Dozens of cities are closing sites across Hungary due to soaring energy costs.
The most commonly affected public facilities are theaters, spas, swimming pools, libraries, museums and sports venues.
Szeged, a town of 160,000 inhabitants, is one of those towns that have to tighten their belts. The deputy mayor says their gas bill has gone up sevenfold and the government is doing nothing to help them.
“The Hungarian state has created a dysfunctional system in the municipal sector from January 1 (when the price change comes into play for many). There are municipalities that have been partially dysfunctional since September, trying to accomplish at least mandatory public tasks, but with a reduction in public transport or closed facilities,” explained the deputy mayor of the city, Tamás Kovács.
The situation is the same across the country, with municipal authorities facing a five to tenfold increase in energy prices.
Next to Szeged, Makó authorities have managed to keep the spa open, but only because it is vital for tourism in the town.
“One of our biggest energy consumers is the sauna,” said Noémi Lajtosné Papp, head of the spa division. “So rather than running 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 up, both for the individual and for the city. We are always behind the rules until they are get worse, and then we’ll see what happens.”
So far, the capital, Budapest, is managing to keep its public facilities open, but the private sector is also struggling.
Last week, the country’s largest hotel, the 499-room Hotel Hungária, announced that it will have to close and not reopen until early March. Based on preliminary booking figures, management deemed it unprofitable to keep it open under the current circumstances.