
The pioneer spirit that pushed a lot of foreigners to come to Hungary 10 years ago seems to have somehow vanished… adventurers go to China nowadays. The community of foreigners who arrived in the early – mid 90’s in Budapest is getting smaller and smaller. We had a real group of friends, most of us are gone away… just like me. The remaining ones are busy climbing the corporate ladder or heavily involved in raising their kids. Their daily life is far remote from the group of bachelors and young couples that we used to be. We still meet sometimes online or on a few reunions, but news update are getting rarer. To my surprise, some of my friends there now only meet when I am in town. Since I don’t come that often from China, they really live lives apart within this small city. Although I feel happy to be back, I miss the speed and energy of today’s Shanghai after a few days. The Budapest that I lived in was full of hopes and new energy, most of it seems to have vanished.
The city is getting more beautiful, transformed from a dark and intriguing labyrinth to a colorful tourist paradise. Thanks to a current real estate boom, old buildings are being renovated into former glory, or torn down to be replaced by new. The mix creates a nice atmosphere that is catching up with Vienna or Munich. It has become a nice Central Europe city within the European Union, as opposed to this mysterious and dark city that me and many others came to look for. I am sure new people still arrive and create there own little world here… but it’s just not the same for me. Budapest is still a great place to visit and I always invite my overseas friends to go there but Shanghai is where my life has moved to.