Budapest: where kutya is king

In Budapest, it's hard to miss the word " kutyabarát" (friend of dog) written on the doors of many restaurants, cafés, bars, parks and playgrounds.

By Rasheed Kidwai in Budapest
  • Published 17.10.16
Vice-President Hamid Ansari after paying homage at the Heroes’ Square in Budapest on Sunday. (PTI)

Budapest, Oct. 16: In Budapest, it's hard to miss the word " kutyabarát" (friend of dog) written on the doors of many restaurants, cafés, bars, parks and playgrounds.

The capital of Hungary - whose word for the dog, kutya, is similar to the Hindi kutia (female dog) - has developed into a canine-friendly city. It has parks and playgrounds ( kutyafuttató) specifically for dogs, where their two-legged owners can be spotted exchanging news and gossip.

Doris-Evelyn Zakel, columnist with the Budapest Post, jokes that Hungarians are happy seeing their capital go to the dogs.

"We can count one for every fourth Budapest resident. The total number of dogs in the country is about 2.5 million -- Hungary, the country of friends on four legs," Zakel says.

In the nation of 9.9 million people, it has been compulsory since 2013 to implant each dog with a microchip.

No larger than a grain of rice, the microchip gives the address of the owner and information about the vaccinations and treatments the dog has received.

The BKV (Budapest Transport Company) allows one dog per person on its buses, trams and underground and regional trains. The bigger dogs need to have a muzzle and a leash while the smallest can be carried in a handbag.

The smaller dogs and guide dogs are allowed free travel but the owners have to pay the full ticket price for the rest. There's a special monthly pass for dogs too.

Some of the tourist spots around Budapest - Margaret Island, Normafa, Kopaszi Gát and Római - double as popular meeting points for dog owners.

A man walks his dog by one of the many lakes in Budapest.?

In the city's bars and cafes, dogs are served with fresh water and receive caresses from the hosts and guests alike.

Zakel says that dog owners in Budapest, as in the rest of Hungary, are fiercely competitive about canine chic.

"For your four-legged companion to look its best and stand out among the other promenade walkers, you have to dress it in the right collar and leash," she says.

Leading Hungarian brand Sixfeet specialises in fashion accessories for dogs, from tailored apparel to collars that can cost as much as a woman's dress or a perfume.

Since buying a purebred is expensive, many of Budapest's dog lovers are increasingly turning to a cheaper alternative - visiting animal shelters to adopt a dog.

Zakal paints a sympathetic picture of the dogs living in shelter houses. "These places are full of lovely and loving dogs who have had tough luck," she says.

A young girl at Hungary's Balatonfured, which Rabindranath Tagore had visited 90 years ago.

"Many of them escaped life as a street dog or were abandoned because they lacked the desired traits for their breed. An adopted dog will be thankful to you all its life for providing it with a real home."

Such a dog, Zakal says, is "a dog with character", quoting the title of a book by Hungarian writer Sándor Márai, who settled in Budapest in 1928 and wrote reviews of Franz Kafka's works. Márai was known for his realist style and anti-fascist and anti-communist leanings.

Hungarians calling their dogs kutya is no coincidence, however. German linguist Hans-Jürgen Sasse wrote in 1993 that the words kut or kuch for dog figure across Eastern Europe and in Finno-Ugric, Indo-Iranian and Semitic languages as well as some American Indian and Australian aboriginal languages.

Pacts signed

India today inked two agreements with Hungary relating to water management and foreign affairs and urged a strong global legal network and concerted action to deal with terrorism.

Vice-President Hamid Ansari, on a visit to Budapest, had an hour-long meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Orban later invited the Indian film industry to Hungary and said his country looked up to India for its performance in many spheres, from films to democracy to the economy.

Ansari thanked Orban for Hungary's support to India's bid for Nuclear Suppliers Group membership.

Indian ambassador Rahul Chhabra signed a memorandum of understanding on water management relating to the cleaning of the Ganga.