Cars in Hungary are beginning to resemble American cars more and more with each visit — they seem to keep getting bigger and bigger (not a good trend, in my opinion, especially given some of the narrow streets). With that having been said, I’m always happy to see some of the old, Socialist era cars still out on the road. They were easier to find here when I first visited a decade ago, but you still find a few these days. Here’s a sampling of what I’ve found:
The first one is a small Fiat (Polski Fiat 126p) that I encountered near the beach. The owner of this fine vehicle is a handsome, young man in his 20s that lives in our village by the lake (Balatonederics). I have seen him driving it several times — he seems very content with this small vehicle, though I suspect he aspires to a newer model some day.
This next example is a Trabant – a car made in the former East Germany. This particular one looks to be in very good shape and resides outside our apartment in Budapest. People really seem to like the old Trabants. Last weekend we even encountered a group of 5 of them travelling together; it seemed to be a group of car enthusiasts out for a weekend drive.
The final example is a Lada, a product of the former USSR. Dora tells me that these were the most prestigious, reliable, and sought after cars during the socialist era. Dora tells the story of how her family was “allowed” to purchase a Lada while she was in high school. This was just before the fall of the iron curtain, and desirable cars like the Lada were rationed out, requiring a family to wait a considerable time on a list before being allowed to purchase the vehicle. When her family finally rose to the top of the list, they were presented the opportunity to purchase a Lada of a particularly unattractive shade of green. Not wanting to refuse this vehicle and potentially move back on the list, they purchased it. A few years later, the socialist era ended and their next car was a Toyota.
While these vehicles aren’t flashy or particularly fast, they never need to be hooked up to a computer and it seems that people are pretty resouceful at keeping them going. Dora also likes to remind me that 20 years ago, these were the ONLY cars out on the streets in Hungary, so it’s not surprsing that at least a few of them should remain.