In search of abandoned industry in Hungary

Photographed January 1996


So what do you do when you have a few days off in January? You go to the nearest library and find some books about Hungary . Then find the chapter that says "places not to visit. You then buy an airplane ticket, fly to Budapest , rent a car, and drive to Miskolc : a place you better not visit!
Sounds exciting, doesn't it?

Miskolc was too sad, dark and smelly, so I chose to stay in Eger . It is a little town in the hills, where the Turks have built their northernmost Minaret.
Not that Eger was that much more beautiful, but at least the air was breathable. I was able to find a room at a friendly guesthouse.


The next morning I drove to Miskolc and started looking for what I came for : abandoned factories. Yes, there's a lot of industry.
The kind of buildings that would be abandoned in Belgium ... but not here : workers everywhere, guarded gates and intact fences, no empty buildings ...


Hungary is a cold and dark place in January. The fog makes everything appear even more depressing and gray, keeping pollution at nose level.



Coal is transported for kilometers, from here to there. There is a sound of cables and wheels grating on non-lubricated bearings. On the snowy ground, there is a dusty trail of coal that did not make it to its destination


What is this pig eating ?

Who will eat the pig ?

What will it taste like ?

You don't want to know !



In this sad, colorless environment, people have painted their houses in cheerful colors helping them forget their gray existence in this gray world ... all you need is a ray of sunlight.

Now don't get the impression Hungary is a sad place : the opposite is true : people are friendly, the country has many things to offer, its capital city is beautiful ... 
The friendly owner of my guesthouse invited me to spend the afternoon in a hot spring in the woods. It was a meeting place for those who needed to defrost their frozen bones. Once undressed in the snow, we placed our clothes on top of our shoes. Hot water flowed from the spring via some gutters straight into the pool : it was very very hot... we stayed for a very very long time.



Had my trip to find abandoned factories been a failure? Yes, of course. There is not one abandoned factory to be found in this region; the industrial heartland of Hungary . I drove back to Budapest where I would take the plane the same afternoon, and what did I see when entering the city from the East? Abandoned (looking) buildings. I didn't have a world of time before my flight, but I could still afford a little detour.






This one was empty, it was even being destroyed before my eyes.
The main hall had been emptied.
On the walls were inscriptions of the communist era. Saying things like "We workers do everything for the central economic industrustrial plan" (just left of the chimney you can see some letters).
The very friendly owner gave me a tour, but I couldn't stay for very long.


Needless to say, I was the last one to board the plane ...


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