Is Coke too queer for Hungary? Calls are growing for a national boycott.
This week sees the start of the massive Sziget music festival in Budapest. It’s a week-long festival that will bring about 500,000 people into the city, under the theme of Love Revolution.
To leverage the event, Coca-Cola has extended its #LoveIsLove campaign across Budapest, with posters featuring same-sex couples enjoying the soft-drink, backed up by slogans such as ‘zero sugar, zero prejudice’.
Coke’s inclusive campaign has annoyed members of Viktor Orbán’s ruling nationalist Fidesz party. Orbán’s party opposes marriage equality.
While the deputy speaker of Fidesz has publicly called for a boycott, Coca-Cola is standing firm and standing by its promotion of equality and inclusion.
“We believe both hetero- and homosexuals have the right to love the person they want, the way they want,” the company has said, in response to criticism in Hungary.
It seems as if the Fidesz party is fighting a losing battle. According to a 2018 study by LGBTQ advocates Háttér, around 65% of Hungarians believe LGBTQ people should be free to live as they please, up from less than 50% in 2002.
Is Budapest queer friendly?
One of Budapest’s tourism authorities has been actively promoting the city as a queer travel destination for a number of years. We caught up with Zsolt Erdei, the man behind the Pink Budapest campaign, to look at whether Budapest should be on our travel wish-list.
“Budapest is a really wonderful city in the heart of Europe…” explained Erdei. “The cultural scene, the gastronomy, the thermal baths, the nightlife are all amazing facets of our capital. Budapest is a sexy city for everyone, and we’d really like to share our city with the LGBTQ community of the world.”
I asked Erdei what sort of reaction there’s been to the Pink Budapest campaign from tourism providers in Hungary.
“The overall response has been positive, both from tourism professionals and the broader public…” confirmed Erdei. “The Hungarian Tourism Board and the Budapest Tourist Office have both congratulated us on the campaign.”
What to see in Budapest
On a clear day, take the Funicular to Buda Castle and enjoy the breathtaking views of the Danube and the Pest side of the city from the grand terrace. From there, wander through the Castle district to Fisherman’s Bastion and the awe-inspiring Matthias Church. A stone’s throw away, you’ll find a street full of small privately-owned galleries showcasing local art and design talents.
If your feet are up for it, take a stroll along the beautiful, tree-lined boulevard towards the imposing monuments at Heroes’ Square. This is also home to The House of Terror. The building, which was the main city’s headquarters for both the Nazi and Communist parties, gives a chilling insight into Budapest’s troubled past.
Budapest is not really a major shopping destination, but if you’re looking for something quirky to bring home - and can handle a bit of bargaining – make a visit to the Ecseri flea market for Soviet relics, World War Two artefacts, and random treasures.
For an authentic taste of Hungary, head to one of the many no-frills canteens across the city that serve local staples such as goulash for a reasonable price. The local markets such as the one held in The Great Market Hall also offer up some tasty treats, including Mangalica - a special breed of Hungarian pig.
On a night out, the first thing you should do to initiate yourself into Hungarian culture is have a shot of Pálinka. House parties are popular, but you’ll need to befriend some of the locals for access.
If you’ve indulged in a few too many shots of Pálinka, you can detox in one of Budapest’s legendary thermal baths, such as the Király Baths.