Bucharest/Budapest/Abroad still confusing Brits

This story didn’t surprise me: confusing Bucharest with Budapest is apparently one of the most common mistakes made by Brits when booking travel ‘abroad.’ After all, Britain (England especially) remains a place where vast swathes of the population think the world consists of just two countries: England and Abroad. A member of my extended family once asked me, on hearing me talk on the phone in somewhat halting Italian:

‘Do you you speak a bit of Foreign then.’

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I speak a bit of Foreign.’

Foreign of course is the language they speak Abroad.

The Bucharest/Budapest conundrum of course is not a new one. The great, the good and the cleared of all charges of child abuse have all famously made the same mistake. As recently did someone who paid rather a large amount of money to correct the mistake.

Of course, the cruel will say that turning up in Bucharest and seeing the Dambovita when you’re expecting Budapest and he Danube is a mistake you quickly realise. Yet to compare the two cities is both pointless and unfair.

Budapest may sound a bit like Bucharest but it is one of Europe’s great, majestic, imperial cities. Bucharest is the capital of Romania. They may only be three letters apart, but if orthography is a sound criteria then Mamaia and Miami should look about the same.

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  • Mihai

    I do not know where you people learn the history of Romania but you are making such statements which shall make you ashame for 5 generations. Romanians are living there since the bigining of european civilisation and is the oldest culture of the western world. Romanian language is the one spoken before the latin and even today is the closest to it form all the other latin languagies. It is more latin than the italian language itself and any romanian can understand italian without learning it.
    The oldest so called modern human remains in Europe, more than 40,000 years old, are discovered in Romania. You shall check “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Romanian_history” to see more about the first European civilisation. They are the ancestors of all the western cultures living today in all the continets and speaking Romanian, Italian, French, Spanish, Portugese, English and other latin based languages.
    On the other hand, Hungaria and your “famous” Budapest apear in Europe only around 1000 years ago.
    Please learn about the things you want to tell the others!

  • One of the many problems of Bucharest, apart from sounding in name somehow similar with its venerable and illustrious Hungarian counterpart, is that it has grown too big for itself. The city started as a sheep station for transhumance shepherds on a propitious fording place in the area between the Arges and the Dambovita rivers and a bit later, as a trading post between the manufacturing cities from Saxon Transylvania and the great commercial towns of Ottoman Balkans, serving also as the capital of a small country called Wallachia. It has become the “peripheral centre” of a country that now gravitates toward the West, desperately cut off from its hinterland by poor communication links. It is also now the 6th largest EU metropolis, with a very unsure identity with a poorly educated population for EU standards. Bucharest is a bit older than the first European settlements in N America and probably the youngest European capital. A much favourable and less confusing location for a contemporary capital of Romania would be Brasov or Alba Iulia (a 2000 years old city with an illustrious history).