Dozens of cities are closing venues across Hungary due to soaring energy costs.
The most common public facilities affected are theatres, spas, pools, libraries, museums and sports venues.
Szeged, a city of 160,000 people, is one such city having to tighten its belt. The deputy mayor says their gas bill has increased sevenfold and the government does nothing to help.
“The Hungarian state has created a dysfunctional system in the municipal sector from January 1 (when the price change kicks in for many) There are municipalities that have been partially dysfunctional since September, trying to perform at least the mandatory public tasks, but with reduced public transport or closed facilities,” explained the city’s deputy mayor, Tamás Kovács.
The situation is the same across the country with municipal authorities facing five to ten-fold hikes in energy prices.
Next to Szeged, the authorities in Makó managed to keep the thermal spa open but only because it’s vital for the city’s tourism.
“One of our biggest power consumers is the sauna,” said Noémi Lajtosné Papp, head of the spa division. “Therefore, rather than operate all nine at the same time, we do it in rotation.”
But the museum and the sports hall are closed, forcing local residents to accept the new reality.
“We are facing a very bad situation,” said one woman, “so everything has to be tightened, both for the individual and for the town. We’re still behind the rules until they get worse, and then we’ll see what happens.”
So far the capital Budapest is keeping is managing to keep its public facilities open, but the private sector is also struggling heavily.
Last week the country’s largest hotel, the 499-room Hotel Hungária, announced it will have to close and not reopen until early March. Based on preliminary booking figures, management judged it was uneconomical to keep it open under the present circumstances.